Stay healthy while working from home: Fix your posture, neck pain and more

How to work from home safely, with stretching exercises, tips to stay active at home, and more

Work from home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Have you been working from home as a result of the global health crisis? If so, you may have a desk, monitor and office chair, but your home work environment is still likely to cause you some problems. Whether your shoulders and neck are feeling sore and stressed, you're lacking natural light or you're just not moving as much without your commute, it's a common problem even one year into the pandemic. 

According to a survey from the UK's Royal Society for Public Health, 44% of women and 29% of men have been experiencing worsened back, neck or muscle pain since they started working from home. If you're still crouching over a laptop, sat on a dining chair, you could be seriously harming your spine without proper ergonomic equipment. 

To start with, make sure you've got a good chair for working – if in doubt, our shopper's guide to the best office chair can point you in the right direction. Generally speaking, it needs to swivel, adjust its height, have back rests, good lumbar support and be built to last. You can also pick up one of the best posture correctors to help keep yourself up straight. 

Work from home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

We're also moving less than ever: with no commute to speak of, and no reason to leave the house before the workday, home workers are at risk of developing a highly sedentary lifestyle. Studies have found physical inactivity is a predicator of slow, long-lasting chronic diseases, as muscle wastes away through lack of use and our weight balloons at having home comforts so close to hand.

Simona Zacharova, Osteopath and Clinical Lead at Vitrue Health, says: "Whether that’s because of a cancelled commute or a busier schedule, 46% of home workers report taking less exercise now than they did when they were office-based. The good news is that even minor adjustments to some of your everyday tasks could make a big difference to your health. 

"The key to staying healthy when you’ve got a packed schedule is to use your time effectively and efficiently. This means adding in body-weight exercises and heart-rate-increasing movement whenever you have a spare minute."

Simple exercises like squats and push ups – even 10 repetitions of both these exercises every hour – can keep the circulation going in your body and prevent eventual muscular atrophy, as can the best back workout. You can also try Simona's two-minute stretching exercises, which should see off undue stress in your shoulders and back:

  • Gently lift both your shoulders about 2 inches. Slowly relax them down as far as possible.
  • Hold one arm across your body and use the other arm to push your elbow into your chest for 10 seconds.
  • Swap arms and repeat the stretch.
  • Release, let your arms hang down as far as possible.
  • Gently rotate your shoulders forwards and backwards five times.
  • Notice the tension melting away.

Finally, there's the issue of natural light. We need natural sunlight to both boost our mood and get vitamin D into our bodies, but we're often squirrelled away in our homes i areas without this natural light. 

Simona says: "If you don’t have a window in your ‘office’, consider ordering a special lamp that replicates natural daylight and can help alleviate tiredness." Our guide to the best SAD lamps, which replicate the effect of sunlight, can help you do just that.  

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. 

Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.