How to Create a Healthy Ergonomic Workstation

Most of us are guilty of sitting at our desks for too long! We also underestimate the impact of sitting in a chair in front of a computer 8 hours a day, 5 days a week has on posture, mental health, and stress levels! Just because you sit at a desk all day, doesn’t mean that you can’t implement some healthy lifestyle and work habit changes to help get your body moving! Read our blog for starting back at work in 2020 with better habits after a well deserved break…

Computer and Laptop Positioning at Your Desk
First, your computer monitor needs to sit straight in front of you, not at an angle. Also, it should sit at a specific height to relieve neck and eye strain. When you’re seated at your desk comfortably, the top of your computer monitor should sit slightly below eye level. This will help maintain a neutral neck position.
Here’s how to do that: when you are seated comfortably, your eyes should be in line with a point on the screen about 2-3″ below the top of the monitor casing (not the screen).

Next, your chair. It’s actually best to have a slight recline angle in your office chair. A reclined posture of 100-110 degrees is ideal. Basically, you don’t want to be sitting upright; that will quickly fatigue your core muscles. Also, when you’re working be sure you sit back in the chair and that your back feels supported in this position. Your feet should be be placed flat on the floor or on a footrest if you can’t reach.

Taking a Break from Sitting
With regards to rest breaks at work, most health agencies recommend that a break be taken every 30 to 60 minutes. During this break, stand up and move around. Even if this break lasts for 3-5 minutes, it helps. It forces you to focus your eyes on other objects and exercise different muscles.

If you choose to go for a walk, you can help relieve some of those chest and neck muscles by making sure your posture is perfect. An easy way to do this is to make sure that when you walk, you make a very gentle fist. Then, gently turn your wrists so that the knuckles of your thumbs point straight ahead. This will automatically force your shoulders back and down and force you to stand upright. Simple but effective!

Stretches for the Office & Desk Job
There are several exercises you can do while sitting at your desk or the computer.

If you have time after your walk during the short break, perform some chest and neck stretches. Because we often hunch over our desks, our chest and trapezius muscles can stay contracted. So to relieve these muscles, we want to move them in the opposite direction. You can do this in a seated or standing position, but here’s the basic move:

  • Raise both your arms straight in front of you until they are at chest height. Make sure your arms touch.
  • Turn your palms up so they face the ceiling. The pinky fingers on each hand should now touch.
  • With palms still facing the ceiling, slowly open up your chest by separating your pinkies and moving each arm towards the wall behind you. At the end of the move, your thumbs should be facing the wall behind you.
  • Try and make your thumbs touch behind you… you won’t be able to, but this will force you into a deeper stretch. As you try and get your thumbs to touch behind you, gently exhale to get a slightly deeper stretch.

To stretch the neck muscles:

  • First, place both arms by your sides so that your fingertips face the ground. Imagine there’s a light weight dangling from each of your hands, pulling your trapezius muscles down.
  • Gently turn your head from side to side while keeping your arms at your sides with those imaginary weights pulling your arms toward the floor.
  • As you gently and slowly turn your head to either side, exhale.

What Exercises Can I Do To Counter Sitting All Day?

To be sure that you maintain the strength of these muscles outside of the office, be sure that you incorporate some resistance training. In particular, you want to be sure to strengthen the hamstrings, lower back and abdominal muscles.

Performing deadlifts, lower back extensions, holding the plank position, crunches, and sit-ups are helpful. Single leg extensions, pelvic tilts, and lying or standing bicycle twists can also be beneficial.
Plank Pose: When stretching, cobra pose and performing downward dog are also wonderful.

Tip on Remembering to Get Up & Move
Now you have all this knowledge, but how do we encourage ourselves to actually take these breaks? Working at a computer can be hypnotic… hours can pass without us even realising it.
To be sure you’re getting those breaks in, one of the easiest things you can do is to put a reminder in your phone or on your electronic calendar at work. Set the reminder, so it goes off once every hour during the workday. If a reminder once every hour gets annoying because it’s too often, try setting it for every hour and a half or every 2 hours. It will still help!

If you’re experiencing neck and back pain from your desk at work, please book in with one of our Physiotherapists by calling the team on 03 9729 7777 on simply booking online.