Monday, 26 September 2011

It’s just a chair right? What to look for in a good chair

Office chairs... office chairs... office chairs.. *sigh*

So many 'ergonomic' chairs advertised, so many ergonomic horrors in reality!

Here are some tips in choosing a chair that is good for you:

It's Comfortable:

Above all else, the chair should be comfortable for you, with enough padding to stop you from feeling the base or backrest frame.

It's Adjustable:

Look for adjustment mechanisms for chair height, backrest height and backrest tilt. The more adjustments possible, the easier it'll be to fit the chair to you (although having more than 5 adjustment options just becomes confusing).

It's Supportive:

Similar to car seats, some office chairs have a nicely defined lumbar support, and some have none at all. Find a chair that has a gentle lumbar support within the backrest - it's important to be supported, but not be pushed out of the chair by a massive bump on the backrest! A medium back chair usually suffices for most people, unless they are very tall, in which case a high back chair could be more beneficial.


Some people can't live without them, whilst others can't stand them. I tend to fall into the latter group. Armrests = leaning, and leaning = poor spinal alignment and increased pressure through elbow and shoulder. For those armrests lovers out there.. as a compromise, find a chair with height adjustable armrests, and position them to the lowest setting. This will enable the armrests to be there for assisting you to get on and off the chair, but will be too low for leaning easily and won't hinder the chair seat's ability to get under the desk properly.

Got any office chair related questions?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Meet you at the water cooler – The importance of regular pause breaks from computer work

We weren't designed to sit at a desk for 8+ hours a day. We were made to move around and be mobile. Even with an amazingly ergonomic workstation setup, it still does not make up for the fact that most people limit their movement to periods between sleeping (8 hours), travelling (2 hours), eating (1.5 hours), working (8 hours) and unwinding at home infront of the TV or computer (2-4 hours). Doesn't leave much movement time does it?

No matter how perfect your work environment, prolonged static postures will inhibit blood circulation and take a toll on your body.When muscles remain stationary, circulation decreases, muscles get tired, and tasks become more uncomfortable to perform. Not to mention the follow on effects of feeling lethargic and decreased concentration.

Here are some tips to get you moving at work:
  • Take short 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 30 minutes
  • After each hour of work, take a break or change tasks for at least 5-10 minutes
  • Always try to get away from your computer during lunch breaks, even if to take a short walk around the block
  • If your printer is on your desk, print to another printer in the office which will force you to walk to get printouts
  • Fill a glass of water rather than a jug or large bottle of water. This will encourage more trips to the water cooler / kitchen for refills
  • Walk over to colleagues to talk to them rather than email or instant message
  • Take the stairs rather than the lift (if you work on the 20th floor, perhaps get out at level 15 and take the stairs for the rest of the way.. gradually increase flights of stairs as able)
There are many more ways to build incidental movement into your work day. What others can you think of?

Monday, 5 September 2011

Bend and Stretch, but don't reach for those files!

Whenever I complete an ergonomic assessment, I run through the general principals of ergonomics:
  • Keep things that are used constantly within a forearm reach (with elbows by sides)
  • Keep things that are used frequently within an arm's reach
  • Move things that are rarely used outside that zone.. but make sure you move yourself to access them
Most peoples' reaction to that is 'But stretching is good!'. Yes, conscious stretching is good. During stretch classes your mind is on stretching... the way your muscles are lengthening... the feeling of the movement your body is making. When at work, your mind is on work.

People often plant their feet on the floor below the keyboard, and reach out to the side, or up, or back behind them... without any thought to the positions they are placing their bodies or the strain on their spine and shoulders. Repetitive movements similar to these, over time, can cause repetitive strain type injuries. These are injuries that can take months or even years to recover!

Preventing these types of injuries is a matter of changing a habit.
  • Instead of over-reaching to access something on or near your desk.. use your chair to shift yourself closer to that item
  • Instead of side-reaching, swivel in your seat and face your Nose and Toes in the same direction as the activity
  • To reduce the strain on your shoulders from getting heavy files from a shelf above your desk, make it a rule to stand to access anything that is above shoulder height when you are sitting
Use Post-It notes as personal reminders to improve your accessing items technique!

Start a Posture Reminder Brigade and watch out for your colleagues!

Most of all, keep your stretching for exercise classes!!