May 22, 2020

Healthy Office; Healthy Sitting

A recent poll of 500 workers conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) found there was an increase in physical complaints due to working from home in lock-down. More than half of respondents reported new aches and pains associated with bad posture including in their necks (58 per cent), shoulders (56 per cent) and backs (55 percent). (https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/half-working-from-home-during-lockdown-unhappy-with-work-life-balance).

With the trend of homeworking set to continue, perhaps now is the time to consider whether your home-working arrangement needs a re-think. In a recent Whiteleys’ blog we covered the home office set-up, including desks (height adjustable and fixed height) and screen positioning. Where possible, we would recommend the creation of a separate area for home-working. This will help avoid irritations and interruptions – helping you stay focused on work and help keep the appropriate boundaries between work and home-life. In our busy lives, the importance of good health can sometimes be overlooked. The purpose here then is to emphasise simple practises around life-style and sitting and provide some suggestions on ergonomic chairs.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Sitting for prolonged periods of time can be a major cause of back pain, cause increased stress of the back, neck, arms and legs and can add a tremendous amount of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs. (see Ergonomics for Prolonged Sitting. UCLA Spine Center Web site. http://spinecenter.ucla.edu/ergonomics-prolonged-sitting.)

According to a report published in Annals of Internal Medicine, “more than half of the average person’s waking hours are spent sitting, watching television, working at a computer, commuting” The report suggests: “Despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease and illness.” (https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M14-1651?articleid=2091327&.) In short, many peoples’ lifestyles are too sedentary and sitting down a large part of the day is not good practise. So It’s actually really important to adopt good posture and avoid being sedentary. The good news is there are simple steps that can be taken to change old habits. Here are a few suggestions:-

· Work standing at a high table for some of the day (Perhaps even consider getting a height adjustable desk.)

· Get up and stretch every 30 minutes.

· You might be able to stand-up rather than sit down whilst making that phone call.

· Adopt good posture whilst seated but do sit in different positions.

· Go for a walk at lunch time.

· Ensure your desk is at the right height.

· Your screen and monitor arms should ideally be central on the desk (not off-set) and should be at the right height and distance.

· Invest in a good quality ergonomic chair.

Some Pointers on a Good Quality Ergonomic Chair

If you are working at home – sitting on a dining room chair or a cheap office chair is probably alright for an hour or so. But sitting on a chair that’s not suitable for any length of time can cause aches and pains and if you are sat consistently on the wrong chair for the work you are doing – this can contribute to back problems in the long run.

A well-padded, high-back ergonomic chair that has a good-shaped lumbar will help support good posture. A 3-lever chair provides the option of tilting the seat slightly so that the back part is a little higher than the seat-front. This adjustment is designed to help avoid pelvic stress.

For taller people the inclusion of a seat-slide will ensure that there is enough leg support (there should be about 1-2 inches of space between the front-edge of the chair and the knee pit [your popliteal fossa!], so that the user’s leg has sufficient support. But also bear in mind that the knee pit should not be pushed against the front edge of the seat as this will cause discomfort. It’s about getting the right chair for your height, ensuring the correct support.

Remember though, even if you are seated comfortably with good posture, staying in one position is not good for the spine. Numerous disc studies confirm that spine movement is essential for back-well-being. This is also highlighted in The Disc Report:-

(https://www.inmotionclinics.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/back_pain_report.pdf):

“In order to bring fluid (water), nutrients and oxygen to the discs, the body uses a pumping mechanism which operates through movement. As we move by twisting, turning and bending the vertebrae are being tilted back and forth. As we move we create pressure changes, similar to the action of an accordion as it draws air in and out as it is squeezed and opened. The pressure changes create a pumping mechanism which pulls in and pushes out fluids and blood (containing oxygen and nutrients) which are essential for maintaining the cells of the disc. Even moderate movement from activities like walking are enough to keep these pressure pumps working. And as fluid and nutrients are brought in, they are absorbed into the disc by diffusion.”

That’s why, as we mentioned earlier, regular movement (every 30-minutes or so) is so important. For this reason you may also want to consider a chair with reclining back support, as the movement and in-chair stretching will also help to reduce disc pressure. A synchro-mechanism chair is a good example of this, where the back moves approximately on a 2:1 ratio to the seat, thereby proving the user with the option for additional stretching and movement.

Summary

There is a lot to consider when purchasing the right office furniture. Even something seemingly straight forward as a chair purchase, there are many options and it’s important to make the right selection for your needs.

Why not get in contact to discuss your requirements. We are here to help and would be glad to help with advice and information. Where needed, Whiteleys provides full space planning and design services and one of our friendly team will work you to get the right solution. We are available on 0208 313 3344 or email sales@whiteleys-office.co.uk.

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