This is second article from series on Ergonomics for Software Developers. Click here to read first article.

We sit all day long. Improper posture and bad chairs will cause back pain, hand pain and will tire you excessively. Good chair and proper working position are must if you want to be productive and healthy while working with computers and you should not skimp on that.

So what’s the proper sitting position? OSHA recommends following:

  • Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.Correct Ergonomic Sitting Position
  • Head is level, or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced. Generally it is in-line with the torso.
  • Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
  • Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  • Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.
  • Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.
  • Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.
  • Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.

You need to setup your working environment to these specs but also so everything is comfortable for you. I don’t think anyone can tell you what is comfortable for you since we are all different, so take these as guidelines. Adjust height of your chair, position of the monitor and keyboard so you do not hunch, your elbows are at 90 degrees and back is straight and relaxed.AeronChair

This is sitting position in my experience it’s pretty robotic. You just can’t sit like this all day long, you’d go numb. Its boring. I think it is good alternating solution though.

That brings me to alternating. I think for best effect you should change how you sit throughout the day. Sitting in same position all day long, no matter how good that position is, is not healthy long term. So, change up! Move from office chair to kneeling chair and then to sitting on ball or standing work.

For standard office chair I recommend Aeron chair or Humanscale freedom or Liberty chairs. They are expensive though, but if you spend that much time in chair they are certainly worth it. Try looking for them locally in stores that sell used office furniture. You can find very good deals on these chairs that way. I can attest that Aeron chair is rock solid and can last years. Mine is over 5 years old and still looks and works like brand new.

Good alternative and much cheaper I might add are kneeling chairs. Kneeling chair creates an dropped angle for your thighs so they are not at 90 degrees like in regular chair, rather dropped to 60-70 degrees with some of the body’s weight supported by the shins.

This creates an open body sitting position and keeps spine in alignment.

You can find best pricing for kneeling chairs on eBay. They go for about $50-$150 depending on how lucky you are. Look for adjustable height chair for first type. Here are two types of kneeling chairs:

Kneeling Chair For Developers

And this one that I like since it allows some rocking movement while sitting which is very beneficial:

Kneeling Balans Chair for Software Developers

SeatingBallWhile researching chairs, I’ve seen many people swear by sitting on exercise ball. I plan to try it. They say it takes some time to get used to since you are balancing yourself on the ball, but it allows you lots of flexibility while sitting and provides some abs exercise too.

I can see how this is very beneficial. It forces you to balance yourself and aligns your spine. Since you are balancing all the time, you are changing position frequently which is my main concern with office chairs. And as additional benefit you get some workout, and hey, any workout I can get I am not going to deny :-).

This is very cheap thing to try since these balls cost $15-$30. There is no reason not to try it especially if you have back pain.

Personally I switch between Aeron and kneeling chair throughout the day (for my sitting positions) and it works great. I will be adding exercise ball to my seating set soon.

Standing working position

Many people spend whole working day in standing working position. The benefits seem to be better posture and less back related problems, sense of freedom with both movement and thought and little workout.

I have standing station setup that I use as well and I can attest to posture and freedom benefits. I think workout claims are dubious since you are practically standing all day. I do not think standing all day is good for your legs, since many other professions that require all day standing have different set of problems, but as occasional change of pace it is wonderful.

I have found that in standing position I am more eager to take regular brakes since you can simply walk away. I found long sessions to be tiring so I limit this to couple of hours a day at most.

For this setup you do not need anything fancy. If you do not already have a high table, you can get one cheap from IKEA. For example BILLSTA (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S39831493 ) is $120 small Bar table that works great for this. Combine it with Galant extension (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S89843747 ) used to raise monitor and you have standing setup for less than $200.

On another end of pay scale, if you are feeling rich, there is this good looking desk AirTouch by Steelcase that has adjustable height for about $1000 so you can easily switch between standing and sitting position:

AdjustableSteelcaseTable

All this is really simple and easy to implement if you’ve been told that you should care about it. I hope this gets you thinking and changing the way you work for better. Let me know what you think and whether you found this helpful.

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Related posts:

  1. Nickel and Dimed on Working Hours
  2. Ergonomics for software developers