WHITE: When working from home is a pain in the neck

The major unforeseen crinkle in my utopia has been the less-than-optimal ergonomic options.

Tips from Alyssa Ashton, a registered kinesiologist and ergonomic consultant, for working from home. Postmedia

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Once I discovered I’d be forced to work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought my life would be paradise.

I’d be able to set up shop on the kitchen table and luxuriate in my surroundings and snuggle with the cat while delivering exceptional prose. Snacks would be all too available, and endless lattés would be made on my home espresso machine.

While all of those things have mostly proven true, the major unforeseen crinkle in my utopia has been the less-than-optimal ergonomic options.

Alyssa Ashton, a registered kinesiologist and ergonomic consultant quoted by the Ottawa Citizen in a recent article about home office makeup said improv is key to preventing pain.

Ashton said she uses a cushion on her seat to raise the height so her elbows match the desk surface. This was the first step for me as I realized I was holding my shoulders up at my ears. This translated to tension headaches and muscle spasms.

The next thing to check is whether you have adequate lumbar support. This will help you to avoid the forward-roll tendency that strains your mid-back and neck. Ashton rolled up a towel to use for lumbar support in her example.

Next, look for a footrest to keep your knees close to 90 degrees. Also important: the top of your monitor or laptop screen should be at eye level and a separate keyboard and mouse should be used to prevent hunching over the laptop screen. You’re not getting style points for your home office setup, so find whatever helps you maintain proper posture.

Unfortunately, I find it is easier to push through for hours while working at home because I do not have ringing phones or questions from co-workers to break up the day and give me reasons to wander the office and stretch. It’s ironic that we have more freedom to move while working from home but we can sit hunched over our laptops for hours without blinking.

Retrain your brain to work in spurts. This is my magic potion.

I can pound out copy and edits for hours straight, so I set an alarm on my smartphone to remind me to take stretching breaks. Some shoulder blade squeezes and rolls make a huge difference over time.

It’s also incredibly effective to build in time for yoga during the day to relieve stress and work out those kinks. There are many programs you can stream to your TV or computer on YouTube. Search restorative or yin yoga for guidance on deep stretches and focused breathing work.

As a bonus, your fur baby will likely join in and want to stretch along with you.

Take it from me, and do the best you can to correct your home ergonomics before rust takes over and you’re stuck in a permanent hunch.