So what does your desk set-up have to do with migraines I hear you ask? Well, for me, the environment in which I work is crucial to my overall health. When I began working freelance a few years back, I really took the whole homeworking freedom a little too far. As it coincided with the pandemic, I found myself sitting around in loungewear, which is another way of saying pyjamas, and working slumped over on the sofa or bed with my Macbook.
Now, having the flexibility to work from your sofa and doing it long-term are two completely different things. I started getting a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders and found myself with new aches and pains in my legs and hips. And you guessed it, my migraines got worse.
With my husband’s company remote working during the pandemic too, we needed a space, so we set about turning the box room into an office, complete with some practical and stylish office furniture and a movie theme for all of the artwork on the walls.
I did a lot of research into creating a working environment that wouldn’t increase my migraines and it also had the added benefit of giving me a much better work-life balance too. Now, I can shut the door at end of the workday and get on with my life, rather than being attached to my laptop all day every day.
I hate being warm. I was always the person in the office that was constantly too hot. Even in the winter, I go to sleep with the window open and a huge fan on. So working in warm, stale air is horrible for me and makes me groggy. So I invested in a quiet fan that I could still have when I was making Zoom calls. Though I’ve learned to tie my hair back when I do it or it looks as if I’m in an 80s rock video. I also keep the window open as much as possible but as the office is at the front of the house, there can be noise from traffic, so I need to keep it shut sometimes.
Fresh air is important for keeping you alert and productive.
I’ve learned the hard way that you shouldn’t go for style over substance when it comes to office chairs. While the wannabe interior designer in me wanted to go for a cute, upholstered fashion chair that went with the decor of the room, I knew this would be bad for my posture and headaches in the long term. Instead, we went for an ergonomically designed chair with a headrest.
When looking for a chair, choose one that can support the curve of your spine. Or find lumbar support you can attach to your existing chair. As Scott is so tall, our desk is higher than I would have it for myself, so I have a footrest under the desk to make sure my thighs are in the best position, which is parallel to the floor.
Most of my client calls are done via video calls or emails, so I’m not on my mobile a lot. For the times that I am, I don’t want to strain my neck so I have a pair of Airpods I got as a birthday present which I keep in for most of the day to listen to podcasts, but can use to answer my phone calls or keep my hands free to type.
If you’re on the phone a lot, think about something similar or buy a specific headset. Your neck will thank you for it.
Standing Desk Converter
I had toyed with the idea of a standing desk. I’m a naturally lazy person. If it wasn’t for the fact I have two small kids to look after, I’d barely move. I bought a special unit that sits on the desktop that lets me work standing up, contributing to my overall health and posture.
It’s not plain sailing though. I find it difficult to do certain tasks standing up, so at the moment I’m using it when watching webinars or on calls where I don’t have to be on screen (I tend to rock back and forward a lot when I’m standing which would look a bit weird on screen).
I’m hoping to increase the time I spend standing over the coming months.
This took the most time to get used to as I was in the habit of sitting on the sofa with my laptop a few inches from my face but down on my lap, meaning my head was at an extreme angle.
We have two monitors in the office, which is great for having multiple programs open. Your monitor should sit at an arm’s length distance from you. The top of the monitor should be roughly at the same level as your eyes or very slightly lower (never higher).
Fellow migraine sufferers know that dehydration is a huge cause of migraines. Sometimes I can get so engrossed in what I’m doing, that I forget to head downstairs for a drink, so I’ve bought a one-litre drinking bottle that I fill up in the morning and again in the afternoon.
One of my personal migraine triggers is light. Intense sunlight or glare can both trigger an attack. It’s why I’m never without sunglasses like some kind of hungover celebrity. So, I have made sure that I have some good blinds to block out the sunlight during the part of the day that it’s at the front of the house. I also have a task light that I can use to avoid eye strain when I need extra light.
Until I win the lottery and no longer have to work, then it’s going to be a major part of my life and a huge factor in my migraines. While I can’t remove all the stress of what I do, I can control the environment I work in. Many of these tips work if you’re in a home office or a traditional office, but they will help keep you healthy and keep you from slipping into bad habits.