Five ways to improve workplace posture
When was the last time you thought about your posture while you were working? There are so many other, more urgent matters that drive our attention, after all. Improper posture, though, can lead to (literally) a career’s worth of neck and back pain, as well as sore wrists and fingers.
Posture is perhaps one of our most overlooked areas of health, and yet it is just as important as eating right, exercising, and getting a good night’s sleep. Correct posture leads to improved energy, less stress, decreased fatigue, and overall improved health.
Why is this? What is the posture-health connection?
Think for a moment about what’s happening inside your body when you slump in your chair, hunch your shoulders, or have your neck cricked forward at an angle for long periods of time. Your bones are misaligned, and muscles, joints, and ligaments are unable to work as nature intended. Your vital organs are not positioned correctly, and thus must work harder. The nervous system is out of balance, and fails to function normally. All of this leads to fatigue, tight, achy muscles, slumped and rounded shoulders, and joint wear and tear.
One of the most common incorrect postures is “sacral sitting,” in which the position of the pelvis leads to pressure on the sacrum. Shifting the hips forward in one’s seat is a common path to sacral sitting. Sitting in this position for extended periods of time can lead to back pain and decreased core stability.
Another common posture problem is craning one’s head forward of the spine—usually to better see something on the computer screen. This can lead to tense, achy shoulders and neck and back pain.
So, what can we do to repair bad posture habits?
A great place to start is the workplace, as this is where we spend most of our waking hours. Investing a little time to create an ergonomic work space will go a long way toward improving your posture and your health.
1. Adjust your chair height so your feet are flat on the floor and “untucked”. This will ensure that your hips and knees are at approximately the same height. Keep the back of the chair at a 100°-110° reclined angle, and make sure your upper and lower back are supported. Use inflatable cushions or small pillows if necessary.
2. Keep your wrist position neutral when working at the computer. Try to select a keyboard that helps you avoid bending your wrists upwards or downwards at any kind of extreme angle. Use a wrist rest if necessary to help your wrists remain in a “floating” position over the keyboard. This can help alleviate and prevent carpal-tunnel syndrome.
3. Adjust your monitor. Your monitor should be approximately 20 to 40 inches from your face—roughly arms’ length away—and its center should be at eye level. If you use a laptop, consider a docking station that allows you to use a real monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
4. Position your keyboard properly. To reach your keyboard, your forearms should not have to bend more than 20 degrees from a horizontal position. A keyboard tray can help you ensure your keyboard is at the right height.
5. Get a phone headset. If your job requires you to spend a lot of time on the phone, invest in a phone headset. This will leave your hands free and decrease the amount of time spent with your neck cricked at an angle.
The next time you’re at work, take stock of how you’re sitting and think about how you might improve your posture. Even something as small as changing your position frequently to release tension and reset is huge. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to better this key aspect of our health.