VANCOUVER -- Is your dining room table, kitchen island, or bed suddenly your office? The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing millions of us to work or do school assignments at home, often getting the job done in less than ideal conditions, which could be causing all sorts of muscle pain and strain.

But there are some simple ways to give your workstation a makeover and minimize the strain on your body while maximizing your productivity.

Even if you don’t have a fully equipped home office, you can still create a healthy workstation, and you probably won’t have to spend any money doing it. You can use stuff you already have around the house.

Let’s start with your chair. You want your feet to rest on the floor and your lower back to fit snugly against the back of the chair.

If your lower back doesn’t reach the back of your chair comfortably, put a pillow behind you. If your feet don’t reach the floor, place them on a stable footrest.

There are even ways to make a bed or couch workstation ergonomically sound. With a couple of pillows and a lap tray you’ll be able to take the strain off your back and neck.

Where you’re looking makes a difference too. Your eyes should be an arm’s length away from the computer. The top of the computer monitor should be at eye level so that you’re gazing slightly down toward the centre of the screen.

Next, bend your arms anywhere from 90 degrees to 115 degrees when you place your hands on your keyboard.

In addition to being comfortably seated, Rachael Rabkin Peachman with Consumer Reports says it’s important to remember to take breaks.

“When you’re staring at the computer screen for really long stretches, we tend to avoid blinking,” she says. 

To avoid eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule - every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look 20 feet away.

And lastly, keep moving around throughout the day. 

“That will really help prevent some of the back strain and the shoulder strain that you may otherwise feel if you’re working in an office setting where you’re expected to be seated at your desk for long stretches,” Peachman says. 

And remember - just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should forget about daily hygiene. Your boss may not know you haven’t showered in days, but your new office mates certainly will.