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How to sit correctly and safely at your office desk

Expert advice from Choice Training

Back ache office desk

If reducing work place stress and looking after yourself is a priority start with your desk.  Bad office ergonomics and long hours of sitting in front of computer screens can lead to joint pains.

Orlagh Deegan of is a qualified VDU / DSE Assessor who carries out work place assessments and also trains employees to become in-house assessors has the following advice

Start with your chair. Does it provide good lumber support? It should have a 5 castor base and features should include adjustable seat height, back rest and arms. Not only should the back move up and down but you should be able to adjust the rocker so you can sit slightly back, taking pressure off the hips.

Chair height is important to reduce over stretching. Your arm should form a 90 degree angle just above desk height. Don’t make the mistake of lowering the chair so your feet can reach the ground. This only causes your arms to overreach. If your feet are not stable on the ground a footrest will be required.

Next, your head! Did you know the average head weighs around 5kg? Do you slouch or look down a lot? If so, you are putting incredible strain on your neck, shoulders and back. Making sure your screen is positioned at the right height is very important. Sit up straight, look straight ahead – your screen should be at least an arms length away and your eyes should land at the top of the screen.

Being able to type properly is defiantly beneficial as you won’t need to look down so much. Another way to prevent strain from looking down is to use a document holder so you can prop up your diary or notes to eye level in line with your screen.

Are your keyboard and mouse in good working order and easy to reach without over stretching? If you experience wrist strain, perhaps you could try an ergonomic mouse. Do you spend a lot of time on the phone, perhaps balancing it between your shoulder and ear? A simple and very effective tool here is a headset. They alleviate strain on the neck and also free up your hands meaning you can multitask minus the strain.

Take Screen Breaks! In every hour, spend at least 10 minutes not looking at your screen. Try to alternates your tasks. Break up screen time with filing, meetings, old fashioned paperwork, phone calls. When you stare at a screen your blink rate is considerably reduced. Micro breaks: Every 20 minutes look away from the screen and blink 20 times to refresh the eyes.

Stand up as often as you can. Sitting for long hours is unhealthy and  puts a lot of strain on your body. If you are ever given the option  of a height adjustable desk that you can use in standing position take it. More and more offices are introducing standing desks and feedback from employees is great. If you do not have a standing desk, set a reminder to stand up every hour and stretch.

Every employee who uses a screen for more than 1 hour in their everyday work is legally entitled to an ergonomic assessment and also the right to an eye-test.

Contact Orlagh at for more information on workplace requirements. 

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