If you were going to describe how a programmer sits at his or her desk, what would you say? If you search Google images for “programmer posture” you’ll find some doozies! Its safe to say that programmers are stereotyped to have bad posture while working. And I don’t think that is surprising! If you sit at a computer for long hours, you know how easy it is to get lazy with posture. When focusing in a task, who is going to take a second to think about their posture? Well you should! We’re on to part 3 of a 5 part series. As mentioned previously, although I’m centreing out programmers in this series, the topic should be relevant to anyone that considers him or herself a heavy computer user.
In this blog post, I’m going to talk to you about what I call the “fall-back” position. The fall-back position is the seated posture that we have the habit of putting ourselves into after sitting for a long period of time, or when doing a task that seems to be requiring an extra level of attention. Regardless of how hard we try, we always have a fall-back. I know I certainly do; I catch myself in my fall-back almost daily!
Out of our ergonomicsHelp ergo-dummies below, which dummy are you right now?
For those of you that said #3, I’m impressed! If you also say that you never fall-back into one of the other two positions, I’m very impressed. For the rest of you, hopefully you’ve straightened up (I did while proof reading this). The first two are prime examples of “the lazy posture” that programmers are often guilty of. I’m going to peek at two of my favourite lazy postures, but there are hundreds of variations. If you know a good one, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to make a dummy diagram.
If you seen our product, The Ultimate Chair Adjustment Guide, you should! We’ll borrow the proper chair setup from our guide for comparison.
I won’t get into the proper setup, but just as a quick refresher, you can see that the dummy above has its feet flat on the floor, and the joint angles at the ankle, knee, hips, and elbows are in their neutral positions. The back is flat on the backrest of the chair, the dummy’s natural gaze is just barely above the top of the monitor and the dummy is sitting about an arm length from the monitor. Let’s compare this with my two lazy postures.
This dummy has its feet up, and is sitting in a reclined position. How typical is this? This one is my fall-back when I’m tired. So what is the problem with this posture? A lot is wrong! Let’s start with the back. Starting with the lower back, you can see a big gap between the dummy and the chair. The dummy’s lumbar region has no support which is an ergonomic risk factor for lower back discomfort. Moving upward, you can see that the upper back and neck are in awkward positions, and the arms are reaching forward (awkward shoulder posture). These are all ergonomic risk factors for upper back and upper extremity discomfort. The monitor is also too high above the neutral eye height and the viewing distance is too far. These result in the head being in a hunched position and can lead to upper body discomfort and headaches.
This is my fall-back posture when I’m really focusing on a task. And it can hurt! Obviously the head and neck are hunched forward and the monitor is technically too high leading to neck extension. These postures are clear ergonomic risk factors leading to headaches and neck discomfort. Since the dummy is sitting so forward on their chair, it causes the elbows to be bent more 90 degrees, which can lead to localized elbow discomfort (I know this one!). Not only is the lower back not supported by the lumbar support of the chair, the dummy is in a flexed forward position. This is an ergonomic risk factor as it places much greater pressure on the back. The is probably one of the riskiest back positions that you could assume as it leads to back fatigue and strain. There is no point considering an ergonomic chair if you are going sit like this all of the time! And if you don’t see the risk in sitting like this, I’m sure you’ll be back to us in the future when your back is killing you! Lastly, the knees are tucked underneath the chair, the thighs aren’t supported, the feet are crossed over and only the toes on one foot are touching the ground. Once again this is a risky position because the weight of the lower extremities aren’t being transferred to the floor. Instead, the dummy’s lower back must compensate which further increases the risk for lower back discomfort over time.
The moral of the story: Don’t Sit Like a Dummy!
If you haven’t read yesterday’s post on how to properly set-up your chair, do it now! A comfortable and ergonomically fitting chair can prevent you from falling-back into lazy postures. Next week we talk office equipment!