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24 April

Top Tips from OV Physiotherapist for Working From Home

Head shot of OV Colette Owen OVs everywhere are feeling the impact of Coronavirus with many of us suddenly working from home and adapting to all the challenges remote working brings.

OV Colette Owen (Co 90-92) is a physiotherapist who is having to adapt to a new way of working but also has some tips to help us work more comfortably from home. Colette writes…

‘We are in week four of lockdown, and like many professions, physiotherapists have had to review and evaluate how we practice. I specialise in musculoskeletal, sports injuries and ergonomics, predominantly seeing clients face-to-face. Many clinical interventions, whether assessments or treatments, would be hands on, and indeed, clients would expect that approach.

With the Coronavirus lockdown it has been an opportunity to explore different ways of working and to revisit practice. Fortunately, I have experience of phone and video consultations and, let’s face it, decades of physiotherapy and ergonomic practice. It has been an interesting personal study of adapting clinical tests or hands on treatment to a remote setting and still be effective. Patients seem to be enjoying it too, and we are seeing positive results.

Ergonomics are also being completed online, with webinars for larger groups and individual DSE assessments for those requiring a more detailed assessment. A pragmatic approach is being taken and it is rewarding to work with and support employers and employees during these challenging times.

Working from home can be a challenge for many different reasons. It is known that sedentary lifestyles can have a significant impact on physical and mental health. A recent IES report highlights that since lockdown and working from home there has been an increase in reported low back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders. So what can we do in this situation? Working at the kitchen table, on sofas or beds is becoming the new normal. Not everyone has a suitable chair; and from my experience, not everyone has a table.

Taking a pragmatic approach, there are a number of ways in which you can make working from home better;

  • Have a structure; make sure there is a start and finish time to your day. The working day can easily continue into the evening as no train to catch, class to attend, friends and family to see. Make sure you set aside time for exercise, talking with others (research shows talking is better than texting for reducing loneliness)
  • Build in your commute; being in lockdown is making us less active; no walk to the station, meetings, to our favourite lunch spot. Consider your normal activity and add it to your day: 10 minute walk to the station? Substitute it with 10 minutes of walking up and down stairs, hallway or garden. Got a meeting in ten minutes? “Walk” to the meeting
  • Here are some key ergonomic tips:
    • When sitting, hips should be higher than knees with feet on the floor. Use cushions to give height, and if a footrest is needed, books and boxes are a suitable and immediate alternative
    • Sit in a chair that has a backrest and place computer kit on a solid surface such as a table or kitchen counter. Counters and ironing boards (yes, you read that correctly) can make great standing desk alternatives – add some standing time into your day. Aim for 20-40 minutes throughout the day.
    • The top of the screen should be level with your eyes. If no screen riser, use books and boxes.
    • If using a laptop (raised with screen level with eyes), use a separate keyboard and mouse to make sure arms and wrists are in a neutral position Note: if you have to buy any ergonomic kit, a separate keyboard and mouse would be my top suggestion
    • If using a phone, use speaker setting or headphones. Avoid holding the phone in the crook of your neck. Phone or video calls are a great reminder to get up and move. Not able to walk about? Simple movements such as squats, marching on spot, raising arms will also do the trick
    • Have the items you use the most closest to you and consider general health and safety: no trailing wires, check smoke alarms, etc.

      Try to do as many of the above as you can. However, if for whatever reason you cannot, don’t despair. The most important and easiest thing you can do is to move more: change postures, simple stretches and exercises. Mix up your day. If you have concerns regarding your ability to work from home, please let your employer know. You are not alone.

To find out more you can contact Colette on