With our higher reliance on technology and a move towards greater work efficiency, we are increasingly sitting and sedentary. But there is a cost. This is contributing to postural problems, poor fitness, obesity and a susceptibility to lifestyle diseases.
Good ergonomic design of our work and our workstations can help to better manage these problems. How we work should be a help to us, not a hindrance.
When we sit, we should adopt a good posture and appropriate support:
- let your sitting bones spread and sit deep into the chair;
- don't sit for long periods without a backrest;
- sit 'tall' in the chair, with the crown, ears, shoulders and hips vertically aligned;
- support the low back curve, at the waist, with the chair's backrest or with a cushion;
- ensure the seat is the right size for you;
- the front of the seat should not press into the back of the knees, where it may cause pressure on your circulation; if it is, change to a shallower seat or bring the backrest forward;
- if there is more than three fingers width between the front of the seat and the back of your knees, the seat may be too small for you;
- sit with your ankles in front of your knees so that you use the backrest more effectively;
- ensure your feet are supported, on the floor or on a footrest, so that the weight of your lower legs is going down through your feet (dangling your legs will pull you off your backrest);
- if you are working at a desk or computer, ensure your upper arms are hanging by your torso, with your work tools (e.g. keyboard, mouse, graphics pad, pens) within easy forearm reach;
- adjust the seat height so that your elbows are at 90°, or more open, when working with a keyboard or mouse;
- don't rest on the wrists while typing but 'float' your fingers across the keyboard, pivoting at the elbows and keeping wrists in line with the forearms;
- when you are not typing, do rest the arms, to relax the muscles and improve circulation
- adjust the top of the screen to align with your eye height, to avoid extreme neck postures;
- if you are working from source documents, place these on a document holder in front of you, between the keyboard and monitor;
- angled reading and writing surfaces are available to improve neck comfort if the job involves a lot of reading or writing.
However good, supported alignment is not enough. We also need variety. Our spines much prefer to stand and walk, so we should be increasing the variety of postures and movements in our work. Not only will our joints and muscles find relief but we'll improve circulation, oxygenate our brains and increase our alertness.
If you or your staff are having problems in the workplace, a Physiotherapist can assist by:
- assessing and advising on individual workstation set-up;
- assessing broader job design issues to optimise work for better health and safety outcomes (e.g. enlarging and enriching task design to improve postural and movement variety and to enhance skill levels);
- assessing worker health profiles to define their health status and
- designing and implementing a treatment plan or healthy lifestyle program for groups or individuals.
Please contact us to help you find healthier working solutions.