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People today are spending longer hours at work, in front of their computers, just to meet their pressing deadlines and KPIs.  As a result, there are more incidents of debilitating back pain, neck ache, headaches, RSI and burnout that are reducing productivity and increasing stress leave.


Three-quarters of workers in Europe suffer health problems as a result of working on computers.  One survey found that backache was the most common complaint, followed by sore eyes and headaches.[1]    In fact, more than half of computer users each year develop neck or shoulder symptoms and just over one-third develop an impairment or the loss of some function [2]

In Australia, back problems are the leading specific musculoskeletal cause of health system expenditure, with an estimated total cost of $700 million in 1993-1994 [3].

So what is the answer? 

Movement prevents productivity attrition.

By releasing the build up of physical tension, people are able to sustain their working stamina and focus without the physical ailments or a drop in productivity. 

Here are 3 ways to protect your productivity from strain:

1. Smart Ergonomics
Sitting at the computer for hours at a time fatigues your muscles and creates physical tension.  Using some of the basic ergonomic principles you can avoid a lot of unnecessary strain and maximize your productivity.  Here are 4 tips:
a. Have a direct line of sight to your monitor – you should not need to look up, down or twist to see your screen.
b. Use chairs that have a tilt function.  It is recommended to sit at 110 degrees (slight recline) to reduce back strain
c. Ensure your wrists are straight when using the keyboard and mouse.  Angling your wrists for prolonged periods will create muscle strain.
d. Ensure that your feet are flat on the floor – use a foot rest if required.
2. Smart Stretching
Computer operators who took frequent short stretching breaks, known as micro-stretch breaks
(~60-90 seconds) every few hours, reported that it was definitely effective in reducing stiffness and muscle ache associated with long hours at the keyboard, and reported having lower stress levels.  Taking stretching breaks were also found to have increased their productivity and enjoyment with working at their PC. [4]
Here are 2 stretching tips:

a. Chin Tuck Stretch:
Leaning forward and staring at a screen a strains your neck muscles and can be a cause of headaches.   Tuck your chin into your neck and feel the back of your neck stretching out. Hold this stretch for 7 seconds and repeat twice.
b. Wrist Stretch:
Hold your right hand palm up (fully extend your arm). Place your left hands fingers on top of your right palm.   Gently pull your right hand back towards your body and hold for 7 seconds.  Repeat this stretch with your other arm.

The challenge is remembering to do the stretches when you are busy.  One solution, by is to use ergonomic software program that reminds you to take stretch breaks and guides you through the process
3. Smart Activity
Take regular activity breaks throughout your day. 
As a business owner/manager, make activity part of your work culture:
a. Rather than sitting in a lunch room, or at your desk, get outside and walk
b. Have a coffee club, where people are invited to come into work 30 minutes early to go for a brief 10 minute walk and back to the local café for a coffee. 
c. Initiate a weekly in-house Pilates or yoga class
d. Sponsor a your own triathlon group and compete in an amateur event

Productivity is not something to ‘fix’ it requires a cultural shift in thinking and work habits.

[2] American Journal of Industrial Medicine 2002;41:221-249
[3] Mathers C, Penn R. Health system costs of injury, poisoning and musculo-skeletal disorders in Australia 1993-94. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1999. AIHW Catalogue No. HWE 12 (Health and Welfare Expenditure Series No. 6).


Michael Licenblat B.Sc.(Psych) is a Resilience Expert who helps people in business bounce back fast from pressure, stress and burnout in their work and life. He is a professional speaker, coach and author of three books.


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