Many people experience back pain. On a given day, 20% of people have back pain while working. Pain is unpleasant, distracting, and saps energy. It erodes the quality of life and the effectiveness of teams. There really is not much good to say about chronic back pain.
Chronic back pain has many sources, only some of which are under one’s direct control. Although one cannot eliminate all back pain from a workplace, at the very least one can stop aggravating the situation.
A lot of work today involves working on computers. A lot of other work requires standing or sitting at a counter. People at work examine documents on paper and on screens. The write and type. With all of these activities people tend to lean forward. People tend to lean forward even reading the screen of a handheld smartphone. That leaning brings along tension. I will not go into the details here: the central issue is that holding an off-centered posture for a long time aggravates back pain.
How one sits while working falls into the domain of voluntary behavior. That quality opens possibilities for taking action. Some strategies require discipline or money; others are easy; but all become more effective and more accessible when they become shared by members of a workgroup.
Recognize a Good Posture. Many people couldn’t recognize good posture if they fell over it. Most people would benefit from direct advice and training on how to stand and sit to one’s best advantage. Valuable information is available from various sources: yoga, physiotherapists, dance instructors, or fitness coaches to name a few.
Have the Correct Furniture. A workstation will be much less painless when it permits people to work in a balanced way. That includes having screens, keyboards, writing surfaces, etc. at levels that permit working with good posture. Tables at which people can stand rather than sit brings variety to meetings.
Use Whatever Furniture Well. People do not necessarily use good furniture to its best advantage. The first point—recognize a good posture—is fundamental. People can only adjust chairs and keyboards properly if they have a good idea of their biomechanics. When lacking good furniture, it is important to improvise. When I type on airplanes, I put my computer on my lap because the tray is too high.
Move Around! Regardless of the previous points, staying in one posture for extended times is hard on one’s body. People need to move around and to do so regularly.
Teamwork is integral to success. Team members can help or hinder one another in pursuing these strategies or any other strategies in building a healthy workplace. Rather than embarking on a solo project, bring along a friend or five.