Returning to the office not only means abandoning those stretchy pants and packing lunches again, it also might mean switching locations from your home office, the couch, or dining table some days to hot-desking or sitting in meetings in conference rooms on others. Queue the scrunched-up shoulders, sore wrists, stiff necks, and bad posture habits.
In an ideal world, we’d be able to transpose our ideal ergonomic setup from place to place. But what if you’re being asked to work in communal spaces like meeting rooms or you’re bouncing from desk to desk? It’s always a good idea to focus on your body’s well-being at work, but in these cases, doubly so.
So, how do you take the lessons we learned from building a home office-haven over the last few years into workspaces over which there is much less control?
By taking care of our bodies as much as possible to, from, and at work, say Dr. Ben Fung, a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, and Julie Shiller, a social worker-turned-personal trainer who runs The Other 23 Hours coaching focusing on physical health outside going to the gym.
Here are some practical tips, strategies, and products to help keep the wear and tear of deskwork from showing on your body.
Consider your commute
Heading into an office or to see customers, your commute can mean a crowded subway or rush-hour traffic. And chances are, you’ll be hauling a laptop, a few layers to take on or off, and lunch. Both Shiller and Fung recommend staying away from messenger bags, purses, and sling bags, since these put weight on one side of the body (throw a water bottle into the mix, and that’s a couple of extra pounds). Look for a backpack that’s well padded and can be adjusted to match your body’s needs. Fung recommends carrying the weight as close to and as high up the back as possible.
If you’re taking public transit, try noise-canceling earbuds that do double-duty for work and entertainment while you’re en route, but can block out external sounds if you need to take a call.
Fung recommends countering a long car commute by stretching afterwards, maybe even arriving a few minutes early “to decompress, do some stretches, load your body in the opposite direction of which you might've been cramped into for your vehicle.”