I was putting the washing from the washing machine to the dryer and thinking about how often I’ve done this over the years. Not usually on weekends or evenings, as many in regular 9-5 jobs would do, but during the daytime, while taking a break from my business.
Right from day 1 of my business I have tried to ensure that I am operating in a way that is best for my body and my health. Only six months before I began my business I had done an OH&S course with the corporation I worked for, and it was driven home to me how important it was how my computer, monitor, and other peripherals were set up around me. The importance of having regular breaks so I wasn’t typing non-stop for several hours. The importance of getting up and stretching my body, walking around, and doing something different with my hands and arms, and my eyes.
Back in those days carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury were common every day phrases. I don’t know if I don’t hear about them now because I no longer work in the corporate world, or whether it’s because current technologies have changed how people are affected. I do know I hear about headaches, bad backs, sore shoulders, weight gain and so on. These seem to be commonplace events amongst those who work for themselves and in their own home.
I’ve always made sure that whatever is on my desk is within easy reach so I’m not overstretching or straining myself, and my printers and fax machine are on the other side of the room so I’m forced to get up and walk, even if only a few steps.
I’ve made sure that I get up and out of my office on a regular basis, several times during the day. To put a load of washing on; to put it in the dryer and put another load on, to make myself a cuppa, go for a walk in the garden, take a trip to the local post office to pick up my mail, go for a walk down the street, or at a local park. My growing passion for nature photography has made it easy for me to make the decision to go out for a 4-6km walk. Before I took photography back up late 2008 I found walking to be such a boring exercise (pardon the pun) and had to force myself to do it. Now I find it so easy to walk for 30 mins, 60 mins or more and look forward to going out almost every day. Then I have to force myself to return to my office – and not play with my photos till the end of the working day 🙂
Two things I have suffered from in the past 19 years of my business life, and one has been within the last 10 years, the other in the last 2 years. The first is weight gain – making myself go out to the kitchen for regular breaks meant I was often finding something to eat before I came back to the office. Had I been doing some serious walking all those years ago the story would be different today. But I’m working towards improving that situation. The other is a strained shoulder. Two actually. The first happened while my husband was in hospital and I was putting out a heavy bin of organic waste. I really should have found someone to do it for me rather than doing it myself. I felt my shoulder give as I pulled the bin and it took a good 8-10 months to heal. I’d torn the rotator cuff. It still gives me trouble now and then if I do something unexpectedly and jar it. I did the other shoulder a few months ago and still don’t know what I did that caused it. I really don’t remember. Fortunately I know a good remedial massage therapist, she visits my husband weekly as part of the therapy for his ongoing health care after a spinal cord injury due to a mountain biking accident 2 years ago. I get Jane to treat me too from time to time.
Laptops are a sure way of suffering sore shoulders and neck, plus headaches. It’s important that you have it set up properly and you’re not constantly hunched over, on a couch, at a coffee table or the kitchen table. You really do need to have a proper desk and ergonomic chair to give yourself the best possible protection against problems as you grow older. Those years pass quickly, almost before you know it. And it’s so easy to develop bad habits and not realise it. I have a laptop but only use it when taking minutes of a meeting for clients, or managing their bookkeeping (as it uses a different version of Quickbooks to what is on my main computer) and also when we go away on holidays. I use it for storing the photos I take on a daily basis. I’m yet to get an iPad or Tablet, but am very tempted. However, it would be more a ‘toy’ than a work thing, although would be useful to take with me to conferences and seminars.
So, what are you doing to ensure you’re looking after your body and health adequately while working at home? I would love to hear about it.