‘Work shouldn’t hurt’: Easy ways to make your desk safer and more comfortable

Click to play video: 'Here are 5 things to consider to avoid office-related injuries'
Here are 5 things to consider to avoid office-related injuries
ABOVE: Here are 5 things to consider to avoid office-related injuries – Jan 13, 2020

From construction sites to office cubicles, every workplace has the potential for injury.

In fact, there were 251,508 accepted claims for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease in 2018, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational health and Safety (CCOHS).

“Across Canada, somebody is injured in the workplace almost once every two minutes,” Steve Fischer, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, told Global News.

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Some jobs are undeniably more dangerous than others, but sitting at a desk all day also comes with its own set of risks.

“When we look at the evidence, prolonged anything — whether it’s lifting heavy boxes [or] sitting in an office chair — doing the same thing for an extended period of time can cause problems,” Fischer said.
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In the case of a desk job, a prolonged static posture is the major worry.

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“It has an effect on the underlying tissues in our body, and it can lead to people developing pain, progressively developing into injuries and other problems,” he said.

The good news is that desk-related pain and injury is easily preventable. The key, said Fischer, is to catch discomfort early — before it becomes something worse.

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“We have a tendency to let these things go … but if it gets worse, it can become really hard to deal with,” he said.

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“If a worker begins to feel pain — maybe it’s in the shoulder, maybe it’s the neck or the back — it’s really important to bring awareness to the issue.”

Simple ergonomic adjustments like adjusting the height of your computer monitor, adjusting your chair height and introducing a more diverse set of postures throughout the day can be extremely effective, but they work better the sooner they’re implemented.

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Determining the comfort and safety of your desk situation can be as easy as asking yourself a few simple questions.

“Am I changing it up and moving? Is my body supported by my armrests? Do I have an appropriate keyboard?” said Fischer.

Here, Karen Joudrey, an occupational therapist and an instructor at the school of occupational therapy at Dalhousie University, shares some tips you can use the next time you’re at your desk.

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The 90-90-90 rule

When you’re sitting all day, it’s important to pay attention to how you sit so that you’re not unintentionally injuring your neck or back.

Joudrey uses the “90-90-90” rule to remind people of the best way to sit.

“Your hips [should be] at 90 degrees, your elbows at 90 degrees and your ankles at 90 degrees,” she said.

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It’s common for people who sit at a desk to place their feet on the legs of their office chair, but this can compromise blood flow and circulation.

“Ideally, when you’re sitting in your chair … you should have about two fingers of space between the back of your knee and the edge of the chair,” said Joudrey.

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“It can cause you to sit in an anterior pelvic tilt with your tailbone out. You don’t want that; you want a neutral posture of your hips.”

The 20-20-20 rule

“For the general office worker, my biggest piece of advice is to get up and move,” said Joudrey.

If you have flexibility in the type of work that you do, try to stand up and move as much as you can.

Joudrey calls this the “20-20-20” rule: “Every 20 minutes, get up, walk 20 feet, 20 steps for 20 seconds,” she said.

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While you’re up, make a point of changing your eye gaze to give your vision a break, too.

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“Every 20 minutes might seem ambitious to people while they’re sitting, very focused on something,” she said.

“But 20 seconds is enough to reset and give you that mental break, give your eyes a break and keep your body active.”

Other changes you can make

Lighting can have a huge impact on your well-being at work.

“If your computer screen is against a window, that’s going to cause some contrast, which could give you fatigue,” said Joudrey.

She also recommends trying to move your seat to in between rows of lights, instead of directly underneath. Sitting directly underneath a row of lights can cause glare, causing you to squint.

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Getting up to walk around can also help you avoid digital eye strain, which can happen when you sit at a computer screen for too long.

“You blink less when you’re staring at a computer screen, so be intentional about getting up and moving around,” said Joudrey.

“Give your eyes a break. During the break, let your eyes focus on different points.”

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