Seated Computer Risk – Movement or Posture?

I find the popular perception is that repetitive strain injuries are the significant (slow hurt) danger in office environments.  Repeated keying and mousing is certainly a concern, but I find the greater hazard is the posture many of us maintain during our seated computer work.  Too often, I observe people slouching and reaching forward.

I came across some metrics that reinforced my belief.  I finished a year-end report for one of our larger Calgary office ergonomics clients.  As part of our regular process, we invite anyone requesting an ergonomic evaluation to fill out our simple, on-line discomfort survey.  The data from 131 responses showed that 3 body parts (coincidentally) all had the same incidence of discomfort at 36%.  The body parts were the right shoulder, the neck and the lower back.  Next was the right wrist (24%), the left shoulder (21%) and then the upper back (19%).  For me, this was a clear indication that posture is the most significant hazard with the workers at this client company.  High levels of discomfort for the shoulders, neck, low back and upper back indicate a slouched posture.   So now we need to figure out what to do about it.  Once we ensure the workstations are set-up properly, we may need to reinforce our posture coaching with some computer-based prompts about posture or peer observations.

To reduce the incidence of back and neck discomfort, avoid reaching or slouching by keeping your shoulder blades against the backrest and tucking in close.  You can link to our one-pager on workstation set-up to help you make sure your own workstation is encouraging you to “sit back and relax”.

About Rob Fontaine

Rob works with a wide range of clients providing ergonomic evaluations, safe movement coaching as well as advice on integrating ergonomics into successful safety processes.

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