When you sit at a desk for hours on end every day, at the end of the week, you’re likely left with a sore back and posture that resembles the hunchback of Notre Dame. For most of us, work wreaks havoc on our posture. That’s because when we’re at the office, we’re prone to sitting for long periods of time, slouching frequently, and training our bodies to develop bad habits. Bad posture doesn’t just make you look bad either. It can lead to serious long-term health effects, like chronic pain in your back, shoulders, head, and jaw. The good news is, you can “unlearn” these bad posture habits. In this article, you’ll find out 4 ways to improve your work posture, so that you can increase your work productivity and get rid of some of those aches and pains after a long week.
Step 1: Fix your computer setup
Most of us unconsciously lean forward throughout the day while we work on our computers. This can be especially troublesome with laptops, because you’re often leaning forward and looking down, which puts strain on your neck. Fix your workstation setup, and you’ll improve your posture.
Here’s how: start by making sure your computer screen is at eye level. This means the top of your monitor should be at or just below your line of vision. Your screen should be about an arm’s length away. Your keyboard and mouse should be in a position that allows you to keep your wrists straight. And if you spend a lot of time on the phone, ask your boss for a headset so you don’t have to strain your muscles cradling the phone between your ear and neck all day.
Step 2: Fix your office chair setup
Once your computer is in place, it’s time to evaluate your chair setup. The back of your chair should be positioned upright and should naturally fit the curve of your lower back. Make sure the chair is at a height that allows you to plant both feet on the floor. If your chair is too high for you to do this, get a footrest. If you have trouble with slouching, try positioning a back support or small pillow or towel behind your lower back.
Step 3: Stretch every day at work
One of the best ways to improve your work posture is to take 5-minute stretch breaks every 2-3 hours. At a minimum, stretch your back, shoulders, neck, and hips first thing in the morning and during your lunch break each day. Here’s an easy stretching routine you can do at work several times each day:
- Stretch your calves by placing your hands on your wall or desk and so you’re facing the ground with your legs extended out behind you.
- Hold a lunge position for your right and left leg for 15 seconds each.
- Squat down as low as you can while keeping your arms extended straight overhead. Hold for as long as possible.
- Stretch your hands and wrists by bending each of your hands back at the fingers.
- Stand straight up on one leg and extend the other leg up as far as possible (as close to parallel to the ground as you can get). Switch legs and repeat.
- Extend your arms straight overhead and push your chest out while keeping your arms straight to stretch your chest, shoulders and lower back.
Step 4: Take preventative measures at home
Improving your work posture starts at home. Strength training and stretching exercises help immensely, as do cardiovascular exercises like walking, swimming, and bicycling. Focus on multi-joint exercises that promote abdominal and core stability and strength, like planks, squats, lunges, crunches, and wall sits. Try this 7-minute workout several days a week to start building up your core, and watch your work posture begin to steadily improve!