Office Ergonomics Myths, Busted

Everything you knew about the right way to sit and work is wrong

Standing desks, exercise balls, specially designed backrests — tried them all but nothing seems to ease that backache? You might have been misled by outdated ergonomics guidelines.

New studies have revealed that what was deemed ideal before may not be the best for you. Here’s what’s been debunked, plus the revised rules on how to fine-tune your desk setup and work routine for healthier joints and a happier you.

1. Your computer monitor should be 18 to 24 inches away from your head

This previously prescribed optimal working distance is unnecessarily close. The best distance according to new studies? “As far away as possible while still being able to read off your monitor clearly”, since that will put less strain on your eyes.

2. When seated, your legs should be bent at an angle of 90 degrees at the knee

The 90-degree knee posture, although not a harmful position, is not the best for your body. The legs should be free to move very often, and not stay fixed in any position. One rule remains true — the chair should, if possible, be adjusted low enough for the feet to rest on the floor.

3. Wrist rests provide good support and should always be used

Not always true — they might not be of help or can even cause harm if they’re too thick, thin or hard, especially since the carpal tunnel is under the wrist and should not be subjected to pressure. If the wrist rest you’re using doesn’t feel quite right, don’t make do. Try other options...or perhaps you’re better off not using one at all.

4. Sitting with the correct posture at your desk will ease strain

There is no such thing as a correct posture. Instead, aim for plenty of posture changes. Sitting down for too long might kill you faster down the road, but standing while you work will give you a backache, too. Changing your posture every now and then gets fluid pumped back to the intervertebral discs so they can recover from the pressure put on them when locked into any given position for too long.

5. Take a work break every two hours or so

That’s not enough for single-task work such as typing. Experts advise that we raise the frequency of our breaks to once every 10 minutes. Get up, do some stretches, dance, jump, wiggle - anything to break out of your sitting position - for about 30 seconds or so.

Photo: Knoll

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