Keeping yourself healthy when working from home

17 April 2020
Someone using a laptop with a cup of coffee at the side of them.
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We are all adjusting to the changing situation around coronavirus and how it affects our lives. It’s likely many of us are working from home and it’s important to think about how this may affect our musculoskeletal health and wellbeing.

A recent survey by the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) revealed a significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints. Many of those surveyed reported new aches and pains, especially in the neck, shoulder and back. For expert advice on managing pain, read coronavirus and how to manage your pain at home.

Our Versus Arthritis wellbeing experts Cherry, Workplace Wellbeing Manager and Yash, Organisational Development Partner, share their top tips to help you look after your musculoskeletal health while working from home.

First and foremost, remember to be kind to yourself and to others. These are unprecedented times, so be kind, take it day by day and do what you need to manage your health and wellbeing.

Work life balance – have a routine!

Our routines will look slightly different now and may be disrupted day to day. The current situation is not a normal one, so it’s important to make sure you’re balancing work with other family demands.

  • Whilst our routines may have had to change, try to keep to some routine where possible, so that you can manage your wellbeing. Read more advice about arthritis and coronavirus – looking after your wellbeing.
  • Think about how you’ll structure your day, including how you can now use your ‘commuting time’ e.g. maybe for some additional family time or time to set aside for exercise and rest.
  • As part of that routine include an ‘end’ to your workday, whether that’s moving away physically from where you’re set up to work, packing up your equipment so it’s out of sight or just mentally ending the day by switching off.
  • When ‘ending’ the workday, try to do so a good few hours before bed, so you can include a wind-down routine to help you sleep, rather than still having work on your mind. Sleep is essential for our wellbeing and for ensuring good musculoskeletal health. Read our top tips for good sleep.

Stay connected

It’s important to look after our emotional wellbeing during the current crisis, especially if you’re self-isolating. Working from home can add to feelings of isolation if not managed, which can have a negative impact on our overall wellbeing, so staying connected is really important.

  • Keep in touch with colleagues, friends and family members regularly so that you’re not feeling isolated.
  • Stay connected with work. At Versus Arthritis we have regular ‘Great Conversations’ rather than appraisals and it’s more important than ever that we check in regularly, with our managers so we’re clear on what we need to achieve and can adapt as needed.
  • Staying connected will mean different things to different people, so find out what works for you.
  • Use Skype/Teams/Zoom to have collaborative conversations (informal and formal) and use the video function.
  • Don’t just focus on work, initiating scheduled virtual check ins, coffees, quizzes can be a great way to keep in touch and break down ‘virtual’ barriers.
  • Ask how colleagues are doing and share how you’re feeling or adapting. This is challenging for everyone so check in with colleagues, and if you’re struggling, talk to your manager, colleague, or organisational wellbeing support.
  • If you’re worried about your arthritis and coronavirus and want to chat to someone, call our helpline or visit our online community and talk to other people.

Find a suitable space

If you’re used to working in an office, then your current environment most likely doesn’t have the same equipment and set up, and you may find you’re sharing your workspace with other family members.

  • Create a suitable and safe space dedicated to work that limits distractions, and that you can set up with everything in the right place for work.
  • Try and aim for a space with adequate lighting, comfortable chair and desk, monitor and laptop set up properly and at the right height. Read more about getting the right support at work.
  • Avoid working from a soft surface with no support such as working from your bed or slouching on the couch (however tempting!). This may feel comfortable at the time but will soon lead to aches and pains.
  • Consider alternative ways of creating a comfortable working environment where you don’t have the same set up as you would have in the office, e.g. by using supporting cushions to help chair comfort and height, or raise the height of the computer screen.
  • Be conscious of your posture and try and avoid spending too long in the same position.

Keep moving!

With all meetings taking place virtually, and without the office distractions, we can end up sitting at our desk and staring at our computer screen longer than we usually would. As humans though we were designed to move, and this is particularly important for our joints.

  • Take regular breaks from sitting throughout the day – get up from your chair at least every hour (preferably more!) to move, stretch and take a break from your computer screen.
  • Stand during a call, put the kettle on, or put reminders in your diary if you have too!
  • Keep active – find 20-30 minutes regularly for some form of exercise and choose one you enjoy and that is manageable and realistic for you.
  • For ideas on exercise options check out our exercise resources and specific exercises to manage pain. You can get more inspiration from the We are Undefeatable website. They have ideas ranging from chair exercises, yoga to dancing in your kitchen.
  • If you have a garden, make time every day to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. If you can’t get outdoors, open the windows and take time to sit in a sunny spot – you’ll feel refreshed and more focused when you get back to work.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

When you’re stuck at home and your routine is potentially different to usual, it’s easy to find yourself snacking during the day or missing meals, whilst exercising less. But we know that keeping a healthy diet and weight can be important for your musculoskeletal health.

  • Make sure you don’t forget your lunch breaks and keep healthy snacks to hand.
  • Try batch cooking healthy foods you can keep in the freezer – they can help ensure you have healthy lunches and dinners available. These can be easy options for a day when cooking may be more difficult. Read more tips – healthy eating made easy.
  • If your current routine does mean you work later, try and take a break for dinner so you’re not eating too late.

More useful resources

We’re here for you

We’re working with the NHS, health professional organisations and charities to ensure that we’re regularly updating coronavirus information on our website to ensure you have the most up-to-date and relevant content available.

If you’re feeling isolated from family and friends during these uncertain times, we’re here for you.

  • If you would like to talk to someone, you can call our free helpline on 0800 5200 520 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm)
  • Talk to COVA, our COVID-19 virtual assistant, 24/7 - follow the purple circular icon at the bottom of this page
  • Join our online community
  • Stay in touch and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.