There’s so much we may miss about our offices – the calm, alone time, quiet, free snacks, even our comfortable ergonomic chair or desks that were made for actual work. Because you don’t need another pain in the neck, we sat down (virtually) with Jenni Diamond, Occupational Therapist and Personal Trainer to get her wisdom on how to make working from home work for your body
Setting yourself up at home, ergonomically sound, isn’t rocket science, but there are a few important things that you’ve got to get right. Jenni Diamond, JD Personal Training, Occupational Therapist & Personal Trainer
What To Do (Bites)
Get your legs down!
The going wisdom when working from home used to be to get dressed like you were going into your office. While this may help to bring in the discipline of a typical work day and get your mind into a professional headspace, we know that moms working from home, especially with kids at home too, are instead choosing comfort. Whether you’re a legging gal or a sweatpant lover, comfy clothes definitely lend to more “flexibility” in your home/work environment. But when you’re comfortable, there also comes a greater tendency to curl up in your chair, slouched over, and with crossed legs while you get to work. And then there’s the treacherous one leg down, other leg on chair, sitting on foot position.
Long-term, sitting with poor posture and improper alignment can lead to significant back and neck problems, and other body pains. Solution: Get familiar with what 90 degrees looks like. Make sure you’re sitting upright, with your knees, hips and elbows all positioned at a 90 degree (or slightly greater) angle. And get off that foot. Sitting that ways puts unnecessary strain around the knee joint, possibly leading to injury long-term.
Use a pause to get those shoulders out of your ears.
I don’t even have to “Zoom” with you to see your shoulders are likely hunched up, sitting close to your ears. This buildup of tension as we go about our work is also a contributor to our aches and pains. Think: neck stiffness. What to do?
Try these easy stretches that do wonders and feel great: when sitting on a chair, take right hand and reach underneath right side of the chair and grip. Drop your head to left, trying to touch ear to shoulder and hold for 10-15 seconds. Repeat on other side.
Or take hands to back of head, interlace fingers and draw head down to your chest.
And a biggie – screen height, arms, legs – think in thirds.
Sitting properly is pretty simple when you think in thirds: your eyes should be in line with the top 1/3 of your computer screen. If not, prop up your computer with books, a board game box or a stack of paper.
The other 2/3? Back to our rule of 90 degrees. Elbows bent at 90 degrees. Hips bent at 90 degrees. Knees bent at 90 degrees. If your chair is too low to make that happen, grab a cushion or blanket to place on your chair to raise you up.
Feet on floor. We’ve already got you out of the treacherous single leg sit, but now, once your arms are in the right place, your chair should be well positioned. With your legs down now, your feet should be resting flat. If they’re dangling at all, create a DIY footrest with a few of your child’s least favourite books, or whatever you can get your hands on.
Take frequent breaks to rest your brain and get your blood flowing. How often? Easy. Use every kid interruption to take a break. You can stand up and “shake out the sillies” with them before returning to your work.
Listen to your body: Usually when something hurts or feels stiff, your body is trying to tell you something. Be your own detective and explore what those clues are telling you.
Take phone calls while standing or pacing around your desk when possible. You can stay near your computer in case you need to check something, but take advantage of this time to stand up and move.
If you’re interested in connecting with Jenni, she’s easily reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit her website www.jennidiamondhealth.com, or send her a DM on Instagram at jennidiamondhealth.
My Choices. My Wisdom.
Jenni is both a registered Occupational Therapist (OT) and a personal trainer. As an OT, she works with concussion patients at the Neurology Centre of Toronto, helping them achieve a successful work environment while recovering from brain injuries, part of which includes setting up an ergonomically-sound home office. As a personal trainer, her area of specialty is pregnant women and post
natal. Here, Jenni uses both her skills and knowledge as a personal trainer, combined with her experience and training in ergonomics, to help improve posture and well-being for mamas and mamas-to-be.
Why both OT and personal training?
It’s a really nice balance for me. I’m lucky because I get to work with two different and really rewarding groups of people. For the Occupational Therapy, I work with individuals who have sustained brain injuries and help them with their recovery. For the personal training, I work with mostly healthy individuals, namely pregnant and postpartum moms, and get to help them improve their well-being and quality of life through safe and goal-oriented exercise programs.
What do you see moms doing that is less common with others?
I see a lot of really positive developments in new moms – engaging with their new-mom communities and friends, going on lots of walks, and embracing their new major gift and challenge in life. Those are all special aspects of being a new mom, but with them come some not-so-good habits. Many new moms allow themselves to get into “bad habits” with their bodies because postpartum life is so crazy. They’re already plopped down on the couch with their baby who suddenly needs to feed…so they think, “okay, just one more time feeding in this awkward position” without the help of their supportive pillow they’re supposed to be using for breastfeeding. And one time turns into two, into three, into four…
On my end of things, I see how these compromising habits easily add up and lead to sore backs and wrist injuries. If there’s one piece of advice I can give mamas, it’s to set up those “good body habits” one by one, and you’ll notice how your body changes for the better.
What is it that you find so rewarding about training mamas-to-be and mamas in the postnatal period?
I’m really lucky to have had the education I did in personal training, pregnancy, the post-partum period and exercise. What I find most rewarding in working with this population is being able to provide education and tools for these women at such a unique stage in their lives. Whether it’s through a safe and targeted exercise program to decrease negative risk factors through pregnancy, or helping new moms get back into shape while managing post-partum risk factors, I love being able to help make a difference in their lives. And let’s be real, it’s a pretty fun environment to be in. No one ever leaves a workout session with a frown on their face!
Your mom is a working mom, how did she inspire you?
My mom has shown me how valuable it is to have multiple “jobs” in her life. She has always loved her kids and loved her work. She puts time, hard work, and passion into both occupations, and she has shown me that while you do have to make compromises, you don’t have to compromise your success in one or the other to make it work. I think that’s partly why I really value having two different health & wellness careers to invest my love and passion into. Similar to my mom, I see value in having two amazing occupations in my life, and when I hopefully have my own kids down the road, I will be lucky to have a third.