Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog – Saving money every day with DIY crafts, sewing projets, low-cost recipes & shppping tips


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The ergonomics of working from home

If you’re a full-time freelancer like me, or someone who works just one day a week out of their home office, this is the blog post for you. That’s because I’m sharing some research I’ve done about the ergonomics of setting up a home workspace and I’m sure that it’ll help you enjoy working from home even more than you already do!

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If you’ve been making do with sitting at the kitchen table to do your work, or balancing your laptop on the arm of the sofa, or (like us bloggers occasionally admit) never even leave your bed, you won’t need me to tell you that it’s not the best way to work. You’ll ready know it yourself thanks to the numb bum, crick-in-the-neck and sore back you get at the end of the working day.

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Why don’t you have problems like this when you’re working at the office? Because most businesses have ergonomically designed desks and chairs, perfectly set up desks and monitors at just the right height. They need to provide a healthy working environment for their workers, and don’t want to have staff absences because a dodgy office chair caused spine problems for their employees.

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So the solution to having a more comfortable working environment at home is to replicate ‘the office’. I know it might seem dull (and you’ve only just got away from that bloomin’ office!) but you’re going to have to set up a proper desk, get a great office chair and stop working on that laptop. This guide below explains the best way to arrange your desk to make it ergonomically correct. And, most importantly, you’re going to have actually USE your newly arranged desk to do your work. No matter how tempting the sofa looks!

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Working pains: An ergonomic solution to using my laptop all day

Calling all bloggers, freelancers and students. In fact, anyone who works on a laptop for any length of time. I’m worried about you! As I’ve become busier and busier with my freelance writing work, I’ve found myself chained to my desk for longer periods of time. While I love my work (and don’t really want to stop at the end of the working day…) I’ve noticed one side effect of enjoying my job so much… my body is suffering.wireless-keyboard-and-mouse-pen-setting-up-an-ergonomic-desk-workspace-7My back aches from sitting hunched over my desk, my wrists and fingers hurt from all the typing, and I’ve got a crick in my neck from looking down at the laptop screen. While it’s okay to use a laptop recreationally (and if you’re traveling for business, of course) I’m pretty sure that it’s not the most ergonomically correct way to work. In fact, I know it isn’t.

You see, I went to a physiotherapist over the summer to try to sort out my neck. What I thought was pain caused by a whiplash injury, actually turned out to be something different. Okay, the accident probably didn’t help the situation and has definitely weakened my neck, but it transpires that my working environment was just as much to blame. While I could do all the stretches and exercises that the physiotherapist recommended, my neck and back weren’t going to get any better if I carried on working at a laptop. But why?wireless-keyboard-and-mouse-pen-setting-up-an-ergonomic-desk-workspace-2I’ve seen that diagram of the ‘correct desk set up’ dozens of times in my working life. I’ve been shown it as part of health and safety training in almost every job I’ve ever done. We all know that the keyboard should be slightly lower than your bent elbows, and that the screen should be at eye level. But if you’re using a laptop, that’s an impossible position to get yourself into. Either your laptop is so high up that you’re typing mid-air, or it’s so low down that your head is hanging down to see the screen. My laptop is currently somewhere in between; when I heard that the screen should be higher, I put it on a chopping board to raise it up a bit. But that made it too high for my arms and wrists. What’s a girl to do? Buy a new computer??

Maybe. But while I’ve got a perfectly functioning laptop, it would be unthrifty of me to spend money on a new computer set up. However, there IS a way to separate my laptop from the keyboard so that I can set both at the right height. How? With a wireless keyboard of course! No sooner had I realised I this, but I started searching for ways to raise up my laptop screen to the correct height and find the right keyboard for my needs.wireless-keyboard-and-mouse-pen-setting-up-an-ergonomic-desk-workspace-4

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Tuesday Shoesday – Comfort shoes for a more active life

