Working or learning from home, without neck and shoulder pains

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Thursday, April 2, 2020
Action News coverage of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak

Is your dining room table, kitchen island, or bed suddenly your work space?

Millions of us are working or learning from improvised places.

And that can cause plenty of muscle strain and pain.

As Consumer Reports explains, there are some simple ways to minimize the strain, yet maximize productivity.

If you're finding yourself hunched over, squinting at a computer screen while working from home, you might start to experience muscle strains, headaches, and even dry eyes.

Consumer Reports says even if you don't have a fully-equipped home office, you can still make a healthy workstation, and probably won't have to spend any money doing it.

It's stuff you already have around the house: books, pillows, and a chair.

Start with your chair.

You'll want your feet to rest on the floor and your lower back to fit snugly against the back of the chair.

If your lower back doesn't reach the back of your chair comfortably, put a pillow behind you.

If your feet don't reach the floor, place them on a stable footrest.

Your eyes should be your arm's length away from the computer.

The top of the computer monitor should be at eye level so that you're gazing slightly down toward the center of the screen.

Next, bend your arms anywhere from 90 degrees to 115 degrees when you place them on your keyboard.

Now that you're comfortably seated, CR says it's important to remember to take breaks.

"When you're staring at the computer screen for really long stretches, we tend to avoid blinking," says Rachael Rabkin Peachman, a Consumer Reports Reporter.

To avoid eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look 20 feet away.

Finally, keep moving around throughout the day.

"That will really help prevent some of the back strain and the shoulder strain that you may otherwise feel if you're working in an office setting where you're expected to be seated at your desk for long stretches," says Babkin Peachman.

Remember: Just because you're working from home doesn't mean you should forget about daily hygiene.

Your boss may not know you haven't showered in days, but your new office mates sure will!

And for those without a home office or desk, even a couch or bed can be turned into an ergonomic work station.

Several pillows and a lap tray will take the strain off your back and neck.