On a recent visit to a client’s office, I walked in and was blown away by – wait for it – their chairs! Yes, I said chairs. Every single desk is equipped with a stability ball chair. I tried to hide my giddy expression when I realized that I, too, would get to sit in one because their conference room was also outfitted in 12 of these things. The client informed me that they have these chairs to help their employees improve posture and reduce tension on their back. Immediately, thoughts of my horrible posture crept in. Countless times during the workday, I find that my back hurts long before 5 p.m. because I’m slouching.
The chair was actually quite interesting, and at first, I told myself “there’s no way this is comfortable, nor stable.” Imagine my surprise when I sat down, and, after the hour-long meeting concluded, I felt like I had a pretty decent core workout and noticed myself standing taller (which, for me, is a perk since I’m 5’4” and still hoping that, with improved posture, someday I’ll reach 5’7”).
Being a strong believer in the efficacy of Post-it Notes as reminders, I decided to place one with “sit up straight” written on it in the top right-hand corner of my computer screen to remind myself to practice the perfect posture that I strive for. I was fondly reminded of a conversation from our Obsidian retreat that was on this very same topic. It made me wonder: Is my posture something that I personally want to improve because I’ve noticed myself slouching as of late, or is it something that can enhance me physically as well as improve my productivity at work. Does posture really equal productivity? “Light bulb!” (in my best Steve Carell voice from “Despicable Me.”)
A survey from Staples Advantage reports that half of U.S. workers say they’d be more productive in a more comfortable and ergonomic workspace. The same survey reports that more than one in three workers would be more pleasant to work with, and 35 percent say they would feel less stressed at work. According to the Cleveland Clinic, correct posture at a desk helps keep your spine and joints in proper alignment, decreases stress on ligaments, prevents fatigue, strain, backache and pain, and reduces the risk of arthritis.
If ordering a stock of ergonomic equipment isn’t in your office budget at the time, no worries; you aren’t cursed with bad posture for the rest of your working days. In a Livestrong.com article I recently read, they offered the following FREE tips on how you can improve posture (thus, increasing productivity), by positioning your body properly while working at your desk:
1. Sit facing forward. Yes, it may take concentration and a few laughs from co-workers, but this is worth the practice. Your buttocks should press against the back of the chair, and your back shouldn’t be slouched or hunched.
2. Keep a towel at work. No, it’s not for those coffee spills where you have to try and salvage every paper on your desk. When rolled up, the towel can be placed in the natural curves of your back to increase lumbar support and reduce the temptation to push your back flat against the chair.
3. Keep it even. When sitting at your desk, your weight should be distributed evenly across both hips – don’t favor one side over the other.
4. No leg crossing. This is probably particularly difficult for all the ladies out there who have been told for years that “a lady should cross her legs when seated.” Throw your etiquette classes out of the window at the office! Sit with your knees bent at right angles, slightly higher than or even with your hips. The CDC recommends lowering your chair slightly or resting your feet on a low stool if necessary to obtain the correct height.
5. Sit close. Adjust the height of your desk and chair so that you are sitting close to the writing or typing surface and your work is tilted slightly up toward your face.
6. Use those armrests. If your chair has armrests, lay your elbows on them and extend your lower arms toward your writing surface or keyboard. Your lower arms should be positioned at an angle from your elbows, not extended straight out away from your body. If your chair doesn’t have armrests, move your keyboard back so that your lower arms can rest on the desk.
7. Keep your head forward. Look straight ahead when sitting and working, and do not place documents or your computer monitor off to one side. You should not need to move your head to read your screen, and you should not look up or down repeatedly between the computer and your documents.
8. Get off the phone. If the phone is a big part of your job, invest in a headrest or headset to use while sitting at your desk. Most importantly, do not hold the phone between your ear and shoulder. Doing so can cause muscle strain, fatigue and pain, according to the CDC.
While I do think it would be really cool to have a bunch of stability chairs “rolling” around the office (pun intended), it’s good to know the fate of my good posture doesn’t lie in the investment of one.
Does your office have one of these cool chairs? If so, comment below to let me know if they’re really worth the hype. I’d also love to know how my fellow office-dwellers prevent the 5 p.m. back pain.