It felt like we’d only been back in the office for a minute before we were all ushered back home, with new COVID clusters causing concern around Australia.
Some elements of forced WFH have proven to be extremely positive. Its necessity in 2020 showed many offices having to break away from the structure they know and work from home, which proved that it can be a viable and successful option.
This has been incredibly useful for people that live far from their work – giving them back hours in the morning and night – it’s improved flexibility which is great for people with kids or chronic illness, as well as taking the weight off people living with anxiety and depression, with the option of staying home and still working.
Of course with pros, there must be cons and one of the biggest downfalls of working from home paired with lockdowns and restrictions is the lack of exercise and the aches, pains and cramps we seem to form in areas of the body we didn’t formally recognise.
A recent survey by Endeavour College of Natural Health found that between 60-67% of Australians aged 18-54 suffer soreness around the neck, back and shoulders from using devices such as a computer, phone or tablet.
When compared with 2019 figures, which showed 53-59% of Australians in the same age bracket were affected by technology use, the new data highlights the impact of home offices on our health.
Although yes, we are using technology such as computers and tablets at our offices, their placement has often been designed with care, featuring supportive desk chairs and elevated computer stands to assist in our comfort as workers. Realistically, it’s pretty normal to get a bit stiff after a day in the office, but the working conditions are better suited to our bodies than most home offices.
That being said, there are things you can do to help your body while working from home.
Exercise scientist, remedial massage therapist and massage lecturer at Endeavour College of Natural Health, Georgina Turelli, has 12 years worth of experience in professional practice and sounds like the best housemate ever in a time like this.
She shares four easy stretches you can do at home, that target the trouble spots – hips, neck, shoulder and back, which have helped many of her clients get through lockdowns with makeshift office setups.
4 Stretches to Ease Working From Home Aches and Pains
Hips – chair work
Move over Miley, the chair twerk is here to help engage your postural muscles whilst gently massaging those pesky tight muscles in the lower back.
To chair twerk, sit upright in your chair and imagine that your hips are a bowl of water. As you start to tilt the bowl forward, you tip a little bit of water out the front. Then roll your hips back like your tipping a little bit of water out the back. Repeat this forward and backward rocking motion slowly 15-30 times, making sure your only tipping a small amount of water each time and not the whole bowl. Now you’re chair twerking.
Shoulders – Goldilocks rolls
Everyone has probably tried shoulder rolls at some point in their life, but not everyone is doing them right. Shoulder rolls are designed to mobilise your shoulder blades and stretch the upper trapezius muscles, meaning they are perfect for neck pain, upper back pain or shoulder pain caused by working at a computer.
To do a shoulder roll just right – not too fast, not too low and just enough rotations – sit up in your chair, pull your shoulders up to your ears then pull your shoulder blades back and together. Now glide those shoulders down away from the ears whilst holding them back, squeeze and hold for 5-10 seconds, then relax and repeat 5-10 times.
Neck – armpit sniff
This isn’t about checking if you applied deodorant this morning but a great stretch for tight muscles in the back of the neck that can lead to headaches.
For the nose-to-armpit stretch, sit up straight then rotate your head and direct your nose to your armpit as if you’re giving it a sniff. Using the same arm as armpit, lift your hand to the back of the head to gently assist the neck forward for a little extra stretch. Hold each side for 10 seconds and repeat a couple of times whenever your neck feels tight.
Back/Chest – posture pole
To release pressure from the back, we need to first release the tension pulling from the front. Most of us spend a large chunk of our day with our arms in front of us, whether it’s typing on a keyboard, using a phone or even driving a car, which can cause a hunched position as our shoulders roll forward.
A great way to counterbalance all that forward motion is the posture pole exercise.
Start by grabbing a foam roller (or a rolled mat or towel) and lie backwards on it lengthways on the ground so it runs from your bottom to the top of your head. Then open your arms out to the side making a giant T shape and stay here for up to 15 minutes allowing your chest to open and your spine and shoulders to reset.