These days, we’re all sitting in front of our computers a lot more — many of us at kitchen tables or makeshift workstations due to an abrupt need to work from home. Even if you’re still in an office, are your employees’ desks set up in an optimal way to avoid aches and pains?
Unfortunately, all that leaning over a make-do workspace can lead to serious health problems if it isn’t set up in an ergonomic manner. The link between poor posture and pain is evident.
The negative impact of poor sitting posture includes:
- Muscle fatigue
- Rounded shoulders
- Back, neck, and bodily pains
Ready to learn how to make your employees’ workspace a healthier space to work in? This post will cover computer posture tips and why an ergonomic workstation is essential to your team’s overall good health.
Why Computer Posture May Be the Root of Painful Health Issues
Sitting seems easy enough, doesn’t it?
But when you’re doing it for eight-to-ten hours a day, it’s easy to get into a poor posture that can have a negative health impact simply because you’re extra focused — and not on your posture. A neutral position is best at computer workstations to minimize stress on tendons, muscles, and the skeletal systems, according to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
OSHA also reports that sitting in the same posture for prolonged periods isn’t healthy for the body. Not only that, it’s basically the equivalent of smoking almost two packs of cigarettes daily!
Even just a little chest tightening from poor posture can throw the spine out of alignment, causing back pain and other musculoskeletal issues.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these issues account for nearly 70 million doctor’s office visits in the U.S. each year. Emergency care, outpatient, and hospital visits hit around 130 million annually.
Set Your Employees Up For Workplace Success
Keep your employees healthy by also keeping them comfortable in their workplace setting.
Before employees start complaining about back pain, a discussion about office ergonomics is wise. Back pain isn’t the only concern, either. Computer work is also responsible for overuse injuries, including neck and shoulder pain, headaches, and eyestrain, along with wrist and hand pain.
Consider hiring an ergonomics specialist to do virtual or in-person training for your team. You might also consider bringing in a physical or occupational therapist to discuss stretches and appropriate computer posture.
When employers think about the big picture and how prolonged improper computer posture can ultimately become a costly health issue, investing in a high-quality chair or computer workstation doesn’t seem so expensive overall.
The Cost of Poor Posture for Employers
Musculoskeletal disorders often come at high costs to employers. This includes workplace issues such as absenteeism and lost productivity. It also means increased health care, disability, and worker’s compensation costs. Additionally, these disorders are often more severe than the average nonfatal injury or illness.
Tips for Ensuring the Best Computer Posture
If you tend to sit at your computer for hours on end working, you may find it’s helpful to set a timer to remind yourself to correct any poor posture. You might also want to take the time to get up and simply stretch your body, too.
There is actually a prime way to sit that ensures less strain on your neck, back, and overall body, according to Mayo Clinic. Feet flat on the floor, the head and neck in-line with the torso, and relaxed shoulders are a few of the key areas to really focus on.
It may take some adjusting, but in setting up your chair, computer monitor, mouse, and keyboard in the appropriate positions, you can avoid computer-related injuries. Even if you’re working on a laptop, having an adjustable desk and full-sized keyboard can be helpful in ensuring you use better posture.
Luckily, your spine will stay stable if you practice appropriate posture positions daily. Good posture ensures your back’s three natural curves are maintained. Aside from being mindful of your posture throughout the day, if you stretch and work on core strengthening exercises, it can minimize issues associated with poor posture as well.
Here are a few extra tips to help your computer posture:
- Keep your head directly over the shoulders - You want to keep your head over your shoulders when typing. Avoid leaning too far forward or backward.
- Stay at an arm’s length - Your computer monitor should be about an arm’s length away with your screen at eye level or slightly lower.
- Gentle on the knees - Knees should be relaxed and in a neutral position. Your feet should also be firmly planted on the floor. If you’re shorter, a footrest may be helpful. Skip crossing your legs, too.
- Flat is best - Your keyboard should be flat for the best wrist positioning and at just below elbow level. As you type, keep your elbows relaxed and at a right angle.
- Watch the wrists - Be mindful of how you’re typing, too. Wrists can easily get overworked, which can lead to issues like carpal tunnel. Try keeping them in a neutral position.
- Have good back support - You can reduce lower back pain by ensuring the lower back is properly supported. The right chair will allow you to adjust the tilt, back position, and height of the chair.
Computer Posture Health Tip: Try the Shoulder Blade Squeeze
You can improve your posture with this simple exercise that can be done anywhere you have a chair. Sit straight with your hands on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down (away from your ears) and your chin level. Take your time in drawing your shoulder blades back into a squeeze. Imagine you’re trying to hold a tennis ball between your shoulder blades without letting it drop. Count to five and then repeat up to four times.
Consider Investing in Work Stations for Better Employee Health
With more workers working remotely, it makes sense for workplaces to take a closer look at employees’ current workstations. Now might be the time to consider a stipend for remote workers. It may also be the perfect time for the makeover of office spaces in the workplace.
It isn’t a cheap investment, but it’s one that’s worth it when you consider that most musculoskeletal injuries — like the ones caused by poor computer posture — involve a median of eight days off work compared to other illness cases.
Consider the investment of any office supplies — dual monitors, adjustable chairs, ergonomic keyboards — as a way of investing in your team’s wellness. Those little aches and pains may eventually turn into a more severe health condition not too far down the road that could have been easily corrected with the appropriate equipment.
All it takes is a little posture correction and equipment adjusting, and your team will be on the way to better health overall!