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The perfect guide to sitting at your desk

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With our changing workplace environments, we are sitting now more than ever before. If you have a quick think about all the time you sit, from work to commuting and home again, it’s likely one of the things that you do more than anything else in your life. We often just plonk ourselves in any old chair and get on with the task without too much thought about the setup. Sitting isn’t the most physically taxing, but it can certainly cause us some physical problems if we don’t take care.

Setting up a desk or workstation may seem like a daunting task. But when we break down, it’s relatively straightforward though, so let’s get started on your desk audit.

A golden rule of sitting at your desk – variation, change, and movement

Firstly, although some postures are better than others, there is no such thing as the perfect posture to hold while sitting for a long time. Varying your position at your desk or changing the job you’re doing is crucial to keeping the body moving. Moving around avoids muscles and ligaments fighting to hold a position for too long. Take opportunities to stand and stretch when they come along. Go for a yarn at the water cooler, relax into your chair for a pause from sitting upright, these small things will help you win in the long run.

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Sitting at your desk – the right set up

Your Chair

Your chair is a vital piece of equipment and often overlooked. If your chair is old and worn then it is time to look for an upgrade. It is important that the chair’s height, seat and backrest can all be adjusted. There is no such thing as one size fit all.

  1. The seat: Get a chair that will support the length of your thighs. You don’t want a seat that is too long for example and means you can’t sit into the back of your chair.
  2. The back: This should be tall enough to support your lower and upper back comfortably. If the backrest is height adjustable, you want a lumbar support positioned in the small of your back.
  3. The height: The seat should be height adjustable. Your hips and knees should be at 90° with your feet resting comfortably on the floor. Your shoulders should also be able to relax and not be up around your ears. Try and keep your elbows at 90° and forearms resting on the desk. Use a footrest if you can’t alter the desk height to allow your shoulders to relax, while your elbows are at 90°.

Your Desk

The ideal desk is one that is height adjustable so you can put it at the right height for you when sitting. Generally speaking, you should be able to use the desk with your feet flat on the floor, elbows at 90° and wrists resting on the keyboard. If you have a standing desk, focus on being able to have your shoulders relaxed as you work.

Your Computer and equipment

The computer is next on the list. It is highly recommended that you have an external keyboard and mouse if working on a laptop. This will allow you to have the laptop raised and stop you crunching over a tiny trackpad all day.

The top of the screen should be level with your eyes and around 60-70cm away from your eyes. An easy and quick measurement is that it should be approximately an arm’s length away. If you have multiple screens, have the one you use most positioned in front of you and the other one off to the side.

Of course, if you are experiencing pain and/or discomfort at your workstation, always inform your manager. It’s also important to remember although the illustration below has shown the ‘ideal posture’, correct posture is a dynamic thing, make sure you change frequently, use your body in all the wonderful ways it can move and don’t force yourself to be stuck in one position forever.

Challenge

Below is a blank workstation assessment picture that shows the ideal posture. Use a measuring tape you can fill in the numbers for your own workstation in its ideal set up. Print it off and keep somewhere handy, then if you move workstations, you can easily get your workstation back to the set up you find comfortable.

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