Perhaps one of the downsides of more and more of us using computers is the increased hours spent sat at a desk or workstation. If we’re not careful, we can spend protracted lengths of time sitting in ways that are bad for our health and productivity. Time to check and, if necessary, take steps to improve our posture.

Why is poor posture bad for health and productivity?

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Poor posture can affect energy levels by impairing circulation, causing aches and pains because we’re not sitting properly, and in extreme cases low mood can result due to a general feeling of discomfort interfering with concentration levels. As a result, we’re less productive and less effective in our work.

It’s generally bad for the body to be in one basic position for long periods of time, yet many of us spend hour after hour doing just that.

Here are five things to tackle to improve posture at work.

1. Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the way you use and interact with your workplace equipment and related objects in the most efficient and comfortable manner.

  • Chair height – adjust it so your knees are about level with your hips parallel to the floor, and your feet are resting on the floor. If there’s no lumbar support, put a cushion between the curve of your lower back and the back of the chair – specifically designed lumbar support cushions are available.If your chair is too high to rest your feet on the floor, either try and use a different one or get a footrest. Even a pile of books is better than nothing.
  • Object positioning – frequently used objects such as staplers, desk calculators and your telephone should be within easy reach. Avoid excessive reaching while sitting – stand and move toward an object you require.
  • Computer use – keep your mouse within easy reach to the side of your keyboard, and ideally use a wrist rest while typing to help keep your wrists more level with your hand. Avoid the ‘wrists down hands up’ typing posture as this can contribute to repetitive strain injury (RSI).Make sure the monitor is about arm’s length away and the top of the screen is just below eye level. Avoid either tilting your neck up or down to view the screen. If there’s any glare, deal with it – don’t leave it as you’ll subconsciously angle your neck or peer up or down to get a clear view.Ideally, the main light should come from the side of the screen not behind you or above. If it’s glare from natural light, then draw blinds or curtains – or have them fitted if possible.
  • Headsets – consider using one if you spend periods on the phone with the receiver tucked under your neck to free your hands up to type or take written notes. This is obviously bad for posture and neck pain can result. A headset will make using the phone much easier.

2. Your chair

A vital piece of equipment and often overlooked. Modern chair design has moved on immensely in recent times, so if you’re making do with an old chair past its best then a newer, modern type will help posture.

Look for one with a full range of adjustments for height, tilt and ideally lumbar support, too. Try a few out and choose one that supports your back properly and allows you to rest your feet on the floor properly. A properly adjusted, comfortable chair will help other ergonomic considerations fall into place such as being at the right height for you to use your keyboard and monitor comfortably.

Easy height adjustment is crucial, too.

3. Exercise

Whether you use a gym or have another regular exercise routine such as regular workouts at home, jogging or swimming, there are some basic exercises you can do that will help strengthen areas of the body important for good posture. Some of these can be done while you work.

  • Pilates – you don’t necessarily have to join a class and learn Pilates fully; there are plenty of examples online. Some basic Pilates exercises are worth learning to strengthen core muscles that affect posture.
  • Desk exercises – there are various quick and easy exercises you can do at your desk; an online search will reveal several including ‘desk yoga’. These only take a few moments and are well worth blending into your work routine.

4. Basic posture checks

Make sure you’re adhering to the best posture possible by checking a few fundamentals regularly:

  • Leg position – as described above, the ideal leg position is thighs parallel to the floor and feet planted on the floor.
  • Ears and shoulders in line – this helps prevent you from leaning too far forward or back. Check you’re adopting this ‘ears in line with shoulders’ position often.
  • Pull back shoulder blades – brings your chest up and out and helps avoid round shoulders.

Don’t:

  • Cross your legs
  • Stretch them out in front of you
  • Hunch over your desk with a curved spine

It is worth bearing in mind that some people believe that slouching is actually good for our backs – although it may put more pressure on the neck.

5. Breaks

Where possible, short breaks are very worthwhile. Just a few minutes every so often can help – perhaps use them to go through some desk exercises you’ve found as mentioned above. Also, actually get up and walk around – little things like, say, using the stairs instead of the lift will get the blood circulating and get you breathing a bit deeper.

If you have a decent break – say a scheduled morning  break of similar – go for a walk and try and ‘unfold’ the body by focusing on putting your shoulders back, looking up and straight out ahead of you. Walk properly with a large stride and breathe deeply.

Schedule exercise and breaks

When you’re busy it’s easy to forget to attend to exercise and take breaks, so maybe set an alarm (a discreet one if necessary) to remind you to do your desk exercises, take a break, go for a walk or similar.

Patrick Boland is the CEO of H&M Ergo Seating, who supply large and tall chairs that are fully adjustable. Patrick believes that comfortable employees are happier and more productive.

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