Whenever September rolls around I get that ‘new-term’ feeling. Even though I’m no longer a student, when you add up all the years that I have been studying in one way or another (yes, I’m even counting primary school), we’re looking at upwards of 20 years in education. So it’s no wonder that I still see September as the start of a new chapter – and still use an academic diary! I see it as a time to kick off some resolutions. In fact, it’s probably a better time of year to make resolutions than January, as you’ve got the end of the year as a marker for quantifying your goals. Whether it’s learning a new language (yes, I’m trying to learn Spanish this year), getting fitter, changing your working habits or improving your savings, I think that September is a great time to start.health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-5So, why am I talking about new goals on a Tuesday Shoesday? Surely this blog post is about shoes, right? Right! But my new shoes are linked to my new-term resolutions, and here are the reasons why: I took a bit of time off over the summer and it was only when I got back into the swing of full-time work that I realised just how bad my back and neck is. I went for physiotherapy earlier this year to correct a neck problem (caused by a historical whiplash injury over 10 years ago) and I thought everything was getting better. Over the summer, I barely noticed anything wrong with my neck and all those headaches were gone. However, as soon as I got back to my desk it became obvious what the problem was – my working environment. All the aches and pains came rushing back and it was difficult to get through a full day of work. So here’s my solution, and how it links to the shoes:health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-7I’m now a standing worker. I realised that sitting down all day was causing a lot of problems; heavy legs, pins and needles, bad back and strained neck. No matter how ergonomic my desk set-up was, I needed to get up off my bum and work standing up. So I gave it a go by moving my computer onto a higher work surface for a couple of days to see how I got on. It worked miracles. No problems at all. Apart from one small thing; my feet ached. My cheap flat pumps were clearly NOT made for standing all day! It reminded me of working in hospitality jobs when I was running around all day and really needed a foot massage at the end of the day. So one problem solved ended up causing another problem, but there was something I could do about that…health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-12

If you need new sports clothing I think that Fabletics (designed by Kate Hudson) can’t be beaten for style and performance.

I’ve reviewed comfort shoes on my blog in the past and I discovered that, for heels, Hotter cannot be beaten. However, I’ve always struggled to find a decent pair of comfort shoes that are also a little more on the sporty side. Most flat comfort shoes are a little bit too ‘old lady’ for me (no offence) and I’ve shied away from them, preferring basic low-cost pumps when I want to wear flat shoes. I read some reviews about sports shoes and zumba shoes online (read the article at NicerShoes.com) and now I’ve finally found a pair of comfort shoes that I want to show off – they’re sporty, available in great colours and are SO comfortable it’s unreal.health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-10health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-2 health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers

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Back to work… ouch!

This week I’ve had a problem. It started on Sunday and has carried on all week with little or no let up. I’ve had headaches as a result and even had to have mid-day a lie down at times. I’m taking about back pain and it is naffing me off. Just like the dodgy pun in the title of this blog post, it’s annoying. I know many people ensure bad backs for weeks at a time (many of my friends and family included) and this is really only a relatively recent problem for me, but it’s really frustrating to have to stop what I’m doing in order to sort out my problem.

I don’t like taking pills too often so I’ve been powering through and I know that you should keep moving when you have a dodgy back, but this pain has kind of frozen my neck. I think I’ve traced the root of the problem to my poor choices of working environment over the past couple of weeks. Instead of working in my caravan ‘office’ or sitting at my living room desk, I’ve been lazy and have actually been perching on the sofa to do my work. It’s the result of having a laptop with wifi that doesn’t need to be plugged in all the time, so I can literally work wherever I like, whereas in the past I’ve been chained to the desk with all kinds of wires going into my laptop, therefore keeping me in one place. I guess it can’t be good for me to be snuggled up on the sofa while working and my new-found poor posture results in one heck of a crick in the neck as I look down to see my computer screen. In turn, the neck pain has resulted in headaches at the base of my head – not good and almost debilitating.

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As we speak I have one of those heated wheat-bags around my neck and I can’t carry on like this. I read this article to find out more about posture and have self-diagnosed that my bad back and neck probably is down to my working environment. Apparently even when working at a desk, the kinds of chairs that are often found in offices are probably contributing to bad backs all around the country – so imagine how bad my standard dining-chair and small table must be for me? What hope is there for my dodgy back and sore neck if I’m not even sitting in a supportive chair at an ergonomically design desk?? I do tend to slump a little and have to regularly correct my posture and really I probably need to raise up my computer to a better eye-level.

But it’s not just me who is suffering – according to the article, 80% of people are experiencing back pain in their lifetime and poor posture can be attributed to the increase in tablet computers and smartphones which have created a generation who are happy to be hunched over screens while they work, rest and play – which this article had dubbed the ‘iPosture’. I am guilty of this too as I reward myself for a good day’s work with a Pinterest session. Maybe I need to be sitting at a desk while doing this too? Who knew that the ‘convenience’ tablets would be causing us all to have bad backs and poor posture? I know what I need to do and honestly, I will start working on my desk again for starters. Plus I am now wishing for a posture-pleasing chair like the ones above, but in the meantime I will take more notice of my posture and correct myself if I begin to slump. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a quick improvement in my sore neck and back so that I can finally wave goodbye to these headaches. Let me know if you’ve had any trouble like this in the past or currently and what you’re doing to make it better – maybe I can give it a go too!

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Article and images used in collaboration with Back App.

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