As a freelance writer, it can be all too easy to find yourself spending hours chained to your desk.
One of the big perks of being freelance is the ability to set your hours and take as many breaks as you need but in reality, it doesn’t always work out like this. This can quickly lead to burnout and a whole heap of other health issues that could easily have been avoided with some changes to your routine.
Freelance writers can find themselves spending hours chained to their desk.
You can do yourself a big favor by setting up your work area to minimize the potential for problems and to get out of the habit of being at your desk for long periods of time. And here are some tips to help you to do this!
Setting Up Your Workspace
Working at a desk can be a lot easier on your body than balancing your laptop on your knee but like a lot of freelancers, you may still find that you have problems with tension and pain.
This is often due to the way that you’ve set up your work area.
Desk height: It’s often recommended that your desk height is roughly half of your height. A lot of desks can be too low and if yours fits into this category, it can be a good idea to artificially raise the height to one that works better.
Screen height: It’s generally recommended that your screen is at roughly arm’s length away from you and more or less at eye level. This should avoid the need to bend your neck and reduce potential for eye strain.
Chair support: Your desk chair needs to provide you with a good level of support for your lower back. If this isn’t the case, it’s likely to put unnecessary strain on this area. Ideally, you’ll want to have the type of chair that allows you to adjust its height and tilt so you can be fully aligned while you’re working. Your chair should allow for your knees to be positioned slightly lower than your hips and for you to be able to type with your wrist and forearm running flat and parallel to the follow.
How to Sit While You’re Working
The posture you maintain while working can be a big factor for aches and pains.
Good posture is all about putting the least amount of stress and strain on your muscles and ligaments.
Most muscular, back and neck pain happens because you’re sitting in an unnatural position for periods of time and this puts stress on your spine and muscles. It’s all too easy for your body to get used to being positioned incorrectly and it can actually feel wrong to break away from this.
When you first start sitting in the “right way, it can be a lot for your muscles to handle and you may only be able to sit like this for 5-10 minutes at a time in the early days.
Here’s the good news though: if you can successfully “train” your body to adopt the correct posture, your problems will often go away for good.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Sit back in your chair and keep your back straight. Your buttocks should be in direct contact with the back of your chair and ideally, your weight will be evenly spread between both buttocks.
- Your wrists and forearms should run parallel to the floor and you shouldn’t need to stretch forwards to do this. You may want to use armrests or other typing aids to make sure of this.
- Pull your shoulder blades down and back, subtly tuck your chin in and lengthen your neck.
- Bend your knees at right angles and keep your feet flat to the floor. Crossing your legs while you work can throw your posture out. You may prefer to use a footrest if your chair doesn’t allow your feet to lay flat naturally.
- When you get out of your chair, don’t bend forwards at the waist; instead, move forwards in your chair and straighten your legs.
The Dangers of Sitting Down Too Much
No matter how well you set up your workspace, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s just not healthy to spend too much time sitting at your desk.
Research has shown that sitting down for big parts of the day can lead to a whole host of health problems:
Research from the 2010 Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise study found that men who spent more than 23 hours per week sitting down were 64 percent more likely to die from heart disease compared to those who sat for half this time.
It seems that the health effects of being sedentary for much of the day aren’t offset just by getting some exercise into your day – especially if you’re using seated gym equipment such as rowing machines or exercise bikes as part of your workout.
That said, the effects are more worrying if you don’t do much or any exercise when you’re not at your desk so the obvious answer is to start getting more active and actively cutting down on how much time you spend sitting down.
How to Set Your Routine
Whatever business hours you’ve set for yourself, the key thing is that you don’t sit working solidly until you’re done. This is a sure fire recipe for both mental and physical burnout, not to mention the health issues we’ve already talked about.
If you know it’ll be a struggle to get into the habit of leaving your desk, set a timer to go off after every 30 minutes or so of working to remind you. Bonus points if you can fit in some physical activity too such as stretching or a few light exercises while you’re away!
Worried this will affect your creative flow? Chances are, you’ll actually be more productive if you start taking regular breaks than if you never step away from your desk at all.
Over to you – how do you make sure your workspace isn’t causing you health problems and avoid spending lots of time sitting at your desk? Share your tips in the comments!