It’s a common misconception to think that workplace safety only extends to jobs where employees are on their feet all day. Office jobs can be just as harmful to a person’s body, especially if they require little to no movement throughout the day. Sitting at a desk might not seem very strenuous, but doing so for an 8-hour stretch can take a toll on backs, legs and necks.
Remaining stationary at work doesn’t have to be damaging to employee health. Employees who practice correct posture while working at a computer are unlikely to experience some of the most common types of pain.
Developing an improved sitting posture takes real commitment. Like any habit, repetition is the key to changing behavior, so always be mindful of the following factors as you work towards a more ergonomic workstation setup.
It’s tempting to slide forward in a chair as the workday progresses, but try to resist inching towards the desk. Your hips should go as far back as they can and be at an equal height to your knees for proper circulation.
When it comes to the back of the chair, position it at about a 100 degree angle from the seat itself. Your back should feel supported throughout the day, but it should never feel like you’re leaning back to a near-lying position or rigidly held in place.
Armrests can help ease the strain on your arm muscles, but using them comes down to personal preference. They aren’t always necessary, and it’s better to remove them if they seem to be getting in your way as you work.
Input Device Decisions
Whether you work with a mouse & keyboard or a stenotype machine (court reporters, take note), the position of your input device has a large effect on your health. Pull your chair close to your typing equipment and place it directly in front of your body. The angle of your elbows should be around 100 to 110 degrees with your wrists completely flat.
If you have a keyboard that tilts, consider raising it a bit towards your body, especially if you have a habit of leaning back in the chair. Palm support can soften contact between your hands and the desk, but you should only rely on them while you’re actually typing. Using palm support constantly can lead to bad typing habits.
When using a mouse, be sure to place it as close as possible to the keyboard. You should never feel like you’re reaching just to move the cursor around your computer screen. Use a mouse pad to elevate this device a tad, which makes it easier to gage the mouse position without thinking.
There may be nothing else in life that you stare at quite as much as a computer monitor. From the moment you sit down to the time you call it a day, your monitor’s glow remains at the center of your attention. As such, you should position your monitor in a way that is centered on the middle of your body.
One of the most common monitor missteps is placing the screen too low, making it necessary to hunch over for hours. It’s best to place the monitor approximately 2-3” above your eye level while sitting. The screen should be about an arm’s length away from your body, as sitting too close can be a strain on the eyes.
Speaking of eye strain, computer glare often leads to visual fatigue and headaches. If you work in a room with plenty of natural light, don’t hesitate to adjust the blinds or curtains to make your screen more visible as the sun position changes. This isn’t always an option, so consider purchasing a glare-reducing filter to stick to your screen or glare reducing computer glasses.
Intentional Work Interruptions
Sitting in the same position for hours slows down blood circulation in the body, which eventually leads to discomfort. Even if you utilize a proper sitting position as you work, you need to take breaks to move your body around. Make it a goal to take a few seconds every half hour to stretch your limbs near your workstation.
On an hourly basis, it’s ideal to take five-minute breaks to walk around if possible. Walking helps get blood flowing through the limbs, and it also provides a change of scenery, which could reduce the chance of a headache from eye strain and leave you more refreshed.
Even when you don’t have a chance to get away from the desk, you can relax your eyes by looking at something about 20-30 feet away for a few seconds. Refocus on something stationary before returning your gaze to the screen. Alternatively, you can cover your eyes with your hand to give your eyes a break.
Making Posture a Priority
The people in your office are not slouches, and their posture should reflect that. If you’re looking to help your employees reduce pain and increase comfort while working, our experts can help. Check out our Office Ergonomics training video to change habits where you work.