Do Something to Combat the Stress of Poor Remote Work Stations

August 20, 2020 | Jason Horras, DPT

Jason Horras, DPT; Vice-President and Director of Occupational Health; 21st Century Rehab

As you read this “From the Desk of” blog post, think about how your current “desk” or “work environment” looks. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many employees to work from home instead of at their normal place of employment. This presents many unique challenges and stresses to the body and mind. Often, working from home is not conducive to the best ergonomic set-up, with makeshift desks and workspaces. Access to proper work areas can be limited and many employees expected the initial change to working from home to be short-lived so they made do with whatever space was available. Now more than four months since moving to remote work, the outlook of returning to normal office workspaces in the next few weeks is uncertain. If improper workstations–thought to be temporary–haven’t been addressed, now is the time to make changes to prevent significant employee musculoskeletal aches and pains, headaches, and other physical and mental fatigue.

The “ideal position” for sitting at work:

  • Sitting with your feet on floor and back supported
  • Arms close to your body and supported
  • Monitor or screen straight ahead and top 1/3 of screen at eye level.

Even ideal sitting posture, which almost no one maintains, puts excessive stress on the neck, shoulders, back and legs due to static muscle loading and holding weight of the body after 20 minutes. There is no substitute for taking breaks and moving. When working at home, please make sure that you try to avoid awkward postures or limit the duration to 30 minutes or less without a break. Current research indicates that varying work positions throughout the day coupled with tailored breaks and exercise can reduce back and other pains by more than 80%.

The body is meant to move and this in turn increases blood flow throughout the body that improves mental performance and actually reduces physical fatigue. To counteract the physical stress created from sustained postures, it is important to stop and move your neck, back, arms, hands and legs in directions that are opposite of the position being held while working. Take a micro-break every 30-60 minutes and move your neck, back, arms and legs for a minute or two to get blood flow to your body and brain. Additionally, take a five- to 10-minute movement break every two to three hours. Staying ahead of discomfort and pain is the key to feeling better and being more productive. 

To perform optimally takes a sound mind and body. Stresses from inside and outside work lead to a slow breakdown of the body and mind. There are a few simple ideas and strategies for remote workers, which are very inexpensive to implement, that can be followed to maintain health and maximize daily performance. 

Simple Tips to Make Seated Workers Feel Better and More Productive

  • Good posture: Avoid awkward postures (avoid lying in bed, on the floor or sitting in awkward positions, without arm support and head/neck not aligned to see your computer screen)
  • Get up and move at least every 30-60 minutes with 60-second micro-breaks (set a reminder)
  • Walk or jog an extra 15-30 minutes each day
  • Consider short standing or walking when on phone calls or virtual meetings
  • Adjust standing and seated work as possible

Jason Horras, DPT, vice-president and director of occupational health at 21st Century Rehab. He specializes in employee health, preventing injuries, and maintaining a healthy and productive workforce. Email him at