Do you know that the way you sit affects your work productivity? Multiple studies have shown that improper posture can have a profound effect on energy levels and hormonal release ultimately affecting your productivity. You remain glued to your seat for hours at your workplace. When you come out, you feel stiffness at your back and experience difficulty in walking.
Even worse is that you gradually become vulnerable to chronic pains. Your sitting posture is causing irreversible damage without your cognizance. This is not only your problem but common with most white-collar job holders engaged in hours of desk work.
About half of the adult workforce in the US suffers from pain in the back, neck and head. This has substantiated the need to adopt a proper posture to prevent the drop in productivity. Studies have also shown proper posture can lead to better performance at work benefitting society in the long run.
Studying the correlation between posture and work productivity:
A case study conducted on Israeli office workers at Ernst & Young’s Israel office highlighted how bad posture led to decreased productivity, back pain, poor health and absenteeism. In this 6 week-long study, 31 employees were trained on right posture habits and their experiences were recorded.
The employees were trained 2-4 times a week assisted by the UpRight mobile app and a wearable, attached to the upper and lower back. The sensors of the wearable alerted the user whenever an employee slouched.
The results were encouraging. 75% of the participants felt better due to reduced back pain and reported increased work productivity.
The study also found the following:
- 85% of the participants gained more awareness of their posture habits.
- 71% of the participants gained confidence by maintaining the right posture.
- 66% of the participants felt increased strength of core muscles
- Within 1-6 sessions 50% of the participants reported a change in their postures.
The screen devil:
Research conducted on people working on computers reported that postural decline caused neck and shoulder problems resulting in a loss of productivity. A study on people reporting neck or upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders gave much importance to the fast-growing trend of spending hours on personal computers for work, study or recreation.
From the responses of a questionnaire collected from 2914 adults, it was concluded that bad posture in computer work posed the highest risk for reduced work productivity.
Posture breaks helped in better performance:
Researches also demonstrated that taking posture breaks for 20 minutes helped in preventing physical trauma disorders of computer terminal workers. In a study, 3 separate groups of volunteers were chosen to participate in different work sessions.
Participants of one session took no breaks. Another group took a break at 20-minute intervals and the third group took breaks at 40-minute intervals. The researchers confirmed that the group taking micro-breaks at every 20-minute interval has a positive impact on the computer terminal workers having problems from wrong postures.
How posture matters in work productivity?
The link between posture and productivity is ingrained in our DNA since ages. Looking back to the posture habits of our ancestors, sitting or lying down implied that they are in a safe spot and can let their guard down. But standing or moving around implied hunting for food or action for protection that calls for extra attentiveness.
According to Max Vercruyssen, a retired ergonomist and specialist in human performance believes the responses of a human body are still based on this. There will be great differences in our performance depending on how we hold our body, a factor that can be related to our work productivity.
For example, sitting straight helps in overcoming the post-lunch slump. When we stand, our heart rate increases 10 beats per minute causing a possible increase in reaction time and attention. If a task demands additional attention, adjustment of posture by standing up may help.
Being uncomfortable may help in accomplishing a tough task:
More comfortable you are more you tend to lose focus or doze off, says Max Vercruyssen. Sitting on a hard chair may keep you more activated than a cozy seat. If one can digest small discomforts like standing or opting for a hard chair, it should be used to the best to enhance work productivity. Even taking frequent breaks like moving to the restroom or walking up to grab a glass of water can improve posture.
Understanding the science of posture:
Extensive research by the Dutch behavioral scientist Erik Peper lists the following changes that happen when you improve your posture:
- Sitting up straight is likely to help in remembering positive memories or think of something positive.
- Skipping during the breaks increased energy levels. On the other hand, a sluggish movement can do the opposite.
Posture affects our hormones – Standing straight literally makes you powerful:
Researchers from Columbia and Harvard Universities have showed in a study that body language or improved body posture can subconsciously affect a person’s decision-making ability.
The researchers assessed the risk-appetite of the participants in different poses – expansive, powerful poses or constrictive (that is occupying minimal space). It was found that participants in powerful poses are 45% more likely to take risky bets.
A study of their saliva showed that expanded postures resulted in lowering of cortisol and increase of testosterone which can be linked with better disease resistance and leadership capabilities.
Poor posture can be more harmful than you think:
- Worsen your depression.
- Trigger heartburn
- Affect your body’s efficiency
- Cause chronic back pain
- Affect your lung capacity
- Cause a decline in assertiveness
- Lead to biased memories
- Reduce vision acuity
- Result in more sick leaves
- Cause headaches
How to improve posture?
Good posture is not only to maintain work productivity but is also the key to good health and happiness. There is no best posture that suits everyone. A great deal of research has gone into discovering what exactly the best posture is and how to adopt it.
- Sit straight is the universal command for good posture that we have learned since our school days but studies do show different opinions. One study found, sitting posture at an angle of 110-130° is optimal for spine comfort while leaning 135° back is ideal to prevent back pain. You need to make your choice.
- Wearing a posture sensor (like LUMOback) around your waist can help you adopt a good posture. Whenever you slouch or lean to the side, the device will alert you through vibrating message.
- Human body is built to move and not to sit for hours. So keep moving in between your work as much as possible. Get up twice from your seat every 1 hour interval.
When posture matters so much in productivity, workplaces do not pay required attention in office ergonomics like how the desk should be positioned or what would be the ideal height of the chair?
Workers unknowingly suffer from these conditions and develop serious disorders. Each individual should pay due attention to these issues and do the necessary adjustments to maintain consistence in productivity.