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Designer Dani Roche and her dog Suki, in her home office in Toronto.Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

Brock University professors Shawn Beaudette and Michael Holmes are experts in office ergonomics. Their research has found that, over the course of the pandemic, more full-time workers who had pivoted to working from home used laptops, and fewer used a desk and an adjustable chair. “They were sitting on a couch, they were eventually sitting at a dining-room table, and in part this caused an elevation in upper back, neck and right wrist pain,” says Beaudette.

Their advice for when you’re working from home? “Try and have a diverse postural setting throughout the day,” says Beaudette. “One of the most common problems with lower back and neck pain is sitting in a hunch posture for a long period of time.” Holmes suggests incorporating breaks into your routine to promote movement and changes in posture throughout your day.

A “proper” desk chair that offers seat pans, back rests and lumbar supports that prevent you from slouching forward can also help. You want to “have a good chair that supports you, that’s adjustable so that you can make all of the correct adjustments to the chair that you need to keep you in the best, most comfortable postures for you,” says Holmes.

But adjustable office chairs can be expensive, and Holmes notes that if you already have a “reasonably good chair” that’s comfortable for you, you could instead try to improve your workstation by spending on external peripheral devices such as an external monitor, an external keyboard and a mouse for your laptop. “They can be pretty standard devices, but they’ll be much better than having you hunched over the smaller keyboard or trackpad for long periods of time,” says Holmes. Then, you also want to make sure that your monitor is at the appropriate height and distance relative to you. It should be roughly an arm’s reach away from you, and your eyes should line up with the top of the monitor.

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