Most of us work a traditional 8 hour day, that’s 40 hours a week, 1920 hours a year. And most of us do it all seated in the same chair, at the same desk and usually in the same position. But how many of us actually know and apply the correct seating position for our overall comfort, health and safety. Hopefully you already get up to stretch your legs every couple of hours, which is a great start, however I want to run through several basic strategies that you can use to help reduce the risks associated with prolonged office work.

Neck pain is a common occurrence with most office workers.
Neck pain is a common occurrence with most office workers.

If you have ever felt a little niggle of back pain towards the end of your working day it might be a good idea to take a look at your seating configuration. Your employer has a duty of care to ensure that no harm is caused to you during the course of a working day and with back injuries claiming up to 30% of all work cover claims in some industries it’s in everyone’s benefit to ensure that your back and those of your colleagues are being cared for.

3 tips for perfect posture and back comfort in the office

1. Your Chair. Probably the most important element for a comfortable day’s work is the quality of your chair. The perfect chair should have:

  • A firm base. A firm foam base ensures your body receives the correct level of support. Too soft a base provides too little and too hard a base too much. You want to get this just right.
  • Arm rests. Allow for plenty of clearance between your arm rests and your desk top. Removing them or using a chair with no arm rests ensures that your range of motion is not restricted as you roll around while seated. If your arm rests are brushing up against your desk and limiting movement then it’s time for a new office chair.
  • Lumbar support. Your lower back should be snug and supported with effective lumbar support relieving pressure from your lower back.
modern office
Allow for plenty of room between your chair’s arms and your desk.

2. Seating position. This is an easy one as you only need to remember the one term, ’90 degrees’.

  • Hip Position. Hips should be positioned at a 90 degree angle. Your back should run perpendicular to the floor with your thighs extending out at a 90 degree angle from your hips.
  • Knee Position. Knees should also be positioned at a 90 degree angle. Allowing your lower legs to extend down from your upper legs at a 90 degree angle and rest comfortably on the floor. This is where your seat’s height adjustment comes into use to allow proper lower body positioning.
  • Arm Position. Arms should always be kept in a neutral position. A neutral position is one that allows your elbows to be held at 90 degree or higher angle, sloping in a gentle downward angle onto your desk. This helps reduce pressure on your wrists and lowers the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Head position. Your eyes should be level with the very top of your monitor. This helps you avoid excessive neck strain by not needing to continually look up to your screen. A neutral position is ideally one which requires very little work and effort on your part to maintain. Your monitor should also sit an arms length away from your seated position.

In order to achieve these positions you may find you need to adjust your desk, monitor and chair height or make use of a footrest.

Your arms should slope gently downwards onto your desk.

3. Movement during the day. Even after you have achieved a perfect seating position it is still important to take breaks during the day away from your desk. There are several easy ways you can achieve this.

  • Take 30 minute breaks. Take a break every 30 minutes to stretch your legs. You might use this time to get yourself a glass of water or by heading to the printer to collect your latest print job.
  • Stretch while seated. Reduce the risk of neck strain and complete lateral and rolling neck stretches every two to three hours. A gentle side to side movement is enough to get you started.
Complete lateral and rolling neck stretches every two to three hours.
Complete lateral and rolling neck stretches every two to three hours.

Checking your current posture, chair and desk height only takes a couple of minutes and considering that you might well be sitting in your current position for the better part of 115,200 minutes, each and every year, it’s a small investment that’s worth making.

If you have identified that your current configuration could be improved, rally the powers that be to make it happen, often all that is needed is a new chair or for your desk to be raised a couple of inches.