Amid the anxiety of getting your child to daycare and the anticipation of jumping back into a career, there is one thing that often gets overlooked when women return back to work…themselves. While we may prepare for the mental load of going back to work, very few people plan (or train) for the physical load that comes with working an 8 hour day.
On many occasions people come through our door because all of a sudden their bodies are feeling sore and run down. In some cases, return to work can cause setbacks in existing conditions and in worse case scenarios can actually lead to missed days from work. Probably worse for a new mom, many report fatigue which means when they finally get home to their kids, play time is strained or uncomfortable.
When our friend Allison Venditti of Career Love asked if we would collaborate to let our postnatal clients know about her new Ready to Return – A Maternity Leave Course this February, we jumped at the chance to share some of our healthy return to work tips (and of course get you a discount on her course – code at the end of the blog).
So while your minds and finances might be prepared for you to return to work – it is important to also remember your body. Here are a few tips that will make your return a more comfortable and happy experience:
Know What You Are Getting Into
Of course you know what is involved in your job but have you recently considered it’s physical demands? Perhaps you are at a desk most of the day with limited opportunities to move or maybe your job is physical and repetitive in nature. However you spend your working hours, I’m guessing it is pretty different that what made up your day on maternity leave.
If there is a physical component, you may want to start practicing those types of movements at home to strengthen similar to the demands of what you will be doing all day. If you happen to be sedentary at work, you might want to come up with a routine that will get you out of your chair and allow opportunities for movement in your day. Yes, I am essentially asking you to train for your job but I promise the pay off for your body will be worth it.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Everyday I see a client who wants to work on their posture. Everyday I ask those clients what their desk set up is like at work. It is important to remember that no two bodies are shaped the same and therefore every desk setup should be individualized. In a perfect world, every company would do an ergonomic assessment and set your desk to your height and function specifically. Unfortunately most workplaces do not have the budget for individual assessments so you may have to DIY your desk setup.
Here are my cheat notes for setting up your desk properly:
- Make sure when you are seated your feet are flat on the floor. If they aren’t, slide something like a telephone book (do they even make those any more?) underneath your feet.
- With your feet flat on the floor, both your knees and hip should be comfortably bent to 90 degrees in your chair.
- Your elbows should be bent to 90 degrees when resting on your chair’s arm rests leaving your hands at the height of your keyboard.
- Your screen should be 18 – 21 inches from your eyes and at eye level so you aren’t bending your neck up or down to properly see.
- Avoid setting your desk up so you are twisting to get to the things you most frequently use.
- If your desk setup involves more than one computer screen, make sure you have a chair that can swivel to face them directly instead of twisting to look at one or both.
- Keep everything you use often within arms reach.
- Where possible, use a desktop computer at your desk. If you have to use a laptop, raise the computer screen to eye level and get a second keyboard installed on a tray
Other things you may want to consider in your office is a space to move, stretch or do a small flow midday. An investment in a standing desk can also be a great option as long as it is adjustable between sitting and standing. Standing all day can also have negative effects.
Consider Your Footwear
I used to work in a clinic where we got very dressed up. I would subway downtown and spend the day on my feet often wearing high heels. I was so comfortable in them that I joked I could probably run marathon in them. Now aside from everything I know about how bad high heels are for your posture, when I got pregnant my feet changed and I went to flats and have never gone back.
Now you may be fancier than me but I would put some money on the fact that you likely didn’t spend your mat leave in your Louboutins. If your work requires a certain dress code, I might suggest investing in some shoes with some orthopedic support or keeping a pair of flats in your desk. If you are a commuter, think about a pair of running shoes for the ride or walk into work. Lastly, if you are at a desk for any portion of your day, you can tuck an Acuball or golf ball in a desk drawer and use it to roll out your feet while you are sitting.
Have Strategies to Manage Your Stress
Whether it is positive or negative, stress can certainly impact your body. Let’s face it, love your job or not, returning to a career can often be a stressful situation. Layer on stress about your kids or changing your routine and it might be wise to have a strategy in place to handle stress through your day.
Activities such as yoga, Qi Gong and movement can help to reduce your stress. If your workplace has a wellness program consider taking part in a lunch time class. If that is not available to you, even leaving your desk for a walk outside can be helpful.
No time? No problem. Close your office door and practice deep breathing or a mini meditation. Fitbit has a great “relax” setting that will guide you through a few minutes of centred deep breathing and apps like Calm and Headspace have short guided meditations that can set you back on the right track.
Allow Your Body Time to Adjust
You wouldn’t expect to do a new workout and not feel it the next day. Going back to work is no different. Changes in activities and postures for long periods of time are going to challenge your muscles in different ways. It wouldn’t be unusual to feel that in your body the next day.
Before you get frustrated, know that it is totally normal. Spend a few more minutes stretching on the floor with your kids when you get home. Drink tons of water through your day. Take a hot bath with some Himalayan salts. All of those small actions will help to flush lactic acid from your system and reduce your discomfort.
Do you still have questions about return to work? Career love has some amazing courses to help prepare you for a successful return to work. Use our code THANKS and get 20% off their upcoming February course.
Good luck Mama. You’ve got this!
*Please note that we are not sponsored by any of the brands mentioned in this post, we just happen to use them and love them.
Melanie Stevens Sutherland, Clinic Director & Senior Orthopaedic and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist
Melanie is a graduate of McMaster University and brings 17 years of experience as a senior physiotherapist to Body Co. She has enjoyed a long tenure working with active populations at prestigious sport medicine clinics. Past clients include Provincial, National and Olympic level athletes as well as members of the National Football League, the Canadian Football League, the Ontario Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the National Lacrosse League and Major League Soccer.
Following the birth of her own children, Melanie developed a strong interest in women’s health. She has taken specialized courses in pelvic floor physiotherapy and women’s nutrition. She is passionate about helping women find strength and confidence in their post-natal bodies following pregnancy and delivery.