Stay Safe And Comfortable At Your Work Desk
Gone are the days when people could clock into their jobs at 9:00 am and punch out promptly at 5:00 pm. We seem to be getting to work earlier and leaving a lot later. Our workloads seem to be steadily increasing with each passing year. So much so, that 8 to 10 hours in the office now considered to be normal but is still not long enough to get everything done, we often need to take work home with us so we can finish urgent projects and free ourselves up to start new ones the next day.
When it comes to working at a desk, it’s easy to think that this is somewhat effortless. After all, there is little or no physical activity and you get to sit down all day. Yet more and more administrative workers are complaining of back and neck pain and other issues. Many health institutions recommend getting up every hour or so and taking a break, but do our workloads and bosses allow such a luxury?
If you find yourself stuck at a desk for the better part of your day there are measures you can take to make your sitting day safer and more comfortable. Just because you do work at a desk, doesn’t mean you need to compromise your back or your peace of mind.
1. Back To School Posture
Checking and correcting your posture regularly thought-out the day will do wonders for your back and will make your sitting day a little more comfortable. If you can remember as far back as electuary school, teachers would always be yelling at us to stop slouching and sit up straight. Those directives went so much further than just appearance. We had to sit up straight, without shoulders in line with our hips and feet firmly on the floor as this was a more appropriate way to sit to ensure back and neck comfort.
When you sit in your chair, check your posture and adjust it accordingly. After a while of sitting there working, check it again. Your bottom and hips should be firmly nestled as far back into the chair as you can go so that you’ll have no choice but to sit up straight, particularly with the right lumbar support. Chances are that as you are working, you are also shifting your position and you may be sitting awkwardly and slouching again. If you are, check your posture and adjust it as often as you need to. Besides this, you should consider doing some exercise that can undo the damage of sitting when you are not at the desk.
2. Invest In A Good Chair
A proper office chair can make all the difference in how you sit and an excellent one offers a great deal of support and comfort. This is because these chairs have adequate lumbar support built into them. This support needs to cradle into the small of your back where it’s needed to most. A good ergonomic office chair allows you to tilt the seat forward as needed but are equally comfortable in almost every other sitting position you find yourself in.
If you’re lucky enough to own your own business or work from home, think of a good quality chair as an investment and not an expense. If you work for someone else and your chair is not offering you any comfort or support, recommend getting proper chairs for all the administrative workers. You can argue that these specially designed chairs will keep people in their seats more instead of constantly walking around trying to stretch. It will also result in less sick leave being taken due to back and neck complaints.
When you do have your awesome chair, you will need to make a few adjustments to it so that it is perfectly suited to your comfort and sitting position. Adjust the armrests so that you can rest your lower arms and elbows at a comfy 90-degree angle and make sure the seat height is such that you can sit in an upright position with both your feet on the floor. Make sure the lumbar support is cradling the nook in the small of your back and the headrest in a position where you can comfortably lean back and have your head supported.
3. Position Your PC And Other Equipment
At first, you may find this a little unusual but if your equipment, in particular, your monitor, is not properly positioned you may find yourself straining to look at it properly and this will force you to constantly bring your neck forward to view it properly. Over time this will result in neck pain which can also radiate into your shoulders. Try and position your monitor at eye level. You should also position your wireless keyboard in such a way that you can keep your elbows close to your body in a natural and comfortable position without the need to keep stretching and leaning forward which may further aggravate shoulder and neck pain. The ergonomic mouse will do wonders for your wrists. All your other equipment and office supplies should be placed within your reach further adding to your comfort. This will enable you to work more effectively and productively.
4. Check The Lighting
Eye strain is another factor you need to consider when you spend many hours a day at your desk. Poor lighting can cause Computer Vision Syndrome which is a common problem for those sitting for extended periods of time staring at a computer screen.
To prevent this discomfort to your eyes, a desk lamp with low voltage bulbs will illuminate your workspace in such a way as to minimize eye strain from overexposure from the computer monitor’s continuous glare. You can also invest in a special screen to place over your monitor to further reduce the glare and the subsequent irritating strain on your eyes.
