Back pain, carpal tunnel, insomnia, headaches… all of these common complaints of the modern day office worker can easily be traced back to the unhealthy sedentary lifestyle most of us are living. Hunching over a keyboard all day can leave you with back pain for the rest of your life; lack of sunlight can disrupt your sleep cycle and contribute to a myriad of other health problems. Many companies provide ergonomic desk equipment and design their floor plans so that employees can enjoy natural light. But even in the best situation, office life isn’t what our bodies were meant to do. Here are some tips to save your body from atrophying before your boss’s eyes.
In order to prevent eye, neck and shoulder strain, experts recommend that your computer screen be about arm’s length away from you. Make sure the top of your monitor is at eye level. And don’t let the screen hypnotize you; it’s important to give your eyes a break every now and then by gazing at a spot about 20 feet away.
Embrace your inner supermodel! Balancing a book on your head, or at least pretending to, will pull your shoulders back and open your chest and guide you into a healthy posture that reverses a slumping upper back. It's crucial to get up every 30 minutes or so to stretch out your legs and keep your circulation going. Take a stroll around the block, go visit a colleague's office or just do a loop around the vending machine (book on head optional for this part).
If you’re going to spend all day sitting, do it right. Thighs should be parallel to the floor and feet should rest flat on the floor or a footrest; adjust your chair accordingly. Your chair should accommodate the natural curvature of your spine, to prevent you from leaning back on your pelvis. Use a pillow against your lower back for extra support if needed. If you have the option to get a standing desk, do it! Just make sure you have proper footwear; standing in heels, flats or other uncomfortable shoes all day will do you no good!
To save those fragile wrists of yours from the evil, cruel joke that is typing-induced carpal tunnel syndrome, you need to keep them in a neutral position. Wrists should not be angled up or down while typing. Keep your keyboard level with your elbows to maintain this position (an adjustable keyboard is ideal but if that’s not an option, adjust the height of your chair). Some keyboards come with a built-in wrist rest; if yours doesn’t, order one. Same goes for operating your mouse--use an ergonomic mousepad to save your dominant wrist from ruin by keeping it in a neutral position rather than straining it at an angle.
If your office has a window--whether it's next to your desk, or surrounding the larger bullpen where you spend your days--be thankful. Recent studies have shown that employees who have natural light exposure through an office window sleep more at night, have lower blood pressure, and laugh more than those in windowless offices. It shouldn't take an elaborate research study to clue employers in about the fact that a dark, dismal workstation with no sunlight impedes productivity and worker satisfaction, thereby affecting the company's bottom line. But I digress. Whatever your situation, make sure you catch some rays, even if you have to leave the office to do it.
Face It, We're Cubed
Cube Life is Killing Me
13 Reasons You’re Sleep-Deprived (NYMag)
The Slouchproof Desk (NYMag)
You're Losing Sleep Just by Working in a Windowless Cubicle (Bloomberg)
Depression risk for workers starved of light (Daily Telegraph)
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