Ergonomics in the workplace I

Every one of us has been there – “just one more hour and then I will be done” or “Just one more article” and when you check the time four hours have passed and you end up having a painful back, neck or shoulder.

The setup of your workplace is an extremely important aspect in your life and can prevent onset or progression of pain in certain areas. Most people have the following in a workplace: a desk, a chair, a laptop or computer and papers to work from. I know, not all people sit and work, so then standing at a desk is another option.


Let’s address the most important factor – posture!

Posture is a pretty straight forward thing that we grew up with always having to correct. My grandmother used to say: “Sit up straight, you are nearly folded in half” but what does sitting up straight and standing up straight really mean?

When you are sitting down your ear, shoulder, elbow and hip should be aligned. This doesn’t mean you should push your chest out, pull the shoulders back and cramp up your back, no. All this means is to activate your back muscles to help support your weight. When you look more in depth, the chin is slightly down, the shoulders completely relaxed, pulled away from the ears and the elbows bent at a 90° angle. The hips are bent at 90° or between 60° and 90° if you have hip or lower back aches. It is important for the feet to always stay supported. The same goes for standing up: ear, shoulder, hip, knees and ankles are in line. The chin is pulled slightly down and the shoulders are relaxed. Activate the deep core muscles for extra lower back support.

Tips and tricks

When sitting for long periods, try taking breaks every 30min-1hour. The break doesn’t need to be long, all you can do is have a glass of water, roll your shoulders back, stretch your legs and back and let your eyes rest. This rest totals up to 2min at a time and your will be set to work for another hour.

Painful lower back and legs are common with sitting even in the correct posture. Put a small neck pillow behind your lower back for extra support.

If you have a painful lower back when standing, placing your one leg on a small step in front of you will assist a neutral pelvic tilt and therefore help ease the pain.

Keep an eye out for the next blog post about placement of objects in the workplace. If you in any way have consistent pain, please do not hesitate to contact your doctor or physiotherapist here at Elan Healthstyle!


Chantel Cronje – team physiotherapist


Allison Blair

All stories by: Allison Blair