How’s your home office health?

Protect yourself from workspace woes

Clinically reviewed by Mitch Collings, written by Imogen Comrie on 30/10/2023

For many office workers, the pandemic brought in a pretty big change: remote working. Who doesn’t love the convenience of working from home, the extra time in bed, being able to stick a wash on, and the flexibility it gives us? We have a hybrid policy here at Simplyhealth that we feel gives everyone the best of both worlds. 

However, with home working comes the potential impact on physical health and the risk of Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. But before you consider rushing back to the office, read on for our home office health check...

Growing Pains: MSK

MSK conditions are on the rise. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), MSK conditions are now the leading cause of disability globally, affecting over 1.7 billion people worldwide. The Office for National Statistics showed that back and neck problems have been rising since 2019 and are now the second-highest reason for people leaving work.

Repetitive strain injury, or RSI, is also a common complaint when discussing working from home - RSI is an irritation of the soft tissue resulting in pain and stiffness, brought on by repeated movements. Treatment and improving ergonomic set-ups can help reduce the condition quickly, which is why we need to keep home workspaces working for us, rather than against us. Let's take a closer look.

A working from home setup with a laptop on the kitchen table and a hard plastic chair without ergonomic support

Remote Work Blues

For all the benefits, there are drawbacks to working from home:

  • Bad ergonomics: Many remote workers lack proper, RSI-beating ergonomic setups at home. Using a kitchen table or chair, hunching over a makeshift desk, or ignoring that niggling pain in our wrist, can lead to poor posture or even chronic conditions.
  • Too still for too long: It feels boring to mention it, but we all know by now that long hours of sitting in front of a computer screen aren’t doing us any favours. A sedentary lifestyle can cause muscle imbalances, weakened core muscles, and reduced circulation - all of which contribute to MSK issues.
  • Missing your colleagues: OK, so maybe you don’t want to see your colleagues every day, but isolation and limited social interaction can lead to stress and anxiety. This can actually manifest as tension and discomfort in the muscles! Do coffee machine chats seem more tempting now? 
  • Living to work: Have you found that the boundary between work and personal life is so much more blurred when working from home? Extended work hours, and less time for relaxation, exercise, and life, isn’t helping anybody. 

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A photo of a home office with an ergonomic setup including a chair at the correct height and a laptop on a stand

Step One: Ergonomic Mastery 

One of the first steps in preventing MSK discomfort while working from home is levelling up your workspace:

  • Find a supportive seat: Get a chair with proper lumbar support. It could be pricey, but it’s a worthwhile investment for your posture. It’s also important that your chair fits you properly, so make sure to buy a chair suitable for your size. 
  • Adjust your desk height: Your desk should be a height that allows your arms to be parallel to the floor when typing.
  • Monitor placement: Your computer monitor should be at eye level and about an arm's length away.
  • Mindful breaks: Take short, frequent breaks to stand, stretch, and move around. Set reminders using an app or an alarm to remind yourself.

Step Two: Posture Matters

Here's how to improve and maintain good posture:

  • Sit up straight: Your back should be upright and fully supported by the chair's backrest. Try not to slouch or lean forward, even when it feels like the day will never end!
  • RSI advice: When typing, your wrists should be in a neutral position, not angled up or down. People sometimes use a tilted keyboard, but this can lead to an extended wrist position which can aggravate the muscles in the hand. A neutral wrist position reduces this risk. 
  • Flat feet: Keep your feet flat on the ground, or on a footrest, for a neutral spine position.
  • Get stretching: Add some simple stretching exercises into your daily routine to release tension (and because it feels good). Try stretching a bit every hour. 

Mitch Collings says:

A supportive ergonomic set-up with good back support can reduce the risk of developing musculoskeletal conditions such as repetitive strain injuries.

A good starting place to check your sitting posture is using the 90/90/90 rule. Ensure your feet are flat on the floor, knees, and hips at 90 degrees, your back is supported by the backrest, and the curve of your lumbar spine fits the curve of the lumbar support. Shoulders should be relaxed with your elbows by your side at 90 degrees when typing or using the mouse. The head should be in a neutral position when looking at the screen. This starting posture can then be adjusted in small increments based on personal comfort.

A woman sat at her desk at home stretching out forward taking a break from working

Step Three: Daily Habits

Small, healthy daily habits can make a big difference to your MSK health:

  • So many activities: Regular physical activity is essential. Try effective yet gentle exercise like yoga or Pilates, get out for a walk, or lift weights. You don't even need to go to a gym, use exercise classes on YouTube!
  • Stay hydrated: Water helps your muscles, joints, and skin. Plus, all those trips to the loo will add to your physical activity. 
  • Break time: Health is mental, too. Take time to relax and release tension. Deep breathing exercises can be incredibly beneficial, so take advantage of being at home, away from distractions. Good luck to those of you with kids or pets, though!
  • Consult a specialist: If you're experiencing persistent MSK discomfort, seek the advice of your GP or a healthcare professional for tailored guidance. With a Simplyhealth plan, you can access physio/osteo/chiro and podiatry benefits when you need it!

Mitch's closing words

Working from home can be great in some respects, but it has its own risks. Poor ergonomic set-ups are a significant risk factor of musculoskeletal aches and pains, and working from home can be isolating if you don’t have strong social connections. A home office can also be a reminder of work even outside of working hours, so it’s critical that positive habits are created to reduce these risks.


  • Your best posture is your next posture. Even the best sitting postures are still static postures, so ensure you regularly take postural breaks to move around and stretch.
  • Create end-of-day habits such as packing away the office equipment or writing a to-do list for the following day to help recognise the difference between work time and home time.
  • Musculoskeletal aches and pains can be distracting and can impact your focus and productivity. An optimal ergonomic set-up can help to change that; a better ergonomic place leads to a better thinking space.

Reviewed by Mitch Collings

Written by Imogen Comrie

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