Throughout the day, how often do you think about your posture?
If the answer is rarely, it may be time for you and your employees to get a lesson on ergonomics in the workplace.
Research from Harvard University and other institutes show poor posture can cause conditions ranging from fatigue to heartburn. Not only that, it can lead to chronic back pain and neck tightness. Whether you’re sitting at a table, playing on your phone, or working at your computer, good posture is a must for good health and productivity.
If you or your employees tend to slouch a lot, this post is for you.
Below, we’ll straighten you out on the importance of good posture. You’ll also find tips to easily improve ergonomics in the workplace to help with posture.
Why Ergonomics in the Workplace Can Improve Employee Health
Ergonomics is all about designing workplaces based on the limitations and physical abilities of workers. It also helps improve the efficiency of one’s work environment.
With more employees sitting longer at computers and other workstations, this is more important than ever to avoid chronic health issues.
Ultimately, adjusting office ergonomics is a way to keep your employees safe. If your workers don’t have safe, effective equipment to work with — like a comfortable chair or a back brace — it can lead to a hurting, less productive employee.
Poor posture, in particular, can cause a multitude of health issues as it puts extra stress on joints and muscles. This leads to overwork and fatigue, which can cause chronic pain. As a result, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) may pop up — like tendonitis or carpal tunnel. These disorders can impact muscles, blood vessels, nerves, ligaments, and tendons.
Luckily, these issues can be prevented with some adjustments to ergonomics in the workplace. By fitting employees to appropriate equipment, it can minimize poor posture and the health issues that follow.
Need more reasons to take another look at your office equipment? Here’s how poor posture can cause major health issues:
Not only is sitting all day long awful for posture, but research also shows five hours or more of sitting is the equivalent of smoking 1.25 packs of cigarettes daily! Sitting with poor posture for long periods compromises circulation, too. It may initiate or exacerbate issues and can cause varicose veins.
When you stand up from your desk, do you notice how you almost feel lighter? Slouching compresses your abdominal organs, including your digestive tract. This can lead to heartburn, slow digestion, and potentially a nutritional deficiency. Not only that, when your digestive tract is bunched up, it slows your metabolism because your digestive tract isn’t able to push food through the way it should.
Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain
If you sit slouched too long working on a project at your computer, upon standing you may notice some back or neck pain. Poor posture can throw your spine out of alignment and cause muscle pain in the back, neck, and shoulders. It can also contribute to rotator cuff pain in the shoulder. Lower back pain can be caused by slouching or even by sitting up too straight in a “military posture.”
Headaches, Teeth Grinding, and Jaw Pain
If you tend to lean forward while sitting at work, it can cause you to clench your teeth. This may lead to headaches, jaw pain, and potentially temporomandibular joint pain known as TMJ.
Headaches may come from the tightness in neck muscles caused by slouching, too.
Diminished Lung Function
Leaning or hunching over can limit the amount of air you breathe in and not allow your diaphragm to work properly. Chronic slouching is known to reduce lung capacity by up to 30%. Proper breathing with full breaths not only supports a healthy body — but also a healthy mind.
In addition to the above issues, your body works harder when you have poor posture. Naturally, this causes fatigue. When your body is out of alignment, you’re causing muscles to do more work, or, worse yet, work they are not designed to do. Hence why you may feel tired after a full day of slouching!
Tips for Improving Poor Posture
While it isn’t always easy to correct a bad habit like slouching, as you can see from the points above, it’s a matter of good health. It will be uncomfortable realigning your body and sitting in the correct position, but your overall health will benefit in the long run.
Plus, poor posture can cause too many health issues to not consider these tips!
Additionally, strengthening your core, glutes, back, and shoulder muscles will also help. By strengthening muscles, it makes it easier for your body to stay in the correct position. Your muscles won’t fatigue as easily, either. Starting a routine with beginner exercises can help.
The following tips can assist in posture improvement. For those who’ve had poor posture for some time, it will take a while to see improvements.
Here are a few other ways to improve your posture:
Stand up Straight
Naturally, the simplest way to improve your posture is to consciously stand — and sit — straight. Start by pulling your shoulders back and then do the following: Pull in your stomach — think about the top of your head reaching towards the ceiling. Keep earlobes in line with shoulders. Imagine you’re pulling your belly button in toward your spine, too.
Another reason to work on this habit: You’ll look and feel more confident. In some cases, depending on your clothing, you’ll even look thinner!
Whether at a computer or sitting at a table, your feet should rest on the floor or a footrest. The backrest of your chair should support your low- and mid-back. If not, add additional back support like a lumbar pillow.
A few more tips to keep your posture upright and comfortable:
- Ankles should be in front of the knees
- Don’t cross your legs
- Keep a small gap between the front of the chair and the back of the knees
- Keep knees at or below the level of your hips
- Forearms should be parallel to the ground
- Keep your shoulders relaxed
- Consider switching between a sitting and kneeling chair, if possible
Easy reminder: Put a sticky note on your workstation to remind yourself to sit upright and stretch from time to time.
If you need a lot of extra help with correcting poor posture, other tools are available. Here are a few affordable options:
- Posture corrector - Consider checking out back braces for physical support to keep you upright and in the right position. You can order these on Amazon or get a recommendation from a physical therapist.
- Go digital - Prefer digital tools? You can get devices to wear that also sync to your smartphone to keep you mindful of your posture.
- Physical therapy - If you’ve tried numerous tools and practices, you may need the help of a professional, like a physical therapist. They will help train you to strengthen your core and other large muscles to sit upright.
- Yoga exercises - A regular yoga routine is good for creating muscle strength, proper alignment, and body awareness.
Ergonomics in the Workplace Matter for Everyone
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to make sure your employees have the right equipment to do their jobs. This also means ensuring their comfort and health are taken into consideration, too.
When you take a look at ergonomics in the workplace, you can reduce the severity and number of employees whose health may be impacted by physical overexertion from poor posture.
If you’re noticing bad posture symptoms in more of your employees, it may be time to bring in a professional. Consider hiring an ergonomics expert to adjust office desks, chairs, and computer workstations to support the proper body position.
How do you stay mindful of your posture throughout the day? If you have a favorite tool or trick, let us know in the comments below!
Want to learn more about the dangers of sitting too long in the workplace? Read more here on How Sitting is Harming Your Employees (+7 Tips to Fix It!)