alt=a changing work from home desk and chair setup

RA and My Work from Home Setup

Long before the pandemic, I worked a remote-based job. Although my company had an office about 45 minutes from my home, not all employees worked from that physical location. When I first started that job in 2015, I was immediately delegated to the work from home team, and I was full of gratitude for the opportunity.

My first work from home job

In those days, working at home meant having my laptop on my lap while I was in bed or on my couch. I had a designated workspace, but it wasn’t very comfortable to remain at my desk for long hours at a time, so I rarely sat down and worked there. Sure, sometimes I noticed that my knees ached from sitting cross-legged on some soft surfaces, and maybe my wrists felt uncomfortable from the way they’d rest on the edge of my laptop keyboard for hours at a time, but overall, I couldn’t complain.

During that first year at home, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis after several years of suffering from symptoms of both. The biggest blessing I could've imagined was the flexibility of being able to wear what I wanted, having no commute, and not needing to sit in meeting rooms or be in unfamiliar environments. It allowed me to remain a full-time employee during a season that otherwise might have been impossible.

Creating my home office

In the summer of 2019, I had my first child. Becoming a mother was everything I ever wanted and changed my life in ways I could not have previously predicted. I took maternity leave and returned to a remote, part-time position in late fall. We’d also moved into a new house shortly before our daughter arrived, and I shared a workspace with my husband, who also worked from home full-time for 8+ years before the pandemic began.

We spent months dancing around how to take calls at the same time, how to be on video chats without having the other in the background, and how to block out our daughter while she was with our nanny. My desk setup was the same as it had been previously, but whether it was from the height of my desk, the type of chair I was sitting in, or from squinting at a screen all day, I struggled to feel comfortable. Physically, the office space we shared was on the ground level of our townhouse, and it was incredibly drafty. My joints ached so much in the winter, and spending time in that space became miserable.

Trying to find an RA-friendly work setup

I finally decided it wasn’t working for me and moved an old high-top bar table into our bedroom. I sat across from my bed in a high back chair and removed any separation of work-life balance that I’d once had. I spent almost a year working from this setup and I hated every single moment of it. I had a clean background for video calls and a door that shut for serious work focus time, but it became too painful for me to be in that high back chair which wasn’t meant for more than a few hours of sitting at a time and not for everyday use.

In early 2021, we moved to a new house where I finally got my own office. I purchased new furniture, including a wider desk, a more ergonomically friendly desk chair, a footrest, and a wrist guard. A few months into this new setup, my body still wasn't comfortable. I spent 9+ hours a day at my desk, and it wasn't working the way I'd hoped. So, I went back to the drawing board.

Making a few adjustments to my office

I got a stand to raise my laptop higher and an external keyboard so I could type at a different angle. I purchased an external mouse to use with my laptop so I'd be forced to keep my hands and wrists in better positions, and I purchased ergonomic cushions for my desk chair.

It's been a little while of working within these parameters. While I can see a consistent improvement from my early days of working in bed, I know that I'm still adjusting to the limitations and challenges RA presents. I imagine that this setup will continue to be adapted as the seasons pass and my disease ultimately changes.

If you work from home, do you continually adjust your setup like me?

What have you found to work? What doesn't work? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.

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