Many of us have posture that is less than desirable and, over time, it impacts our health. Particular postures and positions, as well as ways in which we move while we work and do other activities, can put undue stress on our bodies. Back pain, for example, is one issue that can be caused by ordinary tasks, such as sitting in a chair for prolonged periods.

You can improve your wellbeing and productivity through simple ergonomics! Individuals should take the principles and practices of ergonomics into account when arranging and utilizing their work and living spaces. It’s not just about making your self more comfortable; proper ergonomics can prevent chronic conditions, such as: carpal tunnel syndrome, excessive fatigue, eyestrain and irritation, blurred vision, headaches, stress, neck pain and back pain.

As a start, pay attention to your posture. A good ergonomic setup will help you maintain proper posture while you engage in activities. Your body works best when you’re in a relaxed (not slouched!), natural position. Try to limit activities that put you in awkward positions or make your muscles tense. Do a quick assessment of your space to ensure it’s a good fit:

Talking on the phone. If you have to talk on the phone often, use a headset or speaker phone. Resting the phone between your ear and shoulder can cause neck and shoulder issues.

  • Take brief breaks from repetitive tasks. Even in the most thoroughly ergonomic workstations, people who sit for long periods of time should change their positions at least once every hour. Shift your weight from side to side, stand up and walk around for a minute, or do some stretching exercises.
  • Chairs. Chair height should be at a level so your feet rest flat on the floor and your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. If your feet can’t be flat on the floor, use a footrest. The front edge of the seat cushion should curve down slightly, allowing a two- to three-inch space from the backs of your knees. The backrest should follow the natural curves of your spine to offer lumbar support.
  • Keyboard and Mouse. Place your keyboard directly in front of your chair, so your arms hang naturally and your wrists remain in a neutral position. An adjustable keyboard tray should have a space for your mouse that prevents over-reaching.
  • Computer Screens. The screen should be directly in front of your chair and keyboard. The top of the screen should be at eye level or one to two inches below eye level. Generally, the screen should be 18 to 30 inches from your eyes. Remembering the 20/20 rule for tired eyes; look about 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
  • Lift with proper posture. By lifting with your large, strong leg muscles instead of the small muscles of the back, you can prevent back injuries and reduce low back pain. If a load is too heavy to lift alone, ask for help.

Be sure to stretch and relax muscles and joints that have remained in the same position for long periods of time, particularly your wrists, neck, shoulders, back and hamstrings. Get regular exercise – strengthen your core abnormal and back muscles for better support. Don’t let your space dictate how you work; minor adjustments can boost your energy level and productivity.

Sources: Workplace Options, LifeWork Strategies EAP, and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.