Is your office space ergonomic? 5 ways to prevent pain at work

Your muscles are tight and sore, and you’re moving about as fast as a slug. Why? You haven’t physically taxed your muscles today. All you’ve done is sit at your desk, dutifully checking items off your to-do list.

Our bodies weren’t designed to sit and stare at a computer screen all day, but the average person spends 15 hours per day sitting on their rear end. This lack of movement is known as the sitting disease, or metabolic syndrome. Essentially, if you don’t make a point to move every hour, you’re body decides to take a nap. The Lipoprotein Lipase enzymes actually go to sleep after 60 to 90 minutes of inactivity, slowing down your metabolism and overall productivity.

Office ergonomics – the act of setting up a work area conducive to physical health – is an important element of the workplace experience and productivity. An improperly aligned office space can lead to less productivity and significant aches and pains. Even if your company won’t foot the bill for your ergonomic desires, there are plenty of ways to create a more comfortable workspace without breaking the budget. Check out these ideas:

Support your spine. A quality office chair will have a built-in lumbar support. Don’t fret, though, if you just realized that your chair is as flat as a board and probably damaging your back. Adding some lumbar support to your chair is easy. Just roll up a small blanket or hand towel and place it behind you. Problem solved, now you have lumbar support.

Check your monitor. The top of your screen should be level with your eyes. This allows for reduced strain on your eyes, neck and back. Your monitor should sit as far away from you as possible without straining your eyesight. If you notice you are straining to see the screen, bump up the font size.

Free your feet. Your legs need plenty of room to move; don’t crowd your legs and feet. Make sure that you have plenty of room between the top of the desk and your thighs. This is called “thigh space.” Allowing enough thigh space will enable you to better position your body throughout the day.

Perfect your posture. Contrary to popular belief, perfect posture (in relation to office ergonomics) is not sitting perpendicular. Experts suggest a slightly reclined posture of 100 to 110 degrees, rather than a perfect 90-degree position. The slight recline will reduce the risk for tension build up in your neck and back.

Take a break. Studies show that many office-bound professionals don’t take an adequate number of breaks. You should get up from your desk and walk or move around for 15 minutes every two hours. Studies also suggest that you incorporate “micro-breaks” into your day. Micro-breaks are 30-second breaks every 10 minutes. During this time, roll your neck from side to side to help relieve tension and avert your eyes from the computer screen. You should also take this time to change positions.

Although setting up your office space ergonomically will greatly benefit your health, the most important thing is to take breaks. Get up and do a lap around the office – even if it’s just to go to the restroom or break room. The movement will wake up your body and encourage greater productivity throughout the day.

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