Improving Your Posture, atWork
We are often asked about the best office chair to help with posture. Whether working from home or back at the office, there is significant research about the value of attending to your posture.
Chris Hollywood, an atWork Space Planning and Ergonomic Specialist in London, Ontario, answers some questions and provides clarity on common posture complaints and concerns and how to best address it when planning your office space.
So what is the perfect posture?
To identify our neutral and natural posture, Chris recommends, “Sit in your chair with hands together resting in your lap, with elbows at the sides and shoulders relaxed. Pay attention to the posture you have at that moment… This is your natural posture to work from [when determining how to maximize the ways to work in that position].”
How do you know when your posture needs to improve?
“What you may not realize…it is not about how your back feels.
Surprisingly, the body parts that help our posture with proper alignment has very little to do with the back and shoulders.
And posture problems create other problems! When our posture is off, it puts an unnecessary strain on wrists, lower back, shoulders and neck causing pain.
We need to stop thinking about the back as the primary focus for improving posture.”
Here are three body parts that will guide your understanding of posture and tell us when our posture is compromised.
1 – It’s all in the hands.
“Our posture is generally dictated by our hands. Where our hands go, our body goes”.
Our Hands? Really??
Chris explains that if your keyboard is elevated and further away from your body, you will lean forward to keep the hands close to the core. Add to that this leaning also commonly results in the user resting their wrists on the hard edge of the desk. Wrist strain on a hard desk is a significant cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (suggested solutions coming below…).
2 – Those eyes tell you more than you think.
The second dictator of posture is our eyes. If we can’t read something clearly, we will lean forward to see it. If your screen is to small, your light is not adequate, or your eyesight is compromised while at your desk, you are setting yourself up for more than headaches and eye fatigue. That “leaning in” habit will also affect your posture, and hunched over means enhanced shoulder and back strain and chronic posture problems.
3 – Shoulder and Neck pain
Our back and neck do not like it when they are continually not aligned with the spine. If you are ending your workday massaging your neck and shoulders, they are likely screaming at you that your posture has been badly affected. In various weather conditions and during stress, our bodies naturally “tighten up” and do not respond with relaxation. Paying attention to our bodies responses during stressful moments in the day will create a bodily calm that will help with posture.
So what are ergonomic suggested solutions for posture problems?
Here are the top 3 ideas Chris identified as significant steps you can make to improve your posture during the workday.
- An articulating keyboard tray has many benefits, but it’s a gamechanger when it comes to improving your posture. This accessory allows the user to have their hands close to their body and close to their lap. This keyboard keeps the core relaxed and allows the user to lean back in their chair. It also provides a place to rest your palms comfortably. It protects the wrists from discomfort. Other benefits include the convenience of freeing up desk space so paperwork can be brought closer to you, minimizing the leaning and bending that may have been necessary otherwise.
- Having your monitor on an adjustable arm allows it to be brought closer and set at the correct height. With varying heights of people and furniture, a rule of thumb Chris identified is ideally, see the top line of text below eye level and place the monitor at arm’s length from your body.
- Move every day. There is no need for all the bells and whistles to improve your posture. However, moving regularly with a focus on posture focused activities, as well as having furniture that allows for that also will go a long way to keeping that spine aligned. Stand up desks and moving chair adjustments can be adapted to your work activity using posture to guide their placement.