If you're working at home full-time these days, you may be aware of how much lonelier it is than working in an office. You may know that you need self-discipline to stay productive with a fridge, TV, and game console in the next room. But you may not know that working at home can put an outsized strain on various parts of your body. It may not show up for the first couple of days or the first couple of weeks. But sooner or later, your back, shoulders, wrists, and eyes can all suffer.
In a separate post, I've tackled the issue of how to protect your spine. Here's how to make sure you don't wind up with wrist or shoulder trouble if you spend a lot of time working at home, as well as how to protect yourself from eye strain.
1. You should probably replace your keyboard.
For me, and probably for you, the traditional keyboard is a recipe for serious wrist issues. I've saved my wrists a great deal of grief over the last decade or so by using ergonomic keyboards which are curved and thus allow your wrists to stay at a more natural angle. I also have a pad to rest my upper arms on, which keeps me from resting my hands on the keyboard, also saving my wrists. Various types of ergonomic keyboards are easy to find and they're well worth the trouble.
2. Consider ditching your mouse.
Your mouse or mouse replacement is another item that can mess up your shoulders and wrists, sometimes for a long time. After trying various mice and a trackball, my husband settled on a trackpad as the best solution for him. Neither one of us has tried an ergonomic mouse that you hold vertically like a pistol, although that certainly looks like a much better option than a traditional mouse.
For me, using any item to one side of my keyboard leads to shoulder issues because I'm using my body asymmetrically. It got so bad I tried switching the trackpad over to my left (non-dominant) side to give my right shoulder some relief. If you've never tried using a trackpad or mouse with your non-dominant hand, I can tell you it's an experience well worth missing.
For me, the solution turns out to be something called a trackbar, a long tube that sits around another, narrower tube. I roll it to move the mouse up and down, and slide it to move the mouse side to side, and it's solved all my shoulder problems. It's something of a drastic option (for one thing, it makes it tough for anyone else to use my computer). You may not need to go that far. But please do pay attention to whatever you're using for a mouse, and if it's not totally comfortable, experiment with other things.
3. Keep your monitor from straining your eyes.
Working long hours in front of a computer puts you at risk for eye strain, a risk that's exacerbated if, like me, you spend much of your free time looking at other screens, such as your smartphone. While you're working at your computer, light should come to you from the right or left, not from behind you and especially not from behind the screen. I've also found that computer glasses in a prescription calibrated to focus a couple of feet in front of me where a screen would typically be are a huge help. I don't have a blue light filter in my glasses, but that could be a good idea too.
Creating an ergonomically sound setup for your home office can take time, effort, and even a little money that you may not be sure you can afford. It's worth it though. Working from home or anywhere else can you make you miserable if your back, shoulders, wrists, or eyes are sore. Worse, if you leave these problems unaddressed, you risk long-term problems, particularly carpal tunnel syndrome.
So don't put it off. Do what you need to now to make sure that working in your home office will keep you healthy, no matter how long you do it.