Posture Perfect: 5 Rules for Your Workstation
There’s only one thing in your office scarier than an impromptu meeting with your boss – it’s your work station. Or, more accurately, how you work within it. Ergonomics , or the science behind how we position ourselves at our work stations, can either help or hurt your body.
“What we do in our workspace can lead to a lot of orthopaedic problems, or can simply make our workday less enjoyable and less productive,” says Cheri Miller, M.S. , Director of Wellness Services with The Christ Hospital Health Network. Next time you sit down at the computer or start sifting through that stack of files, follow these five simple steps to a healthier workday:
1. Make your posture a ‘perfect 10.’
Over time, poor posture can change the physical structure of the spine and could cause problems with the blood vessels, nerves, muscles, discs and joints. For good posture, position your body as follows:
Lower body – Keep the knees bent at a 90-degree angle, with the knee level to the hip to avoid putting pressure on the back. Placing a phonebook beneath your feet while sitting is a simple trick to help align your lower body. And make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
Upper body – With arms resting on the desk, keep the shoulders above the hips. Adjust your seat height so you can position your elbows close to the body so your forearms are straight with the wrists. “One of the most common mistakes people make at their keyboard is relaxing their wrists on the desk so that the wrists flex,” Miller says. “This is a common culprit for carpal tunnel syndrome .”
Head and neck – Position your computer so that the top of the monitor is at eye level. Align your head and neck to be even with your shoulders. If you need to, adjust the font size so you’re not straining your neck forward or slumping forward to view the screen.
Why it works: It’s simple: Good posture equals good health. It can promote blood flow, relieve painful spine and joint pressure and allow you to breathe more easily.
2. Break free from the ‘chained-to-the-desk’ feeling.
Sitting for several hours per day has been linked to heart disease , mental fatigue and weight gain. “It’s important to get up from your workspace every hour to give yourself a mental and physical break,” Miller says. “If you have a more sedentary job, try to sneak in activity by doing some neck rolls, wrist rolls or stretches while you’re on speaker phone.”
Set reminders on your computer calendar or phone to take a five-minute break at least three times a day. Need an excuse? Forget emailing or calling your co-workers in the office. Talking face-to-face might seem old school, but your joints and muscles will thank you for it. You can also consider replacing your office chair with a stability ball to engage and strengthen your core.
Why it works: You burn more calories by standing and engaging your muscles versus sitting, which might help prevent up to a half-pound of weight gain per week. Adding a few stretches into your day can prevent your muscles from becoming injured from repetitive motions.
3. Redirect your gaze.
Although you may be working hard to meet that deadline, staring at your computer screen for two or more continuous hour per day can lead to decreased or blurred vision, burning or stinging eyes, sensitivity to light and headaches. Avoid this by:
- placing your monitor 20 to 28 inches from your eyes.
- positioning your screen to avoid glare from overhead lights or windows.
- adjusting the contrast and font for easy readability.
- looking away from your computer for 20 seconds.
- getting an eye exam to catch vision problems early.
Why it works: Giving your peepers periodic breaks throughout the day will help them continue to process information for you in the long run.
4. Create calm from chaos.
Take a look around your workspace. Is it cluttered or streamlined? Discard papers that have outlived their purpose or file away important documents in clearly labeled cabinets. Keep items you use often (phone, desktop calendar, stapler, or pens) within arms reach. Put your personal stamp on your office space with a few treasured photos, a small plant or a lamp with broad-spectrum lighting.
Why it works: “Using a desk lamp that has a softer light or maybe adding a plant to your cubicle can make you feel little more relaxed,” Miller says. The more relaxed and organized you are, the more productive your workday will be.
5. Find cubicle companions.
Consider this: You probably spend more time with your co-workers than with your family. Try to appreciate your co-workers’ abilities, work habits and schedules. If you ‘gel’ with the people around you, you’ll have less job stress , making it easier for you to create your best work product.
Why it works: Sure, it’s nice to have friends to take lunch breaks with, but social connections in the office  also protect your emotional well-being. Read Dr. Sethi’s article  to find out how.
Watch Miller demonstrate the right way to set up your workspace to keep your body comfortable here .
If you need health coaching, including personal ergonomics assistance at your workplace, find a Christ Hospital primary care physician who can help at www.TheChristHospital.com  or call 877-904-4YOU.