How long did your standing desk last? Mine was about a week. And here’s the thing, research is suggesting that whether you sit or stand, what matters most is that you are doing it with the right posture.
Office work has always required a lot of sitting, but in today’s digital landscape, it’s harder to escape the screen than the piles of paperwork from decades ago. If you’re like me, instead of moving away from your desk when you need a break, you take a look at what your friends are up to on Facebook or whatever’s happening on Twitter. And, I’m not trashing that. There’s a social component to our nature that helps us be happier and more productive, but we also need to remember to move.
Your body needs your blood to circulate and your eyes to rest. Whether you’re working against a deadline or checking how many likes your last post garnered, position your body in a way that will keep it healthier, longer. To keep your body in top form, ensure you maintain proper posture throughout your time in front of the screen.
Consider these tips to keep your body aligned no matter how long your project is – you may even have some energy left to check your feeds before heading out the door.
Protect Your Neck and Spine
Proper alignment means stacking your joints. When you sit, that means making sure your spine is supporting your neck and head. When you stand, your spine should be doing the same thing, but your stomach and butt muscles should be helping it. To ensure you are doing this, place your monitor in such a way that you aren’t straining your neck forward or backward – it should be about an arm’s length away with the top of your screen just below eye level. Adjustable font is the bees’ knees; make sure you keep it large enough to prevent eye strain.
Keep Your Feet Flat
There are a bazillion ways to sit wrong – from dangling toes to too much bend at the knees. When you are doing it right, your feet are flat on the floor (or a footrest) and your knees are at a right angle. Your spine should be straight and should be equally as supportive as the back of your chair. There are many ergonomic items the market will try to sell you on, but a good chair isn’t a gimmick. Find one that naturally supports the curve of your spine and will adjust for various shoe heights.
If you stand at your desk, avoid relying on one side when you get fatigued.
Watch Elbow Alignment
Your elbows should stay tucked into your sides while you type or use your mouse. Like your knees, elbows should be at ninety degrees. Some people use wrist pads for support, but remember that those are for brief pauses; you shouldn’t be typing with pads under your wrist. Don’t bend your wrists too far up or down. Bad posture makes your shoulders roll forward. When this happens, it shortens your neck and shoulder muscles, compressing the nerves in your neck and creating issues with your wrists, hands, and fingers – leading to issues with carpel tunnel syndrome.
Stand With Care
Claims that “sitting is the new smoking” have created a sense of panic in many people whose livelihood depends on sitting at a desk. The consequences of inactivity have caused many to jump on the standing desk phenomenon. It sounds like a great idea, but it’s no magic solution – at least it wasn’t for me. The calories you save standing as opposed to sitting are fairly minuscule, and some Danish studies found people who stand for prolonged periods at work suffered more from enlarged veins. If you do stand, rely on your muscles rather than your bones. One way to do that is to keep your core engaged.
And when you aren’t working, make sure you get some exercise.
Pay Attention to the Eyes
Part of a healthy posture is knowing where your head – and therefore your eyes – should be when looking at a screen. Your monitor should be between 16 and 30 inches away from your face for optimal eye care. While we are talking about the eyes, be sure to keep the 20-20-20 rule in mind: for every 20 minutes of screen time, look away for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away.
If you start to get headaches or your eyes feel strained, it might be time to check your glasses. Remember that your eye muscles need breaks, too.
Being Aware of Your Habits Is Half the Battle
Proper physical alignment can transform the discomfort many feel after being behind a desk for hours at a time. Ensure you have the best chair height for your body, plenty of space, and stacked joints for a happy body at the end of a long work week.