If you are a software engineer, you care about health of your system. Do you care about your health? For people who do any other type of desk work, everything here will apply to you too.
It’s more important now than ever before
Over the years more people started working in the office. Sitting in front of a screen, for most of the day, can have significant impact on our health. Due to the current situation many people have to work from home, which are often not ready for healthy working.
Things to pay attention to
You may know already plenty of things from this blog post. I grouped them into specific categories, so you can read what is interesting for you.
Sitting is not good for a spine. To revert the damage it does, you should have 5 minutes break every hour. Stand up and do some stretches, good thing about not being in the office, you don’t have to worry, anyone will judge you for having a break or exercising. It’s especially important when you work from home, as in the office you at least have to walk to a meeting room. At home you can sit 8 hours straight without noticing. When you are older your spine will thank you for every single break. You can find online pictures how you should set up your chair and a desk. In a nutshell:
- Feet on the ground
- Knees slightly above chair
- Spine straight
- Hips as far back on a chair as possible
- Upper and lower arm in 90 degrees
- Top of the screen on same level as your eyes
- Put screen in an arm distance from your body, if you extend your arm, it’s between wrist and palms. You can find specific value, but I use arm method as it’s quicker.
- Good quality chair, I sit a lot at home, so I bought a chair 6 years ago. If you split the cost over 6 years, it’s not as expensive as it looks like.
If you can stand while working, that will help. I heard about people rotating between a chair, a kneeling chair and a balance ball. I haven’t done it myself. Every option has some negative consequences, such as knee pain if you use a kneeling chair too much, so make sure you rotate often. You can google to find pictures for correct sitting position, here is one example from Imperial College
When you look at the screen you blink less, your eyes will get dry. Try to keep attention and blink from time to time. Every 20 min, you should look far away for 20 seconds, I’m in a habit of looking outside a window regularly. You can read about 20-20-20 rule (every 20 min, for 20 seconds look 20 feet away) on Medical News Today
You should avoid a place in your flat where you rest, as your brain will associate the space with work. Try to avoid bedroom, as your sleep may get worse. Clear separation between work and leisure time can increase your productivity during working hours and let relaxed after. If you can dedicate a room to work, that would be ideal or at least try to limit spaces from where you work. You can read about dedicated space here Many people recommend “commuting” to work, go for a walk before you start working and for another when you finish.
You should drink about 2 litres of water per day. It’s easy to get stuck and forget about it, but try to make sure you always have some. That can help with a break every hour, which I mentioned earlier. Go to the kitchen, grab a glass of water, stand for a moment and then go back to work.
It’s not just green area that help improve how we feel, based on research, trees are the best. If you go for a short walk before work (aka commuting), try to pick area with trees and look at them. You can find more details here “Urban green spaces with open grass rather than a tree canopy did not deliver the same benefits.” Keeping plants at home can improve your wellbeing, reduce stress and anxiety. Rhs article, Psychology today
Let fresh air into your room. I know the temperature is not always ideal, to have windows fully open all the time, but try to ventilate your room regularly. Especially if you work in a small room, you will quickly run out of fresh air. Right amount of oxygen helps thinking.
If you struggle to concentrate (let’s face it, Slack is only a productivity tool when it stops working), you can try to do a Pomodoro technique. 25 minutes working, then you go and check if people need some help, or had some questions.
That one can be tough with a pandemic lockdown, especially if you like to go to the gym or if you usually do something what requires close contact with other people. I like to exercise at home, I can do it when I want to, so all the excuses like “it’s raining” don’t exist. If you struggle with ideas, I really like calisthenics, for many exercises you don’t need any equipment. If you are not exercising regularly, before you buy anything for home, start with exercises which don’t require any investment. I fell into trap of buying things and then not using them many times. But if you really want to get something, I can recommend few tools: In my previous place I used this pull up bar (Perfect Fitness Multi Gym Pro), you mount it on the door frame, it left a bit of marks above the frame, so be careful. In current place, I wasn’t able to use it, so I got the free stand one (Pull Up Mate), makes a bit of noise under pressure, but it’s very stable and gives more options (funny, last year it was £100, I guess now demand for at home equipment is higher). I had to get gloves to use it, as metal wasn’t very nice on bare skin. You can get some exercise mat, I’m very happy with HemingWeight. You can get dumbbells for £30. I got Indo Board couple years ago to do balance exercises. And while I know that for some people gym offers more equipment, motivation, option to meet like minded people, I’m very happy with my setup, especially now.
There is a lot of information online about healthy habits. Go and google some more, it’s all free knowledge which can help you in a long term. Only because now you are fine, it doesn’t mean in 10 years time your body will still be happy, so take care, as there is no backup.