How to Work from Home Without Ruining Your Posture

wfh posture cat

Good posture. Yes, it means looking better in photos and feeling more confident, but on a deeper level, it’s incredibly important for your health. According to the American Chiropractic Association, good posture:

  • Helps us keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain.
  • Reduces the stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together, minimizing the likelihood of injury.
  • Allows muscles to work more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy and, therefore, preventing muscle fatigue.
  • Helps prevent muscle strain, overuse disorders and even back and muscular pain.
  • Can make you happier. According to a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, patients with mild to moderate depression felt more alert (and less anxious) after simply keeping their back and shoulders upright while sitting. Another study published in the journal Biofeedbackfound that participants who slouched while walking felt more depressed. When they shifted to a more upright position, their energy levels increased.

But now, in the midst of COVID-19, many people are working from home in makeshift offices without actual ergonomic desk chairs or laptop stands. But luckily, there are lots of ways to ensure your posture doesn’t go to hell while you’re away from your normal office set up. Listen up, WFH folks.

We Ask a Physical Therapist How Can I Prevent Back Pain While Working from Home?

1. Invest in an Elevated Computer Stand

If you’re constantly hunching over your laptop, it’s time to invest in an elevated laptop stand (we like this one from Soundance. Dr. Kellen Scantlebury of Fit Club Physical Therapy and Sports Performance Center notes it’s important to keep your eyes focused directly in front of you to avoid bending your neck and scrunching your shoulders too much throughout the day—it can cause long-term back pain and posture problems.

2. Uncross Your Legs

Another helpful tip for keeping your spine straight when you’re sitting: Line up your shoulders directly above your hips. We know—cue the eye rolls—but this means uncrossing your legs and keeping your feet flat on the floor. It’s tough at first but sitting with crossed legs all day can be bad news for your lower body and spine.

3. Take Breaks

This tip comes courtesy of Los Angeles-based chiropractor Dr. Sebastian Kverneland: “My main advice [is to] take breaks from sitting by scheduling standing and walking breaks (or walk when on phone calls), stretch the neck and back daily, sit properly when on your computer and make sure your gaze looks straight ahead (and not down) when looking at your computer or phone.” Even if it’s just a few laps around the block (or even around your house), your posture will thank you—plus it’s a nice little reprieve from emails and work calls.

4. Stretch

If you feel yourself starting to sink down into a hunchback, sit up straight and place your left hand on the right side of your head to pull your ear down to your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch sides. Dr. Scantlebury recommends repeating this move twice daily to relieve neck and back tension. If you’re looking for more stretches, check out these 12 moves from celebrity yoga guru Kristin McGee, which will relieve stress and strengthen some of the muscles essential to good posture.

5. Consider How You’re Sleeping

This one doesn’t directly relate to work, but it’s super important nonetheless. While sleeping on your stomach is the unhealthiest position and sleeping on your side is moderately OK, sleeping on your back is the way to go for optimal back health and posture. Sleeping in a supine position (on your back), is best for your spine and neck, since you’re maintaining a neutral position and aren’t contorting your body. In a more vain vein, sleeping on your back is also best for preventing wrinkles, since you aren’t smooshing your face into a pillow for eight hours. The only con to back-sleeping is that it could make you more prone to snoring or sleep apnea. If you sleep this way and notice yourself snoring, try propping your head up (but not too much) with a pillow.

Here's What Happens to Your Body When You Sit at a Desk All Day, According to a Chiropractor

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...