There is a silent danger taking its toll on the physical and mental health of employees in offices across the world – bad posture.
When sat down, the lower back, or lumbar region of the spine, takes the force of the upper body. The art of ‘sitting properly’, i.e. – having a chair which best fits your working environment and postural needs, could be the difference between comfort and productivity or pain that leads to time off work.
Employers can’t ignore the data
Recent research has found that in the last 12 months, 33% of employees have been forced to take at least one day off work because of neck or back pain.
Half of these individuals attribute the pain to the long period of time spent sitting at their desks each day, and the British Chiropractic Association goes on to suggest that on average, employees that suffer from back and neck pain will be absent from their position for a total of 12 days each year because of their condition.
It’s reported that those of us working in office environments spend 67 days each year sat at our desks. While it’s unlikely that managerial staff would associate a poor posture with low output or a change in employee behaviour, poor posture can become debilitating.
We should also bear in mind, that many employees follow a day sitting at their desks with a commute home, slumped over a steering wheel or over their mobile phone, tablet or laptop – by the time they get home, spines and shoulders are crying out for relief.
How can poor posture in the workplace be solved?
With this in mind, there is a case for employers to take the initiative to prevent poor posture among their employees by encouraging them to take regular breaks and move throughout the day.
There are also practical solutions that can be implemented while employees are sat at their desks to improve posture, these include laptop stands, desk assessments and ergonomic chairs.
Believe it or not, there are both correct and incorrect ways of sitting at our desks to ensure we maintain good posture and avoid pain. Our tips for sitting properly at your desk and some chair ‘know-how’:
- Avoid leaning your head forward, making sure it is balanced
- Ideally your forearms should be parallel to the desk.
- Screens should be distanced approximately an arms length away.
- Sit back in your chair ensuring good support.
- The top of your screen should be at eye level.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest.
- Hips should be the same level or higher than the knees.
The result of poor posture can affect almost every part of the body, and it isn’t uncommon to for the effect to be felt in the elbows or wrist joints simply as a result of poor posture. This can lead to repetitive strain injury, while hunched shoulders can also cause neck pain and even headaches.
Consider employee wellbeing
It’s important to take on board the fact that posture can have a far deeper impact on an individual’s mental wellbeing and self-esteem. A strong posture, with our heads lifted and shoulders back, releasing cortisol levels, reducing stress and enabling employees to focus, improving decision making and increasing productivity. An initiative to improve and maintain employee morale and boost their confidence could influence their posture and increase productivity.
Lets also consider the way that body language plays a key role in interactions. Whether that is between employees or employees and customers, non-verbal communication can vastly alter the way in which a message is perceived, sometimes having negative effects. A slumped posture could be interpreted as a lack of enthusiasm or capability, we all know the impact of poor communication on relationships, and in a business environment – the financial consequences could be enormous.
No-one should feel confined to sitting at their desk for the duration of their working day at the expense of their health and wellbeing. It is in employers’ interests to offer proactive help and advice to protect the health of their workforce.
There are many simple things workers can do to stay active during the 9 to 5. This could start with enabling them to truly understand the wider impact their posture has on their mental health and their professional relationships, coupled with abiding by the guidelines for maintain good posture whilst sat at their desk or the importance of implementing simple tasks such as making a habit of getting up from their desks regularly through the day and having stand up meetings.
By aiding your employees in actively improving their posture, you will soon see the positive impact on their confidence, productivity and team morale.