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Health and Wellbeing

5 physio tips for a healthy and happy return to the office

Jul 20 2021

Thinking about heading back to the office? There are mixed feelings across the nation about the Prime Minister’s recent request for more workers to return office spaces. Yet many employees are getting set to make commuting and office life part of their daily routine again.

Many employees are excited by the prospect of working face-to-face with teams and clients. Others feel daunted. In fact, a recent survey found that out of 4,553 office workers in five different countries, every single person reported feeling anxious about the idea of returning to in-person work.

While working from home required some uncomfortable adjustments to begin with, it has had its perks too… Many people have used the extra time to pick up new hobbies, cook good food and develop new healthy habits. Notably, the nation got moving more!

So, if you’re heading back to the office, make it a positive change. Keep your wellbeing front of mind, use it as an opportunity to start afresh and do things differently with our top tips for a healthy and happy return to the office.

1) Make your commute count

One of the biggest positives of working from home has been the extra time gained in not having to commute. Make your commute count for something, so it doesn’t feel like time wasted.

Moving your body in the morning is a fantastic way to get your blood pumping and those happy hormones flowing. Try making your commute more active by getting off a bus or train a stop or two early, parking further away, swapping your car for a bike or popping on some trainers to jog part of the way.

If you drive, ensure your seat and mirrors are set up correctly to avoid strain or leaning forward. If you walk, avoid the use of heavy bags or bags held only on one side, as this can greatly affect your posture. Use a backpack to ensure a healthy alignment of your spine. Choose supportive footwear too. If you’re keen on wearing heeled shoes to work, then pop them in your bag and slip them on when you get to the office instead.

If you picked up new skills or hobbies during the lockdown, like learning a language, reading a book a week, or even making a habit of speaking with friends first thing in the morning, then continue to do so! Pop on a podcast, audiobook or call a friend. Make your commute count – turn it into a time in the day that you focus on yourself.

2) Improve your desk ergonomics

Office headaches, stiff necks and backaches can be symptoms of a poor desk setup, but small changes can make a big difference to your day! Ensure you’re maintaining a good working posture and avoiding those unwelcome neck or back aches and pains.

Sit comfortably at your desk
• Sit right back in your chair. Your bottom should be as far back as it can go, with your back supported on the backrest. A lumbar (lower spine/back) support can also be extremely useful for keeping the spine aligned in its natural curvature.
• Sit close to your desk.
• Your forearms should be horizontal and supported by the desk. Your wrists should be straight when typing. If you use armrests, these should be positioned at desk height (effectively a continuation of the surface your desktop or laptop is on).
• Avoid excess pressure from the edge of your seat on the backs of your legs and knees. A footrest may be helpful if your feet don’t reach the floor.

Adjust your screen positioning
• Have your screen directly in front of you, not off to one side i.e., make sure not to rotate your body.
• Your monitor or screen should be an arm’s length away. You may need to tweak this depending on your sight.
• The top of the monitor or screen should be at eye level.
• Your screen should be clear from glare or bright reflections. This is often easiest if the screen is not directly facing windows or bright lights.

Reduce clutter
• There should be enough workspace to accommodate other equipment or documents you need. Remove any unnecessary clutter.
• Your keyboard should sit directly in front of you, approximately 10cm from the edge of the desk.
• The mouse should be close to the keyboard, within easy reach. Make sure not to grip it too tightly.
• Underneath your desk should be clear from clutter, you should have space to move your legs freely.

If you have noticed some stiffness or discomfort that’s continuing to persist, then our bespoke virtual or face-to-face Desk Assessments are a great way to assess your desk setup and find new ways to keep your deskwork free from pain.

3) Stretch your body

It’s important to stretch and change position every 20-30 minutes to break up long spells of sitting.

Chest stretch
Using a keyboard with outstretched arms and hands can lead to rounded shoulders and a slumped posture. Over time this can make your chest muscles tight. Sit forward in your chair, point your thumbs up to the ceiling and open out your arms to the side and draw your shoulder blades together until you feel a stretch in the front of your chest. Keeping your shoulders lowered, hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times.

Thoracic rotation stretch
Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your knees pointing forward. Cross your arms in front of your chest and rotate to the side till the point of stretch. Remember to keep the knees facing forward and do not rotate the neck. Hold for one minute. Repeat 3 times on each side.

Lumbar extension
Stand up straight, place your hands on your back at hip level, elbows pointing straight behind you. Using your hands for support, slowly extend backward. Repeat 3 times.

4) Keep moving

You could also take a five-minute break, every hour away from your workstation, including having your lunch away from your desk. Just think, while working from home, these 5-minute breaks might have included emptying the dishwasher, putting a laundry wash on, or getting into the garden for a breather. And take your lunch break away from your desk! It’s important to take breaks, stretch and take care of your body whether you’re back in the office or working from home.

5) Find a physio near you.

If you are in pain, injured or would like more information on how to stay healthy and supple in the office, then book in to see one of our expert Bodyset physiotherapists. Our 25+ clinics are conveniently located near offices in towns and city centres, and we’re open for early morning, lunchtime, and evening appointments to suit your schedule.
Alternatively, find out how you and your company could benefit from our Corporate Partnership Benefits Scheme, including free and discounted physiotherapy and massage sessions and more.