Read any ergonomics flyer or website and you'll see diagrams of figures sitting with their bum pushed against the back of an office chair, with arms at right angles and feet flat on the floor.
Sure, some of that advice might be sound, but Bill Adamson, spokesperson for Osteopathy Australia, says the ergonomics industry is often full of gimmicks and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for everybody.
Adamson himself sits on a backless “dentist” chair and he says shuffling forward and sitting on the front edge of your seat can be fine, provided your hips are at 90 degrees.
“You don’t want to have them up higher than 90 degrees [from a chair that’s too low or a footrest that’s too high] because then it starts to push your lower back backwards a bit too much,” he told ninemsn Coach.
So how can you get your workstation set up to make your day at the office as comfortable as can be?
1. Start symmetrical
The aim of the work posture game is to try to reduce the amount of pressure gravity puts on your body. So if you can get your head sitting upright on your shoulders and your shoulders sitting directly over your hips, your skeleton will do most of the work.
“You need a good base set up,” Adamson says.
“Essentially, gravity’s constantly pushing down [on your body], and instead of gravity being pushed into one part of our body that has to constantly hold us up, [sitting like this means] it’s distributed evenly throughout the body.”
But while this base set-up is important, Adamson says you don’t want to sit rigid in the one position all day.
“Use the back of the chair occasionally, and then you can lean forward a little bit,” he says.
2. Mix things up
While you ideally want to come back to your base position as much as possible, Adamson says you don’t need to freak out if you occasionally hunch or tilt throughout the day.
“Most people in your office will be holding some pretty bad postures at certain points of the day,” Adamson.
“No one sits bolt upright all the time, and [to suggest people do that is] pretty unrealistic. In fact, it’d be vastly uncomfortable to sit bolt upright all the time — that’s why we move, wriggle and squirm.”
3. Set a movement timer
If he could give one piece of advice, Adamson says that your number one focus should be moving for two minutes out of every 20.
“If you stay still for too long then you get aches and pains, which can be caused by the build-up of by-products of energy creation that just sit still in the muscles,” Adamson says.
“It could also be that the muscles need to be flushed — you get increase in blood flow to the muscle so that you don’t get that aching or burning sensation that people often get when sitting still for long times.
But that doesn’t mean you have to run laps of your office.
“It just has to be something that takes you away from the posture you’ve been holding — even just roll your shoulders 10 times backwards and 10 times forwards ” Adamson says.
“If you do that throughout the day, then not only does it decrease the pain that you’re going to suffer as a result of posture-related pain, but it also increases your work productivity, because your brain gets a refresh every 20 minutes as well.”