Like most people, you probably spend the majority of your waking hours at work. If you’re in an office setting with repetitive tasks, this can mean a lot of time in positions that aren’t the best for you. Here’s 7 simple tips to improve your posture at work for reduced pain, better function and enhanced energy!
Tip 1: Have regular breaks
Ultimately, even if you sit perfectly, you’re not going to feel good if you’re not having enough breaks. Did you know that over half of Australian adults have admitted to being either inactive or relatively inactive(1)? Government guidelines suggest minimising the amount of time you sit as much as you can(2). A good starting goal is to have a bit of a stretch or a glass of water and a toilet break every hour however ideally a 5 minute break every 25 minutes.
Other things you can do is set up your printer away from your desk, ask your company for a standing desk or simply stand up do a few squats and other desk appropriate exercises, then sit back down!
I’m a huge fan of the Pomodoro Technique(3). It teaches you to have a 3 minute break every 25 minutes and then a longer break every 4 blocks of 25 minutes. You can set it up using an app on your phone. It has research backing it’s effectiveness in increasing effeciency, plus you get regular breaks! On my breaks I like to see how many squats I can get done in the time or set myself other little physical goals. Adds a bit of fun to the day. Maybe you could implement it as a office wide thing and have a little friendly comp going?!
In conclusion, this is by far the most important thing you can do for your posture at work. Our bodies are designed to move and as they say, if you don’t move it, you loose it!
Tip 2: Use a D-cushion
D-cushions are very versatile and because they are small you can carry them with you in your backpack making them ideal for home, the car and the office. They can fit in the small of your back, behind your mid back or can act as a head cushion if you decide to do some lunchtime Pilates or meditation.
I prefer the little D-cushion over the bigger back cushions simply because you can play around to get it feeling just right for you. It is also a good feedback tool rather than a support tool. I’m generally anti anything that is going to allow you to get lazy or forget to take regular breaks. If you notice you are restless in your seat or you’re slumping away from your cushion – it’s time to take a break!
Tip 3: Get your screen right
If you are using a laptop there are 2 problems. Firstly it’s probably too low which leads to looking down at the screen; secondly the text may be too small which can lead to head forward posture, especially if your eyes are getting tired towards the end of the day. To fix this I suggest getting a laptop riser with a seperate keyboard and mouse. Also try to increase the font of the text or numbers you are working with to prevent yourself from leaning forward. When you look forward, your eyes should be roughly level with the top of the screen.
Even if you have a desktop computer the screen may still be too low or too small. Adjust with a few books under the screen or get a screen riser with a few draws for storage.
If you are in the unfortunate position of having to deal with 2 screens try alternating the set up of the screens. Always try to have the main screen you are working off right in front of you though. Your secondary screen could move from left, to right to above. Not only will this help balance out the working of your neck muscles it will also keep your eye muscles strong and healthy.
If both screens are equal in time needed the splitting it relatively down the middle is the best way. Try to make it a game where sometimes you just look with your eyes, sometimes you move your head, sometimes you rotate your upper back and sometimes you rotate your chair. This way you will spend time moving different parts of your body all day. Remember you still need regular breaks!!
Tip 4: To cross or not to cross?
Crossing the legs or ankles is a common question I get. My philosophy is, it’s better to keep moving and be in different postures than be in the same perfect posture all the time. So if you find yourself crossing your legs one way, perhaps cross them the other way for a bit or sit a completely different postural position instead.
If you have any vein issues in your legs such as varicose veins or a family history of it, it’s probably best to avoid crossing at the knees. You could still safely cross at the ankles for a little bit if you want to. Same goes for low back issues and sciatica issues that are persistent in nature. You are probably in need of more regular breaks and specific stretches or movement therapy exercises to help.
Tip 5: Specific Stretches to try
There are endless lists of things to try for posture at work if you do a google search. However to keep it simple, think opposites. If you’ve been sitting a lot typing, what does your body need that is opposite to this?
Try a standing backwards bend. Repeat 5-10 reps every hour. Go to the point of resistance and then return to straight. This helps stretch your hip flexors and it’s really good for your spine! More back bends here.
Try a Pec Stretch. First stretch your hands wide out to the sides. Then gently draw your shoulder blades together stretching the front of your chest and arms. From here you could do a few arm circles or bend the elbows to get a deeper pec stretch into the pec minor muscle. More pec stretches here.
So there you have it. A few simple ways to improve your posture. Try implementing one per week until you have them all set up or in your regular routine. If you have a specific postural concern please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love to help! I’ll say it again, just one more time – there is not substitute for regular breaks from your desk. Ideally every 25 minutes even if it’s just standing up, doing a few stretches and sitting back down 🙂
(1) Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013. Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity, 2011-2012.
(2) Australian Government: Department of Health. Physical Activity Guidelines
(3) The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo.
(4) Taconic Spine Website