By Lizzie Russell
It’s well-documented that desk jobs can cause health problems – though we’re hardly facing the same hazards as our ancestors’ professional lives (be they miner, mill worker or powder monkey) chances are you’ve noticed aches, twinges and the obesity epidemic which have all been linked to sitting down and tapping away at a keyboard all day.
And in the modern workplace, desks are inescapable: Whether it’s law, admin, health or insurance jobs you’re after, you’re going to have to be prepared to put in some hours at the keyboard. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health. Just a few small adjustments to your desktop lifestyle can mean a huge improvement in your energy, posture and general health levels. Below are five pointers which should help with your work well-being. Therefore I would like to share with you five ways you can stay healthy at your desk.
1. Strike a pose: A bad back is probably one of the biggest complaints of office workers. Sitting down all day slumped over a computer screen can cause problems between your shoulders, on your lower back and around your neck, so it’s crucial you do everything you can to be comfortable. Sit up straight with the base of your back against the base of your backrest, and suck your tummy in to engage your stomach muscles – it creates a strong core which will help to support your spine. Drop your arms down by your sides so your shoulders are as relaxed as they can be and keep your feet flat on the floor – your seat height should mean that your knees stay level with or slightly below your hips.
2. Take breaks: For every fifty minutes you spend at your desk, spend ten minutes upright and walking about. This doesn’t mean slacking – just offer to do a tea and coffee round or make regular trips to see your colleagues. It’s easy to shoot off an e-mail to a co-worker, but making contact directly instead will mean you’re working out and working more efficiently.
3. Carefully position your computer: The top of your screen should be at eye height and at least an arm’s length away from your face – the more you have to crane your neck, the more you’ll feel the strain at the end of the day. Position your keyboard and mouse near the edge of your desk so you don’t have to stretch to reach for them and resist the urge to rest your wrists on a surface; instead, keep your hands hovering over the keys. All this should free up your movements, relax your back and stop you getting achy hands and fingers.
4. Drink water and avoid sugary snacks: This might seem like obvious advice, but it’s not easy to follow – becoming absorbed in a spreadsheet can mean you forget to hydrate, and when your eyes droop it’s hard to resist the call of the vending machine. So, keep a bottle of water at your desk to remind you to top up your liquids and keep a healthy snack to hand to replete your energy reserves: you’ll be fuller and more energized for longer.
5. Keep it clean: A study conducted in 2008 showed that desk environments can harbor all sorts of nasty bacteria – grubby fingers and crumbs from your working lunch provide a playground for germs. Failing to wash your hands, sharing your phone with a sick colleague and letting the dust and dirt pile up can all put your health at risk, so to keep bugs at bay you should give everything a good wipe down with anti-bacterial cloths at least once a week.
Lizzie Russell wrote this post in association with Join, the recruitment arm of Direct Line Group Insurance, one of the largest recruiters for insurance jobs in the UK. TheWorkingWardrobe partnered with Join for the publication of this article.