Proper lighting will also allow you to stay in a comfortable sitting position. When the lighting is inadequate you will have a tendency to move forward at regular intervals to better see your monitor or to be able to read any documents you have on your desk.
5. Look At Standing Desks
While standing is just as aggravating to your back as constant sitting, this change in position may actually be beneficial for short periods. Extended periods of sitting down can wreak havoc on the disks of your lower back. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a standing desk combined with the standing desk mat, so you can occasionally work standing up. There are many benefits of using a standing desk. Apart from saving your back, this can also help to boost your metabolism, thus reducing the risks of obesity and alleviate the risk of lower back pain. At least you’ll be able to move away from your sitting desk from time to time and still remain productive.
6. Use A Headset
A headset at your work desk can do so much more than just block out the constant noise in the office. If your job involves a lot of phone calls, a headset can make the frequent calls a little more comfortable. Firstly, it leaves your hands free to do other things but more importantly, you can remain in an upright, comfortable position. When you are constantly taking calls the old fashioned way, you will frequently be tilting your head to hold the phone receiver in place as you try and complete other tasks and this can cause significant neck strain.
7. Plant Your Feet On The Floor
Many administrators that spend countless hours at their desks fall into the habit of crossing their legs as they sit. It’s not a problem if you sit that way occasionally but over time this position can cause a whole host of problems. When you sit for an extended period with your legs crossed can cause a lot of stiffness and soreness, particularly at the knees and you are unwittingly altering the circulation in your legs, and not in a good way. In the worst case scenario, it may even result in deep vein thrombosis which has the potential to be fatal.
Plant your feet on the floor and try and sit in an upright and comfortable position. Not only will you avoid many health problems, but you’ll also alleviate strain on your back and shoulders.
8. Get Up And Stretch
You may think that getting up every hour or so to stretch your legs will somehow make you less productive. The opposite is actually true. Sitting for extended periods gets uncomfortable over time and your focus will be on your discomfort rather than the task you are working on. Plus staring at the monitor or documents is bad for your eyesight and for your mind. After a while, you will need a break whether you intend on taking one or not.
If you work in a multi-story building and need to take documents to another floor, take the straits. Not only will it give you a little bit of exercise, but it will also be beneficial for your back as well as your mind.
Set a timer on your desk to remind you to get up every hour. Go to the bathroom, get yourself a glass of water or a cup of coffee, in fact, any excuse to get up and stretch your legs. You’ll not only get the chance to get your circulation moving again, but stepping away from your desk will also give you the opportunity to clear your head and work out some of the kinks in your back, neck, and shoulders. Once you get back to your desk you’ll have more focus and you’ll not only be able to get back to your work, you’ll be more efficient in the execution of the work you are doing.
9. A Few More Safety And Comfort Tips
We’ve already discussed most of the ways you can sit safely and comfortably at your work desk but you also need to think about being an active sitter. When you do start to feel any neck or back strain you should take a short break and stretch. If it’s not appropriate in the middle of the office, go to the bathroom or the staffroom and get your stretching done there. If you can stretch at your desk then do whatever stretches you can to release some of the tension in your neck and back.
Whenever possible get out of the office during your lunch break. You may feel you need to work through your break to get as much work done as possible but your lunch break is your time. Get a bite to eat outside of the office and walk to get your lunch. If you bring lunch from home find a place outdoors where you can sit in peace and away from the constant demands of work. If you have a park nearby, walk there and choose a tranquil place to sit and eat your lunch.
We all have to work to make a living and if you’re lucky enough to enjoy your job then that is a real bonus. Loving your job and wanting to do it well doesn’t mean you need to put your health and wellbeing at risk. Fortunately, many office buildings now have their own gyms and encourage their employees to use them. If your building offers this facility, take advantage of it.
When considering the many ways to sit safely and comfortably at your work desk, keep in mind that you can do a lot to help yourself outside of the job too. The worst thing you can do after sitting at your desk all day is to come home and sit on the couch for most of the evening. While rest is important you need to move as much as possible when you are not at work. Take a yoga class for optimal stretching, take your dog for a walk or get involved in your favorite sport. Staying strong outside of your workplace will help you stay productive and strong when you need to be at work.