Posture – it’s one of those things that we’ve all heard about, but a surprising many know little of. However, for all that it can be difficult to define without heading to your nearest dictionary, it’s an incredibly important consideration in the workplace, particularly for office workers. Good posture helps prevent the development of serious musculoskeletal disorders, prevents muscle strain and more. What should you know about correct posture, though? Read on to learn more.
One of the most important elements of good posture is spine support. When sitting down, your natural inclination is probably to lean forward and rest your weight on the arms of the chair. That’s wrong, and it will lead to serious lower back pain, as well as strain on the muscles and tendons in the arms (especially if you do that while trying to type).
The right type of spinal support is important. The best option is to invest in a quality office chair with a good back (featuring plenty of lumbar support) that follows the natural curvature of the spine. Make sure your feet sit flat on the floor and don’t hang. You should also have maximum contact between your back and the back of the chair without it affecting your ability to type. If your chair has armrests, they should be positioned so that your arms are even with the top of the desk and there’s no shoulder strain present.
Even if your chair has a built-in headrest, chances are good it’s not going to be used unless you’re leaning back (you’re inactive). That means it’s important you practice good neck posture. Ideally, your neck will be in a neutral position (not forcing it forward, back or to the side). The computer monitor should be just below eye level, so you can look at it while maintaining the right position. Your monitor should also be at least 20 inches from your face (a maximum of about 36 inches).
Position everything in your work area so that you can reach it or see it without having to turn your head. This will help you keep your neck in the proper position and avoid straining muscles.
The Importance of a Quality Office Chair
Part of good posture is having the right support for your body throughout the day. In an office environment, that means having a quality office chair. While good chairs do come with a cost, they’re actually more affordable than what you might think, and they’re certainly cheaper than trying to deal with the consequences of carpal tunnel syndrome or chronic lower back pain. A good chair will help support you throughout the day, and should be a “no-brainer” for any office worker (or office manager buying furniture).
With the information above, it should be easier to understand good posture and put it into effect in your daily life. Invest in a good office chair and protect yourself from serious musculoskeletal disorders.
Ergonomics – it’s become an immensely important consideration for both individuals and employers. Even UCLA has started offering ergonomics guides and information for students, teachers and others. Whether you’re an office worker or an employer, it’s important that you understand the key concepts in workplace ergonomics in order to prevent injury, maximize productivity and reduce ergonomic injury-related lost time from the job.
Reducing Strain and Stress on Key Body Parts
The entire point of ergonomics is to position office equipment and to support the body in such a way that it reduces strain on key body parts. These include the following:
- Upper and lower back
- Thighs and legs
Key Ergonomic-Related Injuries
33% of all workplace injuries involve musculoskeletal injuries generally caused by poor workplace ergonomics. These injuries cause a significant amount of lost time at work, which impacts both the employer and the employee. Some of the conditions caused by not implementing the correct ergonomic plan can include carpal tunnel, eye strain/headaches, tendinopathy, bursitis and many others.
Key Concepts to Understand
There are several different concepts at play in workplace ergonomics, including posture, correct workstation setup and more. These include the following:
- Neutral Neck Position – Your workstation, desk and office chair should allow you to maintain a neutral neck position. A computer monitor should be at least 20 inches away from your body, and it should be directly in front of and slightly below your eye level.
- Spine Support – Sitting for long hours puts serious stress on your spine and back/shoulder muscles. To correctly support your spine, you need to sit with your feet flat on the floor, and you should have an office chair that provides good lumbar support (either adjustable or with extra padding in the lumbar region). Armrests should be included with the office chair, and they should be adjustable to eliminate shoulder strain.
- Arm and Hand Positioning – The position you’re forced to hold your arms and hands in when seated at your computer can put additional strain on your body. When seated and using the keyboard, your elbows should be at 100 to 110 degrees (open). The keyboard should have a negative tilt so you can keep a neutral position in your hands and wrists. Keyboard trays should be wide enough for both the keyboard and the mouse, so you can use them without raising your arm to another position.
