Home Working...A Real Pain In The Back!
Written By: Paul Skinner from Backworld
What strange times we live in.
I am deeply impressed with the way everyone is doing their best to get on with life.
There will always be idiots, or people who think they know better, but overall, we’re doing ourselves proud as a nation. Staying in, staying safe, looking out for each other and our communities.
For me, the most terrifying thing was how quickly everything changed. I got up one morning to go and work in, and improve on, my viable business – a business I’ve been nurturing and growing for a year and a half, which is making money and making a difference to those who use it. A business which I knew was fragile, due to its youth and low-ish turnover, but one which I believed had a future, and would continue to grow and support me and my partner.
Then, in 24 hours, it all went Pete Tong.
So here I am now in the spare room with a crappy laptop, a Giffgaff sim card, a dog playing tug of war with himself, and my partner demonstrating a disappointingly poor taste in music: Dark Side Of The Moon is the greatest album ever, but as it turns out, he’s never heard of it.
But you know what? It’s not so bad. People need to sit down, so they’re still calling me for chairs. The government’s financial aid will see that Backworld remains on the High Street, I don’t need to worry about what to wear, and I don’t need to open the shop at a particular time. I do however, need to make some adjustments to my spare room, but that’s no biggie.
I learnt long ago not to stress about things you can’t change. As a wise man once said, ‘If you can’t change your situation, change your attitude towards it.’
However, what we can change, is how comfortable we are while working from home. For better or worse, most of us are in the habit of checking emails while sat at the dining table, or on the sofa, which means we’re spending longer in those positions. Hands up, how many of you have chronic backache right now?
The Health and Safety Executive’s regulations for Display Screen Equipment still apply to every employee, whether they’re working at a desk in an office, at home, or on the train. Although written in 1992, the text is very prescient, and is just as relevant today with our ipads, as it was to my dad in 1992, with his big box green screen. They’ve even made a COVID-19 update for homeworkers, and while the providers of assessment services and equipment have raced to Linkedin with advice and videos on safe working practices, the HSE have done a great job themselves.
I do disagree with this following line of theirs though: ‘However, there is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily’.
That’s because if you work at your dining table or sofa, with a laptop for 20 minutes or longer, your back will be screaming at you to make adjustments.
Clearly, most people reading this will be running a small business, and at times of stress we keep what little money we have in the bank, not go spending it on expensive new chairs – so adapt and overcome.
For example, if you have an office with a half-decent chair, laptop stand and/or other equipment, go and bring it home, if possible.
There’s a few vital things you need from a high-quality office chair, to properly support your back.
When sitting, your feet need to be flat on the floor. If not the floor, then something. And at the same time, your forearms and wrists need to be parallel with the floor – elbows at 90 degrees, so there’s no height difference between the elbows and the desktop.
On a height adjustable task chair, this is easy to achieve; on a dining room table and chair, it is not. Perhaps sit on a pillow to get your torso at the correct height, and put your feet on that old recipe book your mum bought you when you started uni, which you’ve never used.
A cushion or rolled-up yoga mat behind your back, will enhance support.
The top of it still needs to be level with your eyes. So laptop users will either need to plug in an ancillary screen and use the laptop keyboard, or raise the laptop on a toolbox, and plug in a separate keyboard and mouse.
If I were to invest a small amount of cash here, it would be on a laptop stand. A good one weighs almost nothing, slips into your bag with the computer, and can be deployed in seconds – you’ll take it everywhere, and always use it.
These are more problematic. Most of us walk into the store, spend 15 minutes standing with the salesman looking at it, 2 minutes sitting on it (guilty, your honour), then the next 10 years stuffing pillows under our backsides to make it viable for an evening of Netflix. Add to that the stresses brought by trying to work on one, and our osteopath has suddenly earned enough for their next Caribbean holiday.
I did experiment using the ironing board as a height adjustable desk, but it wasn’t really working. Some well-placed cushions and a couple of books on your lap and under your computer will help, but really the sofa is not a viable option for work.
Always important. 5 minutes an hour is usually recommended. I’d say with a dining room set-up, 15 minutes an hour walking the cat around the garden is going to be necessary.
Make Some Time For Yoga
Instructors are amongst the smallest and most vulnerable businesses, yet many of them are trying to keep their profile up with free online sessions. Use them, and maybe tip their cup if you can.