My OT tips

Safe Sitting at Work

Is your job giving you a pain in the neck…literally?  Time to look at your workstation ergonomics!! Ergo-who?

{Ergo-The term “ergonomics” is derived from two Greek words: “ergon,” meaning work, and “nomoi,” meaning natural laws.}

In other words, ergonomics is the study of fitting a person to a job. Here’s more info about an occupational therapist’s role with ergonomics in the workplace. When we look specifically at workstation ergonomics, it’s referring to the positioning and alignment of the worker’s body in relation to the desk, chair, computer, lighting etc. 

About 86% of Americans are sitting for the majority of their work day, which on average is 40+ hours of sitting per week. Prolonged sitting at a workstation, whether at home or at the office, could lead to repetitive strain injuries for your spine and other joints, and potentially contribute to lifelong health issues.

#1- Set up your desk for success:

Here are some quick tips for how to set up your desk at work so that you are in optimal sitting position:

  • Getting a proper chair is key. You want a chair that can be adjustable to your height so that your feet are firmly on the floor. If they are dangling above the ground, this could be pulling on your lower back.
  • The chair should also support the natural curvature of your back. An alternative fix is to place a small pillow or towel roll as lumbar support so there is no gap between your lower back and the chair. 
  • Some people place the computer monitor at an angle to their keyboard for aesthetics. This forces you to turn your head in order to see the screen. This is a big no-no for your neck! Always align the monitor in front of you.
  • Check your arms: Make sure you are not elevating your shoulders when you type and that your wrists are supported on the desk. Add gel wrist rests for your keyboard and mouse if you’re able to.
  • If you are on the phone a lot for work, don’t cradle the phone between your ear and your shoulder as you type. This can cause strain on your neck and your shoulders. Instead, use speakerphone, headset or bluetooth ear piece.

My friend, Mary, helped me stage a home-office setup to demonstrate the Do’s and Don’ts:

#2- take mini-rest breaks:

  • Every 30 minutes, do a quick stretch in your chair, shake out your shoulders and gently roll your neck around. Cover your eyes for 10 seconds to give them a break from the bright computer screen you’ve been staring at
  • Every hour, get up to stretch your entire body. It can even be a functional walk around the office to grab something off the printer, get some water or take a bathroom break.

My clinical opinion about modern workplace alternatives:

Therapy balls replacing desk chairs

About a decade ago these were all the rage in offices. People thought it would be a great idea to move away from the traditional desk chair and sit on this ball. They claimed it helped tone the tummy and promote better posture. WELL, yes and no. It can be good exercise for your core, but only for 20-30 minutes at at time. Your spine isn’t designed to sit unsupported for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Not to mention you look pretty ridiculous and will likely fall off a few times. Bottom Line: Stick with the chair.

Phone Shoulder Rests

These were designed to allow “hands-free” phone calls at the office. However, if you’ve ever tried one, you’d notice that still end up compensating by tilting your neck and elevating your shoulder to sandwich the phone in between, leaving you with muscle pain/strain. You might as well go with the third photo here. Bottom Line: Use a headset, speakerphone or bluetooth.


Sit/stand Desks

These unique workstations are designed to allow two positions: sitting or standing. They allow for correct anatomical alignment in both positions while also employing proper ergonomic design. As mentioned before, it’s a good idea to get up and stretch throughout the day, and this workstation would enable switching from sit to stand as much as necessary.   Bottom Line: I definitely approve of this alternative!



Hope this post was helpful for you. If you want 1:1 consultation regarding your workstation via e-mail, go to the “contact me” page and shoot me a message!

Now stop monkeying around and get back to work.