Breaks, Stretching and Exercising
It might sound counterintuitive, but office workers should engage in regular stretching and exercising while on the job. This helps to eliminate stress and strain, and enhances blood flow, which can increase comfort as well as productivity. Regular breaks are also important to help prevent workplace injuries.
- For every 20 minutes of typing, you should take a 20-second break
- For every 20 minutes of typing, you should look away and focus on the middle distance for 20 seconds
- Every hour, you should get up and walk around the office or take a stroll to the break room
- Every hour, stretch your legs, arms, shoulders and wrists to enhance blood flow
These tips and key concepts will help enhance workplace productivity, but also reduce the chance of injury for office workers
Home office and workplace ergonomics are incredibly important considerations. While it might not seem like improper posture or sitting the wrong way in front of your computer could damage your health, the fact is that you can suffer some serious injuries over time, as noted by the University of Connecticut. What conditions might you suffer if you don’t practice good posture and ergonomics? Here’s a closer look.
Ergonomic and Posture-Related Health Disorders
All ergonomic and posture-related health disorders are technically musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs fall into a broad range of categories and conditions. Depending on the length of time you spend sitting, and just how poor your posture or position is, you might find yourself afflicted by any of the following:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – A condition in which the tendons running through the arms, wrists and hands are inflamed, making most common hand and wrist movements painful
- Tendinitis – A condition in which tendons become inflamed; it generally afflicts the arms and elbows, but can be present in other parts of the body as well
- Bursitis – Swelling and inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs between joints, tendons and muscles. It can afflict virtually any area of the body
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – This condition includes a weakened grip, pain in the neck, and often tingling or numbness in the fingers
- Chronic pain in the neck, upper back, lower back, shoulders and arms
Each of these conditions can cause serious discomfort and pain, and they can lead to significant time lost from work as well as medical expenses. In severe cases, some may require surgery to correct. For instance, severe carpal tunnel syndrome cannot be alleviated by using wrist braces alone, but may require surgical intervention to eliminate the problem.
How Do You Avoid These Conditions?
Obviously, avoiding and minimizing the conditions listed above is in the best interests of both the employee and the employer. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to get around those problems. All it really requires is following the right ergonomic practices within the workplace.
Good workplace ergonomics can vary from one position to another, most of the time workers will need the right office chair, the right desk and the right computer setup to provide good posture and eliminate strain on muscles, joints and tendons. An ergonomic office chair should offer:
- Good neck support, either through a built-in headrest or a high back, which is particularly important for those who spend multiple hours each day seated in the chair
- Good lumbar support to ease the strain and discomfort on the lower back – lumbar support can come in the form or an adjustable position via a lever or through additional lumbar padding
- Armrests should be adjustable and padded to ensure that the worker is comfortable and can position the armrests so there is no strain placed on the shoulders
- Adjustable height so that the employee can adjust the seat’s height to allow them to sit with their feet flat on the floor, rather than angled or above the floor
Proper ergonomics in the workplace can improve the health of workers, save money on medical bills, and reduce lost time and productivity for the employer.
With so many different ergonomic chairs on the market today, from Office Star and Jobri to BOSS and ergoCentric chairs, finding the right seating choice for your specific needs can be difficult. Ergonomics are certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach. An ergonomically designed work chair should be able to conform to your height, weight, and body type, and also be appropriate for your line of work and professional environment. A tall and heavyset man will probably need a different ergonomic design than a short and petite woman, just as an IT professional will probably need a different office chair than a laboratory technician. With so many different factors to consider, how does one find the right work chair? The following information should help.
Why are Ergonomics so Important?
