Take Control of Your Workspace Before It Takes Control of You

Published on February 21, 2017 by Dr. Kevin Marryshow

A 5 Step Guide to Bulletproofing Your Body at Your Workstation

So you’ve been working on an intense project at the office and you haven’t moved since you started plugging away at it 8:00am this morning. It’s now 11:15am and you’re about to get up to hurry to the restroom so you could get right back to work. As you start to stand up out of your chair, out of nowhere (bang), your lower back goes into spasm and all of a sudden you can’t stand up as the pain is unbearable.

We have all experienced an episode of pain, tension, discomfort etc. at the office and suddenly your week takes a turn for the worst and instead of  being productive at work the focus sadly shifts to just getting through the week dealing with the pain. We have waited and pleaded for the most ergonomically correct chair or 

mouse for long enough. It’s time we change the culture of  pleading with ourselves to make a change and instead start adapting to our workstations and stop waiting for it to adapt to us. No matter how many workplace assessments you request the likelihood of painful flare-ups will remain until you take a stance and empower yourself to move more at work, to take more breaks, to show your body the same attention you show your projects. I think we can agree your body deserves it.

Here is your 5 step guide to bulletproofing your body at your workstation:

1. Microbreak is the most important word here

Have you ever heard the term “microbreak”? If you have then take them more often because your body craves them. If you haven’t, your time at work is about to change forever. A microbreak is exactly as it sounds, taking a small break during your day. A microbreak is an amazing way to offload the tension and stress on your neck and your back at work. Every 30 minutes (at a minimum) you should be standing up or if you are already standing up at your workstation you should step away from your workstation and take a little one minute break. This one minute is so crucial for your body to get out of poor static postures at work that we find ourselves in for hours. We could talk about posture for hours but we’ll save that for another blog post.

2. Have a solid exercise/stretch regiment 

There is a theory that for every hour you spend standing in one place or sitting statically you owe your body one minute of love. There is a lot of depth and truth to this theory. Being static is one of the most physically stressful acts that your body endures. We were designed to move but many of us have careers that create a sedentary environment for our bodies to live in and that’s okay as long as we periodically give it the movement it craves. The best way to do this is to have an exercise and stretching toolbox that you dig into every time you owe yourself a minute. Whether it be a plank, a hip stretch, or a neck circle we need to incorporate a consistent form of movement into our day.

3. How often do you take inventory?

Taking inventory of your body throughout your workday is an amazing way to start changing habits. Try  setting your alarm to go off once a day at random times. I mean, literally set your alarm before you leave for work to go off at a random time like 11:07am. When it goes off take notice of your posture. Are your shoulders about to touch your ears? Are you completely slouched over? Is your neck way out in front of your body? When you use this tool to check in on yourself you will be amazed as to how quickly your habits change because your body will be conditioned to periodically be checked in on. This practice will create better body awareness.

4. Use the backrest, that's what it's there for 

We often choose to slide to the front of our seat and force ourselves to sit up because somewhere we picked up that perfect posture is directly related to sitting up tall. Your intentions are indeed good, the only problem is that it takes a lot of effort to maintain this position and posture is supposed to be effortless. A better way to maintain upright posture is to actually utilize the backrest on the chair. Literally jam your butt back against the wedge of the chair and use the backrest. After all, that’s what it’s there for. The backrest allows you to sit up tall but not fatigue the muscles of your back which are working overtime trying to keep you sitting upright whenever you are not putting the backrest to good use.

5. Be fidgety 

I often get asked what's the best workstation? Sitting, standing, stability ball, treadmill desk etc. The best answer is all of them, as long as you can stay fidgety. It's okay to slouch, you just can't stay there. It's okay to lean to one side, you just need to move out of that position after a couple of minutes. Being static is stressful to your body so whether you are sitting or standing doing either for too long will negatively impact your body. Get in the habit of finding a new position every time you take a microbreak.

There you have it, a 5 step guide to better habits. After this you will never look at your workstation the same again. You now have the tools to maximize on every opportunity to show your body the attention it deserves.

About Dr. Kevin Marryshow: