Tips for Proper Ergonomics and Staying Healthy at the Office

We spoke last week about the start of September signaling a kind of “second New Year” for the year and bringing with ait a feeling of resetting and newness.

Staying on that theme, why not take this time of year to refresh your workspace and create a healthier work environment for yourself! We spend a big portion of our time at work, so and making a few tweaks to your office set up can have a huge impact on your health and happiness!

In this week’s post, we’re sharing tips on how to create a healthy office environment.

Practice proper office ergonomics

Ergonomics is the study of reducing strain and injury by practicing proper alignment and workspace design. It has been around for many years now, but most people still don’t take it as seriously as they should. Over time, improper alignment can lead to a whole host of short term and long-term issues- the little misalignment done repetitively every day for years on end can really add up.

Many offices offer ergonomic consultations to their employees, but if this isn’t an option for you, there is a lot you can do on your own. The basic guideline to keep in mind is that you want the angels of your body at more or less 90-degree angles: sitting upright, arms at 90 degrees, legs at 90 degrees from the body. This image from the University of Michigan offers a great visual.

There are tons of articles online that can help you fine tune your office ergonomics, but the following tips are a great place to start.

(Note: we’re not Ergonomics experts! This info comes from The University of Michigan and The University of Pittsburgh).

  • Position your computer monitor at your eye line, so your neck doesn’t have to bend up or down to look at the screen.
  • Your elbows should be at a 90-110 degree angle, so adjust your seat accordingly.
  • Don’t slouch in your chair. You don’t need to be rigid, but make sure that you’re sitting on your seat bones, not slouched onto your tailbone, and maintain a natural curve in your low back.
  • Hips should be at a 90-110 degree angle from the floor and feet should be planted on the ground. If your feet don’t reach the ground, use a footrest.
  • If you’re using a laptop, invest in a separate keyboard and mouse. Then place your laptop up on some books or a box until it’s at eye level, and you’ll have everything properly aligned!

Reduce eye strain

Proper ergonomic alignment will help to greatly reduce eye strain, but there are some other things you can do to further reduce the strain caused by staring at monitor or smartphone screen for hours on end.

First, take frequent breaks. Our eyes are meant to move regularly between close and far distances, and when we stare at a computer monitor, our eyes are held in one position. This causes muscle fatigue of the muscles responsible for close vision, and muscle atrophy of muscles responsible for distance vision.

To counteract this, it’s recommended that you follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes (set a timer so you don’t forget!) look 20 feet ahead of you for 20 seconds. This will engage the muscles required for long distance vision and relax the ones used for close up vision.

Other tips for reducing eye strain:

  • Make sure to blink regularly. When you stare at a fixed spot, you tend to blink less, which can cause your eyes to become dry and irritated.
  • Tilt your monitor slightly to reduce glare off your screen, which can be hard on your eyes.
  • Adjust your computer screen to approximately match the light in the room around you. If your screen is either too bright or too dark, it can be hard on your eyes.

Stay hydrated

Many offices are very drying, thanks to AC, poor air circulation, and just generally being indoors all day. Make sure you stay hydrated by regularly drinking water. You can also keep hand cream and lip balm on hand if you find the air particularly drying.

Filter your water

Depending on your office building and city you live in, the taps/water quality may not be ideal. Rather than relying on bottled water, you can filter your water at your desk. Check your local health food stores for charcoal sticks, which you can add right into a jug of water to filter out any chemicals. It’s a super easy and affordable way to purify your water.

Take advantage of your lunch hour

Are you the type that spends their lunch break eating in front of the computer? Nix the habit STAT! Getting outside and enjoying some fresh air and sunshine will do wonders for your mood and health.

Taking a physical and mental break from the office will help you to recharge and refresh, and bonus points if you take a walk on your lunch break! Another major benefit is that exposure to midday sun plays a huge role in regulating your circadian rhythm. Our bodies’ sleep cycles are regulated in large part by daylight, and being inside with artificial lighting all day can really mess with this cycle. Getting some direct sun exposure signals to your body that it is daytime, and your body will release the chemicals you need to be alert and energized. This midday exposure will also help your body to create the chemicals you need to sleep later in the day.

Some offices allow for shorter breaks throughout the day as well- take advantage of these if you have them and pop outside for a little fresh air and sunshine.

Take mini breaks

In addition to your lunch and coffee breaks, make sure to take frequent mini breaks throughout the day. As we mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to take a short break every 20 minutes or so to prevent eye strain, but you can also take these quick breaks to stand up, stretch, and move around. Our bodies thrive on movement, and we’re not meant to stay in one position for long periods of time.

Being somewhat sedentary is an unavoidable factor of most office jobs, but you can greatly reduce the effects of a sedentary job with these short micro breaks.

Personalize your space

Empty offices spaces or cubicles can be, well, kind of depressing. Personalizing your office can go a long way in making it a space that makes you happy and comfortable to be in. Depending on your office, you may have varying degrees of control over what you can do, but the following are some easy additions that most offices should allow for.

  • Real, if possible! A touch of natural greenery can really brighten up a space, and some reports even show that they can help to purify the air.
  • A lamp. Soften bad office lighting with a desk lamp.
  • Pictures or your family and loved ones really help to make your space your own.
  • Include anything else that makes you happy to look at and that warms up your space. This could mean swapping your office stapler for a cute rose gold version, keeping your favorite mug at your desk, a vase of flowers, or anything else that you love.

By making a few tweaks to your office space and habits, you can greatly improve your workday wellness!

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