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Ergonomics: How to Sit Comfortably on the Job

For many Americans, long hours in the office, hunched over a desk, can often lead to nagging back pain. Luckily, this common problem can be alleviated with a few simple changes to your daily routine.

The first step is to adjust your chair so that it properly supports your back. Sit all the way back in the chair with your back and thighs, and thighs and calves, at a 90-degree angle. Adjust the height of the chair so your feet are flat on the ground. If you are unable to lower the chair enough, use a footrest. If your chair has an adjustable back, raise or lower the tension to support the curves of your back, especially the lower (lumbar) curve of the spine.

Next, position your computer to compliment your posture and reduce strain to your eyes and wrists. Put your computer monitor at arm's length about 20 to 26 inches from you. The top of the screen should be at eye level. When typing, sit tall in your chair and lift your wrists off the keyboard. Move your entire arm when you move the mouse, not just your forearm.

Don't sit for more than an hour at a time. Get up and walk to the restroom, get a drink of water or talk to a coworker in another area of the office instead of e-mailing or calling them. Or, just stand up and stretch your arms, back and legs. If you're on the phone, try standing up and talking instead of sitting. Frequent breaks will refresh your muscles and relieve your neck and back from the stress of sitting still at your desk.

Pay attention to your posture, and change positions regularly. By making small changes to the way you sit for 40 hours a week, you'll find that you are less drowsy, more focused on your work and tension free!

For more information, set up a Red Cross Ergonomics presentation for your staff. In just one hour, participants learn to reduce repetitive stress injuries by improving posture, rearranging work areas, using proper tools and doing simple exercises. Contact your local Red Cross chapter for more information.

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