Ergonomic design is a multidisciplinary field of science that considers various human factors with the goal of designing furniture, equipment, and tools that complement the human body and mind, ideally resulting in more productive workplaces and happier, healthier workers. The way people sit is a very important part of this. Sitting is not as sedentary of a position as one may assume. When a worker in any given field sits in a chair all day (or for a large chunk of their workday), they are also engaging in activities in that chair, which are all influenced by the way that worker engages with their surroundings – especially their chair. The following video is by Allseating a chair manufacturer that describes the cores needs in building your ergonomic workstation.
What Makes a Suitable Work Chair?
If you’re shopping for ergonomic chairs, the most important human factors to consider are the body dimensions of the individual who will be sitting in each chair. And this means all the body dimensions. An ill-fitting chair might be ideal for someone’s height, but not appropriate for their weight and body type, for example. This can lead to stress and strain, and ultimately injury, which could in turn leave a worker unable to work and an employer in hot water. There are other factors to consider, such as the costs of repairs and maintenance, in addition to the initial costs of purchasing the chairs. Avoiding repetitive stress injuries is worth the investment, but not if the company goes into the red from the costs of owning the chairs. Luckily, many manufacturers make some very affordable models that are also high in quality. The following video is for the ergoCentric Geocentric petite ready chair.
It All Comes Down to Body Type
Make sure to gather information about the heights of employees before purchasing new ergonomic chairs for the whole office. An ideal work chair will be roughly a quarter of the user’s height. While most employees doing similar jobs will probably be comfortable in similar or identical chairs as long as the seat and armrests are adjustable, there will also probably be a few outliers who will have special ergonomic needs and require somewhat different chairs. No one should be punished for being uncommonly short or tall, having a long torso or unusually sized limbs, or being otherwise out of the norm. To avoid repetitive stress injuries and find the ergonomic chairs with the best value, consider body type first.
Sitting is something that the average person does all too frequently. From work (where many of us sit for eight or more hours daily) to driving to eating to watching television, far more time each day is commonly spent seated than not.
Being Sedentary – The Effects
Most of us know that spending too much time seated isn’t great for our health. Recent studies have even shown that sitting for 11 hours daily (including leisure time) can actually increase the risk of premature death.
Even for those who are physically fit, too much time in a seated position can lead to difficulty with metabolic functions, increased HDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels, higher triglycerides, and insulin desensitization. This translates to potential heart, stomach, and vascular issues.
Ways to Be Healthier
Luckily, there are things we can do to offset the effects of spending so much time sitting on our behinds. If your job requires you to be sitting all the time, you can reduce the time you spend in this position by participating in leisure activities before and after work.
For instance, if your job is within a short distance from your home, consider walking or biking to your place of employment. If you take public transportation, even getting off a few stops before the one closest to your home/office can get you some extra exercise.
Also, consider eating standing up for some meals. Many people have breakfast and/or lunch on the go, so these can be good times to munch and stand.
Another thing you can do is invest in an elliptical or treadmill for your home. This means that you can still watch the shows and movies you love without crashing on the couch for hours. Can’t afford this equipment? Think about joining a gym and getting your TV fix there, while also getting a workout.
Ways to Make Time Spent Seated More Comfortable
A lot of people suffer from additional side effects of being stationary, especially at the office. Common complaints are back, neck, and/or shoulder pain. If you use a computer a lot, wrist and hand aches are also prevalent.
While it may be inevitable that you need to park yourself permanently during work hours, there are things you can do to make that time more comfortable. Using seating that has special features to offset these discomforts can really help.
Ergonomic chairs for back pain have numerous adjustments to help you feel more at ease.
One of these is lumbar support. Lumbar support pushes out part of the chair’s backrest in order to support your lower back in the form of the shape of the backrest or with specialty devices such as an air lumbar support.
Arm, foot, and headrests are also great options that many ergonomically designed chairs implement. Typically, you can adjust the height of foot and headrests to correspond to a level where they feel most natural when you’re in the chair. Sometimes armrests can be adjusted in terms of height, too, and/or removed for when they aren’t necessary or practical.
SitBetter.com carries a range of seating that fulfills these prerequisites. If you follow these tips, sitting can feel more comfortable.