WELLBEING KNOWHOW Are you sitting comfortably?

Writers and illustrators do the majority of work from home – but is your workspace a wellbeing winner? Jo E. Verrill gets some top tips from physio Antony Hylton.
As someone who has worked from home for nearly a year - and subsequently started to creak and crack like an old boat - I've started to question my working from home set-up. I mean, perhaps there is a chance working from bed scrunched over a laptop with one hand perma-texting isn't optimal for my physical and mental wellbeing...

With right arm rapidly numbing, and shoulder feeling like it's trapped in the jaws of a shark, I tapped up the expertise of business ergonomics guru and physiotherapist Antony Hylton to put together some top tips.

1. Look at it holistically
"'Poor' posture," Antony says, "is unlikely to have a major impact on any discomfort that we experience. Rather, stress, inadequate length and quality of sleep and a lack of exercise are far more pertinent."

2. Aim for the S-shape
Don't be a Gollum, aim for the S-shape. Picture © Zoinomics

OK, posture isn’t absolutely everything. However, as Antony puts it, "the amount of time we spend in a sustained posture is a risk factor that we should be wary of and we can mitigate this somewhat by keeping more 'neutral' joint positions where possible. This would include adopting an S-shaped spine’ (see picture above).

"You should also consider good cushioning for your chair, and it should be at a height that enables your forearms to be at roughly desk level when sitting with the shoulders and upper back relaxed. The back rest should support you with a slight (10–20°) recline."

3. Mix it up
So, staying in any position for ages is not going to do your body any good – and also does zilch for your creativity. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in the same spot agonising over a plot point, only to stand up and have the solution whoosh instantly into my brain.

"The best posture is the next posture," says Antony.

He recommends mixing it up by, for example, sitting on your sofa (for less than 20 minutes), or standing at the kitchen counter – or an ironing board (!) - for a while.

4. Raise your screen
"The height and position of the screen is a key aspect of the workstation," says Antony. "If you are using a laptop, this would ideally be raised on a stand and then separate input devices used."

And the good news is – this doesn’t have to expensive. I bought my keyboard and stand for tuppence off eBay, and got a freebie mouse from my local Freecycle group. You’ll be surprised how much random office equipment people have cluttering up their houses!

5. Break break break!
Great news, tea fans: "Breaks are the number one risk reduction strategy when it comes to computer use, regardless of set up."

Antony’s top tip is to drink a half glass of water with every cup of tea or coffee. Not only is water amazingly good for you, it will also likely increase your ‘break’ frequency!

The Health and Safety Executive suggests you should take a break while your performance and productivity is still at a maximum, before getting tired. Frequency tends to be more important than length (every 20-40 mins is tip top) and you should leave your workstation. I do housework in mine – it’s great for refilling the old ‘creative well'.

Happy homeworking, campers!

Main pic: Author's own

Jo E. Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, and an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant.

Antony Hylton is a qualified physiotherapist of 19 years. He is the director of Zoinomics, a health and wellbeing consultancy business, providing advice to businesses based on current research and best practice, conducting ergonomics assessments and offering training and seminars.

Do you have any suggestions for KnowHow? If there's something you'd like to know how to do or know more about, tell us. Email KnowHow editor, Eleanor at knowhow@britishscbwi.org 

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