Desk height, screen height, chair height, seat-tilt, back-rest, arms, mouse left or right, “ergonomic” keyboard, wrist support, lumbar support ….

The variables go on and on. How do you get comfortable and stay functional and productive?

Lets start from the beginning …

If you can be comfortable, then you are more able to concentrate and be productive. Avoiding physical discomfort, also avoids a source of stress, since discomfort-tension demands energy and attention.

What makes it easy to sit comfortably in such a way that you remain functional and productive? We know that we operate best when we are relaxed yet alert, poised, ready for action, without being tense. Ergonomic considerations such as desk and screen height etc. flow perfectly logically when we understand how to remain easily upright, how to sit without strain or unnecessary effort.

Balance of the head is important.

Your head weighs about 5.5 kilograms. If it is habitually held too far back, or too far forward, there is an immediate demand for muscular compensation from the rest of your balancing processes. Compensation takes the form of tightening something somewhere else and the net effect is more effort and less ease. If you organise your chair, desk and screen height on the basis of this less-than-optimal balance, then you commit yourself to maintaining it. This strongly pre-disposes you to discomfort and possible injury.

Contact with the chair is also important.

Why do we slouch in a soft armchair or sofa? Why is it an effort to run in soft sand? Same reason. Our nervous system needs the information it gets from the surface we rest on, to switch on all the postural processes that straighten us out and hold us up. On a soft or shifting surface we do not get the quality of information that makes the job of being upright easy or sustainable.

A firm seat makes the job much easier.

Have you ever noticed how you sit up, at first at least, before you tire, when you sit on a hard bench or kitchen chair? If the seat of your chair is not very firm (more than 20mm padding) it may feel comfortable initially. However it will also contribute to your getting tired more quickly. It makes it more difficult to stay comfortable over about an hour. It makes doing your job harder.

So, how much energy are you putting into balancing on your chair, that is misplaced and actually makes being there harder than necessary? How much energy is going into keeping yourself still, and therefore making movement (breathing, keying, writing, reading, telephoning etc) more effortful than it need be? If you haven’t considered the balance of your head, or the firmness of your chair, it may be that you could achieve some major personal efficiency dividends. It could maker you fitter for the long haul.

Need more help?

Arrange a one-on-one consultation covering chair adjustment, the broader ergonomics of your workstation, and instruction in how to approach sitting comfortably upright. Click here.

© M Stenning, Canberra 1997

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