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How To Sit Properly at Your Desk

In this guide we look at some posture tips and adjustments you can make whilst sat at your office desk and the reasons good posture is important. 

Hunching over a keyboard and sitting in the wrong position, can contribute to numerous health issues and side effects – including tension, pain in the neck, back, knees, hips, and poor circulation. 

The good news is it is possible to undo these potential issues with the correct sitting posture, exercise, and ergonomic practices. 

Because there are plenty of helpful tips and advice on how to sit properly at your desk we have broken this guide down to two parts; assessing and adjusting your sitting position and assessing your desk set up

Assessing your sitting position 

By adopting a good posture and a correct sitting position you can improve and maintain your overall health, reducing pain and health risks, whilst boosting productivity. Here are a few ways in which you can improve your sitting position

Adjusting your chair height

To sit properly at your desk, you should ideally be using a chair which is height adjustable. If you are sitting on a four-legged chair whilst working, you may be constantly rearranging yourself, a sure sign that it is not suitable for long periods. 

So, if working on a height adjustable chair, adjust it so that your feet are comfortably flat on the ground, the top of your legs are parallel, and your knees are even with, or slightly below, your hips. If you are unable to reach the ground with your feet, use a footrest. 

Do not sit with your legs crossed! 

Adjusting your chairs arm height

Adjust your chair arm height (if you have chair arms) so you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor. This can help prevent repetitive strain injuries. Your elbows should be by the side of your body, so your arm should form an L shape at the elbow joint. 

Mind the gap

A good sitting position is when there is at least a 2-3 finger width gap between the front edge of the seat and the back of your knees. This will prevent strain behind the knees, give optimal upper leg and under thigh support, and facilitate good blood circulation. A seat pan that is too long will cause you to sit on the edge of the seat with no proper back support. 

Ideally the seat should have a slight downward curve to the front (waterfall front), to reduce the pressure on the back of your thighs. The Orthopaedica 300 chair features a sculptured seat pad and back pad with waterfall seat. 

Do not sit up straight…Really??

Although most research suggests we should sit upright, there are some claims to suggest that this is not the best practice. Ergonomic Professor, Dr Alan Hedge from Cornell University says that the 90-degree rule does more damage than good. He explains that we should adapt a slightly more relaxed driving position, reclining the chair back by 10 to 20 degrees, allowing the chair to absorb more body weight. 

He explains a little more about this here: 

 

Assessing your desk set up 

Having adopted a better posture and seating position its now time to look at how your desk set up

Adjusting the computer monitor and eyes

Looking down at your screen puts excess strain on your neck, which leaves you vulnerable to injuries such as cervical disc herniation, cervical strains, and headaches. So, it is important to have your eyes in line with the top of the monitor screen and at an arm’s length. 

If you need to raise your laptop or monitor, consider using a stack of books or a small box such as a shoe box. If, however you are looking for a more permanent solution, then you could consider a laptop stand or a monitor arm. 

Have the keyboard straight in front of you

Place your keyboard in front of you when typing. 

Leave a gap of about 4 to 6 inches (100mm – 150mm) at the front of the desk to rest your wrists between bouts of typing. 

Keep your arms bent in an L Shape and your elbows by your sides.

Some people like to use a wrist rest to keep their wrists straight and at the same level as the keys. 

Screen reflection 

Adjust your monitor to avoid reflection from lights or direct sunlight. You should try to prevent any glare on your screen to reduce eye strain. You can also change your screen’s brightness and contrast to get the best screen quality for you. 

You should also avoid wearing bifocal glasses while you look ay a computer screen as this might result in moving your head up and down frequently to see the screen, adding to any neck and muscle strain. 

Keep essential objects in reach

Any object on your desk should be within an easy reaching distance, so you will not need to twist or stretch to access it. You should also avoid cradling a phone with your ear and shoulder so a headset could be a good option if you are on telephone calls throughout the day.

CMDPosture

Image from CMD Ltd advice centre 

Enhance Sitting with Occasional Standing

Although this guide suggesting ways to sit properly at your desk we must also acknowledge the benefits of standing whilst at your desk. The benefits of standing include lowering risk of weight gain, heart disease and improved mood and energy levels.  

Height adjustable workstations, also known as sit stand desks, allow you to work at various levels and are a great way to incorporate more variety and healthy movement into your working day. 

It is still important to retain good posture whilst standing and asses your desktop set up in the way that you would whilst sat down. It is also recommended to keep your legs and feet moving slightly when stood up working as leg muscles can become static and fatigued. By standing on an anti-fatigue mat your muscles will gently contract and expand as they adjust to the flexibility of the mat. 

Finally, take a break!

Whether sitting or standing, at home or in the office, take a few breaks to move around – stretch, refill your water bottle, or take a quick walk around the neighborhood. Listen to your body and adjust if you are uncomfortable. By practicing good posture with healthy movements, you will feel more focused and more productive throughout the day. 

If you have found this blog useful then please share with your work colleges who may need a gentle reminder to keep their posture in check whilst working?. It’s easy to loose your ‘good posture’ whilst working throughout the day so try and set reminders or alarms to keep yourself aligned and away from the ‘bad postures’

If you would like any further advise on how to sit properly at your desk, or a free workplace assessment then please contact our Ergonomic specialist, Phil Johns. Alternatively if you would like any advice on any products that can benefit you whilst sitting (or standing)  at a your office desk please call us on 01823 663880. 

Thanks for siting up and reading! 

Posted by: Ben Hartley

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