It’s no secret that sitting at a desk for extended periods of time can lead to chronic back and neck pains. Not only can poor posture and a sedentary workday lead to long-term aches but workers can also experience a decline in productivity due to discomfort. While office work is typically deemed as a “safe” job, especially compared to more strenuous outdoor occupations, it’s not without risk of injury.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2015 that musculoskeletal disorders and injuries, such as those caused by sitting for long periods of time, made up 31 percent of workplace injuries. Slouching causes spine misalignment, crossing ankles and legs leads to hip misalignment and straining to read a computer screen is not only bad for your eyes but also for your neck.
It is time to improve your posture at work. In order to lessen your odds of developing one of these poor posture-linked conditions, take a look at these simple tips to improve your posture at work:
- Maintain a Neutral Posture – A neutral posture is one that mimics the body’s natural alignment from head to toe. In order to achieve this even while sitting at a desk, follow these simple guidelines:
- Place your computer monitor at eye level to avoid tilting your neck and adjust your chair height to align your forearms with the keyboard. Your elbows should form a 90-degree angle while typing.
- Keep your ears in line with your shoulders to keep from leaning forward or backward.
- Align your shoulders against the back of the chair to fight the temptation to slouch.
- Put your feet flat on the ground and keep your legs and feet uncrossed. Your knees should be even or a bit higher than your hips; if not, you can use a footrest for added support.
- Take Breaks and Move Around – You can lower your risk of developing back pain by taking regular breaks and walking around the office. Set an alarm to remind yourself to get up and move at scheduled intervals, such as every 30 or 60 minutes. Whether you just stand up and stretch at your desk or take a longer stroll, you will be giving your body a break from the sitting position. Plus, taking short breaks can also improve your concentration and productivity.
- Practice Stretches at Your Desk – Even if you can’t go for stroll regularly, you can at least take mini stretching breaks without leaving your desk. Try chin tucks to stretch your neck muscles or shoulder blade pinches to alleviate back pain.
- Accessorize Your Laptop – Laptops are known for being compact, which means they’re easily portable, but their small size is also a hindrance when working in an office. Avoid hunching over the laptop and expand your workspace by using a separate keyboard and mouse and propping your laptop on books, if necessary, to achieve the right eye-level height.
- Try Ergonomic Supports – To make it easier to maintain good posture at your desk, make sure that you have the right office chair and desk. Chairs with lumbar support and headrests make it easier to achieve spinal alignment while convertible desks allow you to change from sitting to standing throughout the day. Exercise balls are a great alternative to office chairs as they force you to practice good posture to avoid losing your balance.
- Be Prepared – Keep everyday essentials, such as pens, notepads, and phone, within arm’s length to keep from having to stretch to reach items throughout the day. Not only does the repetitive movement cause strain on your muscles and joints but it also makes you have to constantly readjust your posture.
- Use the Phone Properly – For jobs that require lots of phone time, it can be tempting to cradle the phone between your ear and shoulder to free your hands for other work. Consider using a headset or speakerphone for a hands-free option that doesn’t strain your neck muscles.
- Exercise Regularly Outside of Work – By maintaining a regular exercise routine on your own time, you’re able to strengthen your core and back muscles, which are essential to helping you sustain good posture throughout the day.
- Practice Correct Lifting Position – If your job requires you to lift heavy objects, like a box of printer paper, make sure that you are following proper lifting protocol to avoid injury. Bend at your knees and hips, not your waist, and keep you back straight when lifting something off the ground. Steadily straighten your knees and avoid twisting while you return to an upright position.
By following these guidelines to improve your posture at work, you can lower the chances of developing chronic back, neck and joint pain as well as increase your productivity throughout the day. Your muscles will thank you!