Slouching at Work Working at an office desk may seem pretty risk-averse, however it is well known that sitting at a desk for long periods of time contributes to a host of health issues. In fact, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, in 2020, musculoskeletal disorders and injuries accounted for 30% of all workplace injuries. Musculoskeletal symptoms occur as a result of slouching whilst sitting or standing, and research suggests this can misalign your spine and hips (particularly when crossing your legs or ankles), cause neck strain, restrict blood throughout the body and can cause wear and tear on your spine. These symptoms may seem extreme and severe, however can be prevented, so long as you practice better work ergonomics. What is Workplace Ergonomics? Workplace ergonomics is defined as “the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population”. Ergonomics is a solution used to identify any ergonomic hazards that may result in work-related musculoskeletal disorders, and has been shown to improve productivity, employee engagement and physical health and safety. Work ergonomics include tailoring your desk and computer equipment to your specific body type as well as improving any bad working habits. These changes don’t have to be dramatic, just slight improvements such as:
1. Stand Tall
Often people don’t pay much attention to how they stand but it makes a profound difference to your overall posture. When standing for long periods of time, try and think about standing tall with your shoulders relaxed, feet shoulder-width apart, and knees bent slightly.
2. Keep Moving
Sitting or standing in the same position for long periods of time can cause tension and discomfort in your muscles such as achy knees or a stiff back and fatigue. It is recommended that between every half hour to two hours we should get up, walk around a little and stretch to keep our muscles active.
3. Stretching and Yoga
There are a few simple stretching exercises that can improve your posture. Yoga poses including ‘child’s pose’, ‘bridge’ and the ‘plank’ (left to right in images below) help to stretch out your spine, strengthen your core muscles, relieve stiff joints and help ease any built up tension in your back, neck and shoulders. There are many free resources across the internet and YouTube to guide you through yoga practices!
1. Sit in the Correct Position
Last but certainly not least, sitting correctly is vital to maintain correct posture. When sitting for short or long periods of time, try and focus on keeping your shoulders relaxed, having your feet firmly on the ground, sitting back on a chair for spinal support and importantly having your computer screen at eye level. This will prevent yourself from scrunching over and bending your neck, which can cause discomfort and tension, also known to scientists in the field as ‘tech neck’.
The Benefits of Having Good Posture
Having an appropriate posture whilst sitting for long periods of time puts the least amount of strain on your joints and muscles. The benefits of sitting properly at a desk are never ending. According to Healthline adjusting your posture to ensure you stop slouching can:
- Reduce your suffering from back pain
- Improve your balance
- Reduce the risk of injuring yourself
- Reduce fatigue
- Improve your breathing
- Boost your circulatory system
Research suggests that we spend around 9 hours of every day sitting either watching tv, reading, at a computer, or travelling, so undoubtedly it can be very easy to forget to focus on your posture. However, as discussed, the benefits for correcting your posture and taking regular breaks to move are never ending. Making slight changes to your ergonomics will help reduce discomfort and long-term chronic pains.