Over the years of assessing people at work, I have noticed one important factor that rings true every time: people who are relaxed while working rarely get injured. These are the people who sit at their computers in a laid-back posture looking very untroubled. Their shoulders are low and slack, not hunched up; their back is against the backrest; their head and neck are loose, not peering forward into the computer; and their legs are stretched out in a relaxed posture. These people sometimes start to have aches and pains, but they make the necessary adjustments to stop them. Maybe they change the height of their monitor, maybe they alternate hands when mousing, maybe they use more keyboard shortcuts, maybe they try a different chair, etc. They usually keep trying a lot of different things and mix their working postures up too. They may slouch, stand, or use a laptop for half an hour in an arm chair or bean bag. They also take lots of breaks – they get water, coffee, and snacks; they chat with other people; and they go for walks outside.
And just in case it sounds like these people weren’t getting their work done, the opposite was actually true. They worked just as hard, if not harder, when they were chilling out. Maybe they had more energy to work from keeping their body loose, or maybe they were more productive because their bodies weren’t being distracted by nagging aches and pains.
It turns out my theory has been researched and proven as well. An article titled “Work technique and its consequences for musculoskeletal disorders” found that workers who had a forward neck flexion and raised arms ended up with more neck and shoulder problems. Those who had a dynamic pattern of movements were less likely to be injured.
So some of my best ergonomics advice … relax at work. Here are some things to try:
- Keep your whole body loose. To see what relaxed feels like, tense up your muscles, take a deep breath and let them loose. Do this frequently throughout the day.
- Pretend you’re on the couch watching TV or a movie. That’s exact feeling of relaxation you want when working.
- Change your posture often. Try different things. Don’t be afraid to slouch or twist, just as long as you keep moving and don’t spend too much time in one posture or the other.
- Take breaks.
- Go for a walk.
- Do range of motion exercises. Rotate your arms around your shoulder sockets. Alternate raising your knees to your hips when standing. Flex and extend your wrists.
- Micropause. While waiting for your computer to load, relax your arms.
- Deep breathe constantly. Even one deep breath gives you a feeling of instant relaxation.
Please leave a comment if you have any other tips on how to relax!