Thanks to Covid-19, this was a year where working at home became normal. As well as the global benefit of lower emissions from vehicles, we also enjoyed:

  • less traffic on the road
  • wearing soft pants at work
  • hanging out with the dog
  • being trusted to deliver on time
  • having uninterrupted time to think and to focus on the job at hand
  • the choice to sit outside in the sun when reading or editing a document
  • reclaiming time that would normally be spent commuting.

If continuing to work at home at least some of the time is something you have the opportunity to carry into 2021, there is a potential downside that is well worth paying attention to, in order to be able to sustain this option.

Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS) is also known as repetitive strain injury (RSI) and is something that can creep up on you when you are focused on finishing a project to a tight deadline. Not everyone seems to suffer from it, but most of us won’t get away with the posture shown in the photo above for too long.

It’s well worth investing in the following equipment and advice if you would like to work at home over the long term.

  1. An electric standing desk (for easy transitions between sitting and standing) and a rubber mat to stand on, to take the pressure off your feet and legs when standing.

  2. A separate keyboard and monitor so you can raise your monitor up as high as you need it. You can use reams of copy paper or buy a purpose-built monitor stand.

  3. Document holders which reduce the amount of neck movement when you need to repeatedly look at both a document and computer screen. Normally I use a standard 3M document holder at the same height which is at the same height as my keyboard. These are pricey but worth it. However, if you are needing to make a lot of movements between the two, it’s well worth also buying a plastic A4 brochure holder which is more nimble. This gives you the option to have your paper document at the same height as your monitor, and slightly in front of your screen. (I use this when I’m doing a lot of detailed editing and need to peer at my scribbles on the page.)

  4. A laptop riser. It took me a while to find one of these but it was worth the hunt. I mostly use a standalone computer (on my standing desk) but sometimes I like to sit away from my office table when coming up with first drafts. A less official workspace encourages more creativity due to the physical separation from the critical mindset I have when standing at my work computer, revising and editing. However, I find that typing on a laptop while sitting on a bed or in a lounge chair is dynamite for OOS. A laptop riser, which sets your hands at more of an angle, reduces the risk of you hunching over your keyboard, putting pressure on your neck and shoulders.

  5. Treat Your Own Neck, by Robin McKenzie. This book will equip you with really simple, effective exercises to fix any strain that does occur in your neck, shoulders, arms or hands.