ARE you sitting comfortably? If you’re reading this at your desk, it’s quite possible that you’re anything but. The modern office remains a place where back pains, repetitive strain injury and other blights born of bad posture and worse furniture cause no end of problems.
According to Tom Stewart, executive chairman of ergonomics organisation System Concepts (www.system-concepts.com) there’s still a misunderstanding among many managers when it comes to office comfort. “It’s seen as a bit touchy feely, that real people can cope and tough it out,” he says. “But workers will get sore backs, headaches and strain injuries and they’ll be annoyed, and that all affects productivity.”
According to Stewart, the biggest single problem for office workers comes from being too static. “We’re not designed to sit inertly, and not moving about is actually more tiring on the body,” he says. Ergonomic chairs are now being designed to make us move more (see reviews right). But there are other steps people can take to achieve a more comfortable working environment.
Make sure your keyboard is at approximately elbow height when sitting. If this means adjusting your chair upwards to the point that your feet no longer comfortably reach the floor, ask for a footrest so that your whole body is supported – weight should be spread between your feet, your bottom and your back, and if any part is not functioning, you’ll be hurting.
If you’re working with a laptop, make sure you either have a separate screen to plug it into or put it up on a pile of books and use a separate keyboard. Hunching over a laptop makes your neck tense up and strains your trapezius muscle (neck and upper back). If you’re reading a document or an email, the tendency is to keep gripping the mouse, or to sit with your fingers hovering over the keyboard ready to type. Resist this – let them hang down and relax as often as possible.
Most importantly, break up your work pattern. “Get up, move around, stare into the distance, get some air,” says Stewart. “It reduces stress, brings oxygen back into the muscles, washes out toxins and relaxes you.”
For more info see www.ergonomics.org.uk.