I’ve thought about my neck more in the last five months than I have in my entire life…
This focus on the vertebrae between my torso and head began shortly after I started working from home. It took only one week of hunching over my laptop while sitting in one of my plastic kitchen chairs to realize my makeshift “office” setup was about as ergonomic as an airplane lavatory.
“Did you know that your head can weigh up to 60 pounds when you’re looking down at your laptop or phone?!,” a friend of mine queried during a Zoom call early on in quarantine. “That’s the weight of four bowling balls!”
Nope, I sure didn’t, but it hasn’t been an easy statistic to forget. Especially once I looked up the article in The Atlantic that she read it in, which in addition to the bowling ball comparison also includes the harrowing analogy that “looking at Twitter in the supermarket checkout line is the equivalent of giving an aardvark a piggy-back ride.”
As one week turned into multiple weeks, and winter bloomed into spring, my gratitude for the ability to continue safely working from home commingled with an urgent self-imposed directive: unload this aardvark — pronto. I reached out to Cody Hanish, a licensed chiropractor (who happens to be a wellspring of extremely satisfying spine-cracking videos), for advice. He told me that one of the most significant things I could do to improve my work-from-home setup is make sure my laptop is situated at eye-level, which would allow me to maintain an upright neutral posture: “A poor hunched posture will not only put a lot of stress and strain onto your spine all the way from your neck to your tailbone but it also compresses all the tissues and organs like muscles, lungs and digestive system.”
A solution finally materialized when a work contact recommended this laptop stand. It was $20, had great reviews on a few other websites, and looked extremely portable. I adhered it to my laptop as soon as it arrived (it functions like a sticker with removable glue), and thus began my substantially more ergonomic WFH journey. Not only does the stand put my laptop at eye-level, but it’s also insanely lightweight, and the angle is subtle enough that I don’t need an external keyboard. The impact on my neck’s well-being has been palpable.
Hanish also mentioned this helpful nugget of simple but easy-to-forget wisdom during our exchange: “The most important piece of advice I can give would just be to move more and set aside some time to exercise each day, whether that’s to go for a walk or do a yoga session. I tell a lot of my patients to set an alarm every hour to remind them to get up and move to ensure they haven’t been sitting in the same position for too long.”
With an alarm on my phone that reminds me to get up and stretch once in a while, a pillow behind my back when I’m parked on one of the aforementioned kitchen chairs, and my beloved laptop stand, I’m finally starting to feel less like this shrimp and more like this ballerina.
Do you have any game-changing tips or gadgets that have helped orchestrate a better home office setup? I would love to hear about them.
Harling Ross is a writer and brand consultant based in New York. She was most recently the Brand Director and an editor at Repeller, where she wrote about everything from fashion to relationships to rosacea.
P.S. The best career advice, and the mentor myth.
(Photo by Kristen Curette & Daemaine Hines/Stocksy.)