Avoid Hidden Health Risks Of the Virtual Office

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COVID-19 introduced a number of life-altering changes throughout all levels of society. Technology, for example, allowed many workers to continue in their jobs from the comfort of a home-based virtual work space as it became a necessity. Though this benefit has allowed many of us to remain productive while lowering our exposure to the virus, it also opened the door to other unintended health risks that may not be as prevalent in a more traditional workspace.

Though seemingly harmless, a poorly appointed desk — on the couch, on the bed, on the patio — can strongly contribute to improper posture, which can lead to a number of health concerns, some chronic. Premier Health Now spoke with neurologist Arshi Naz, MD, of the Clinical Neuroscience Institute to get a better understanding about these risks and the steps people can take to create a workspace that protects their health and leaves them feeling more energized.

Physician, Heal Thyself

The importance of maintaining proper posture and designing a work area that reinforces it was something Dr. Naz experienced firsthand as the virus required her to begin seeing her patients virtually instead of in her office. It was a significant change that forced her to make a conscious effort to make sure she was maintaining a routine that protected her own health.

“When we sit at a desk improperly for long periods, one seemingly small problem can lead to other, greater problems,” says Dr. Naz. “For example, if I am holding my head upward or downward for a long time, it can lead to neck strain, shoulder tightness, and upper and lower back pain, as well as headaches. If poor posture such as this remains unchanged, any one of these pain-related issues can become chronic in nature and hinder things such as sleep and mobility, and even lead to depression.”

Dr. Naz recommends using a comfortable chair that provides adequate back support. Make sure you’re sitting with feet resting on the floor with knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your computer screen should sit at eye level to avoid neck strain, and your keyboard should sit comfortably within reach.

Sitting itself, however, comes with its own hazards that can put your health in greater jeopardy.

“I recommend that people in any office setting make time to stand, walk around, and stretch at various intervals throughout the day,” says Dr. Naz. “Uninterrupted sitting puts you at greater risk for deep vein thrombosis, which is when a blood clot forms that can prove fatal if undiscovered and untreated.”

Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 26 million Americans worked from home. That number has only continued to grow as many employees have been relegated to home offices out of necessity. As these numbers increase, it will become even more important to take simple steps like these to optimize our work spaces for long-term health.

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