Posture and Comfort

by Hugh Babington Smith

Introduction

It should be obvious that if you are comfortable, you can work well. If you are in pain or even discomfort, you will be less efficient, especially when tired – slower, prone to making mistakes, and finding relationships with colleagues more difficult.

The real loss felt by companies which tolerate or ignore discomfort and pain is not just the time of the relatively small number who take absence because of pain, it is the loss of efficiency of those who suffer now, who ‘grin and bear it’.

Although we refer in this topic largely to work at computer workstations, the same principles apply to any work activity and to our whole life – relaxation, hobbies, sport, housework, childcare, everything.

Three principles
  1. You can give a person the most wonderful chair in the world, but they may still slouch, especially if not trained to use it.
  2. If you teach a person to understand why they get aches and pains, they are more motivated to grin and change it rather than grin and bear it.
  3. Individuals control their own posture.

We often hear negative phrases about posture – ‘My posture’s awful’, ‘I know I ought to do something’, ‘I was always told to sit up straight’. But what does this mean? Most so-called ergonomic (in reality, postural) advice refers to good posture, without ever explaining what this is, but how can someone improve, if they do not know how?

In this topic, posture is defined and discussed, including the wide but vague use of the word ‘posture’, implications to the individual of poor posture, why we should do something about it and the principles of how to do so.

The implications for the employer are then explored. The aim here is to help you decide what to do, having realised that something needs to be done.

The last part of the topic should help the observant manager further in working out the way ahead.

This topic has three objectives:

  1. To give you an understanding of what posture is
  2. To explain the importance of posture in the context of the business
  3. To recommend some simple steps to avoiding and dealing with problems.