Working from home? Tips for staying active and more.

by Kaiser Permanente |
Person exercising on a balance ball

If you’re one of the many people working from home, you may find it difficult to get enough movement throughout the day. You might also be experiencing neck and back pain from a makeshift home office setup. We’re here to help.

Staying active while working from home

Many experts say that sitting is the new smoking. Unfortunately, with so many of us working at home, we may be doing more sitting than ever. Our bodies are designed to move, so even regular exercise isn’t going to counteract the damaging effects of sitting at your desk all day. And when you sit all day, the lack of activity could lead to back and joint pain, and more serious problems like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Here are some tips that can help you stay active during your workday:

  • If possible, work at a standing desk. If you don’t have one available to use at home, try standing more throughout the day — like when you’re eating lunch or talking on the phone.
  • Even if you can’t go far, it’s a good idea to get up and walk around a bit every hour. Consider setting an alarm to remind yourself to move regularly during the workday. Just taking the time to walk through each room of your home can help.
  • Give yourself credit for the steps you take during the day. If you set realistic goals, wearing an activity tracker to measure your progress might make sense. If you start standing and moving around your home more, you’ll see your activity level rise.
  • At night, instead of sinking into the couch to watch television, use an exercise ball to get some extra movement in for the day.

Protecting your back and neck while working from home

Are you sitting up straight? Is your monitor at eye level? When was the last time you got up and stretched? When you’re busy working, you’re often absorbed in the task at hand. So you might not always notice subtle pain starting in your neck or back from looking down for too long or reaching too far for the computer mouse. To help you avoid neck and back pain, here are some tips to try while working from home.

Properly position your workstation

The first step to avoiding neck and back pain while working from home is to make sure your work equipment is set up ergonomically, which means aligning it with your body’s needs. Here’s how to do that:

  • Avoid eye and neck strain by positioning your computer monitor at eye level, about an arm’s length away.
  • Avoid lower back pain by using a chair with a soft, breathable, padded seat and a lumbar support cushion for added stability. When you need to sit, make sure you’re seated all the way back on the seat. You’ll also want a chair that has wheels so you can easily move around (5 wheels per chair for stability).
    • If you’re using a stand-up desk, you’ll also want to invest in an anti-fatigue floor mat to take some of the pressure off your legs and back while you stand.
  • Avoid general strain while seated by positioning your body so your:
    • Thighs are parallel to the floor
    • Feet are resting flat on the floor or on a footrest
    • Arms are resting on your chair’s armrests at a 90-degree angle (ensuring you’re not hunching your shoulders)
    • Knees fit under your desk
  • Avoid strain due to stretching and overreaching by keeping everything you need to do your job — like your keyboard, mouse, paper, and pen — close to you.

Improve your posture

Drooping shoulders can put a strain on your neck and back. Whether you’re seated or standing, make sure your shoulders are back and your spine is straight. If you’re having trouble correcting your posture on your own, consider using a posture corrector (an adjustable brace you can wear) to retrain your body and muscles.

Check in with your body

An ergonomic workstation is a great start, but you’ll want to be mindful of what your body is telling you throughout the day. And the issue isn’t just sitting — it’s staying in one position for too long — which can cause poor blood flow and weaken muscles that help you keep your balance. This can lead to strain and injury. Set an alarm to check in with yourself and see how you’re feeling. During these check-ins, close your eyes and do a mental scan of your body from head to toe. Notice any pain? Cramping? Are you still sitting properly, with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight? If anything feels off, take a moment to stretch, reset, and readjust.

With the right routine, you can keep active and stay ahead of neck or back issues caused by sitting at a desk all day — helping you feel better and be more engaged with your work.