Slouching, hunched shoulders, and poor posture are on the rise as more of us work from home and spend more and more time in front of our computers.
The following tips can help you to break bad habits, improve your work space, and use exercise to counteract the effects of poor posture and prolonged sitting.
1. When working on a screen, raise it to eye level
The position pictured above is a common result of a poor working set up. One reason that people end up in this position is they use a laptop and the screen is low down, causing them to look down, extend their neck and round their back (notice also the rounded back rather than straight back that could be helped with lumbar support).
Get yourself either:
a) A laptop stand
b) A secondary screen that you can position at eye level and plug in to your laptop
This will improve your posture while you work because you are no longer leaning forward and looking down, but you will instead be activating your back muscles to look up and holding a more upright posture.
Source: Guidance from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors.
2. Create a designated working space
This is a follow on from the previous tip. Many home workers tend to stop making a distinction between work and non-work, and this is reflected in where and how they work. They will sit on the sofa to work, or go the other way and dump their non-work-related piles of washing and other messy life items on their desk.
To make sure you have a healthy, ergonomic, posture-friendly work station, you have to treat it with respect and commit to having an actual WFH office / desk rather than treating it as just another area in your home. Having this attitude makes it easier to remember to keep this area tidy, to use it for work, and to invest the money and effort into making it like an office.
3. Get a better chair (or add height and support to your existing chair)
You have two options: a) Buy an office chair with lumbar support and adjustable height, or add lumbar support and height to your existing chair with cushions / towels / specialised products.
The problems with dining chairs and other comfy furniture is that they are not designed to use for working at a computer for long hours.
Usually they are too low, for example. For an office chair, “Adequate seat height is a level at which you can easily place both feet on the ground and bend your knees and hips at a 90° angle” (source: Spine-Health.com). If your knees are slightly too high then it causes you to slouch and hunch forwards to reach the keyboard.
Add cushions or buy a seat raiser or wobble cushion that force you to sit with your legs at a 90 degree angle.
4. Pay attention to your feet
At a good sitting height your feet should rest on the ground comfortably and provide you with support. If you have your feet out in front, or tucked under your chair, then your seat height is probably causing you to do this to feel more comfortable. The problem is that you then lose the support provided by your feet and this is taken up by your back or shoulders.
Another option is to get a foot rest. These are often recommended by health and safety professionals to give extra support for shorter people who’s legs don’t reach the ground.
BUT, footrests are not just for short users. They also help if you are uncomfortable sitting with feet placed on the ground at a 90 degree angle. They allow you to have your knees in a more open position than 90 degrees (allowing for better circulation) while still providing support for your back.
5. Help your posture with lumbar support
The lumbar vertebrae are what make up the lower region of the spine. This region naturally curves inwards and so a lumbar support is designed to ensure that this natural curvature is supported when sitting.
For lumbar support you can roll up a towel and tie it to the back of your chair. This works to support the natural curvature of the spine so that you sit upright. If your chair is very deep and low then you’ll have to combine this with a seat raiser and maybe purchase a big thick towel.
You can also buy lumbar supports to attach to different types of chairs.