With the advancement of mobile technology, tablets, laptops and mobile phones, a study by Steelcase, published in partnership with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, has outlined 9 ‘new’ postures as a result of the use of one of the aforementioned devices. Steelcase studied over 2000 workers across 11 countries worldwide and concluded that as a result of the ever changing technologies in the workplace, our postures are following suit. Gone are the days of a single task, single technology, single posture experience, traditionally associated with sedentary, office based jobs.

This article aims to give you a brief insight into the different postural types, to promote awareness of posture and body position in the workplace and finally to give the reader a few ideas of how to reduce their chance of becoming a victim of musculoskeletal pain.

1. The Draw

A posture created by the use of tablets. Tablets allow people to pull back from their desks while they use it, they recline into their chair and draw the device closer into their bodies to maintain optimal focal length. The elbows will come in close to the body to stabilise the arms, which can become fatigued if arm support is poor. Stress will also be placed on the lumbar spine, if support in the chair is not adequate.

2. The Multi Device

It is a rare occurrence that someone will use just one piece of technology throughout their day, they use multiple devices to help them work effectively. One hand holding a phone to their ear, while they other tasking on a laptop can result in a forward lean. This posture is typically caused by sitting too far away from the work. Chairs that are not adjusted properly exacerbate the issue because they collide with the work surface, fail to offer adequate arm support or do not allow reclining while maintaining sight lines to the computer screen.

3. The Text

Texting and emailing from a smart phone is a regular occurrence throughout the day. The arms are brought in close and the device is supported entirely by the user. If smartphones are used in long durations without arm support, users experience shoulder strain, the neck position is generally looking down in a flexed position, which can also lead to neck pain.

4. The Cocoon

Small, mobile technology allows people to remain productive while they recline. The feet are brought up to a sitting height and the device pulled close to them. The bend at the knees can result in a reduction of circulation in the legs, the neck is angled down towards the device and the lower back is usually unsupported. This combination usually results in neck and low back discomfort.

5. The Swipe

This posture occurs when a tablet device is used on a worksurface in ‘surfing mode’, when people typically operate the device with one hand, while resting on the other. Because the tablet is resting on a worksurface, a person must keep their head a certain distance above the device in order to see it, and position their head to look down at it, hovering over the screen and leaning forward. This can cause pain in the back, neck and shoulders.

6. The Smart Lean

When receiving private information on smartphones, rather than leaving a meeting or seeking privacy, people choose to lean to one side to shield the content of the message from others. This is typically a temporary posture and used for glancing at incoming texts or e-mails. While this is can be a temporary posture, people will often revert to this position while replying to the message which may prolong the posture.

7. The Trance

When working hard, people tend to ignore their posture and focus only on the task at hand. People lean toward the screen, straining their necks forward, and as they become fatigued they will rest their head on one hand, to stabilise it and take pressure off their back/shoulders. As they lean forward, many people will usually place their feet on the chair base to relieve pressure on their thighs. Reclining while remaining focused on work can greatly reduce the negative impacts of this posture. Properly placed armrest will alleviate the strain on the shoulders, arms, and wrists.

8. The Take It In

With the advancements in technology, devices are shrinking. However technology is also getting bigger (such as high resolution desktops). Larger displays allow people to view digital information at a distance without eye strain. In this posture people recline to view content on the large display and/or sit back to contemplate. This posture is about ‘taking in’ information rather than generating it. This posture is a healthy way to sit if the chair offers lumbar support in a reclined posture.

9. The Strunch

The ‘strunch’ (stretched-out hunch) is a very common posture with laptops. As people become fatigued, they gradually push their laptop further from the edge of the work surface. This causes them to reach forward for everything as they move objects further from them. Since the back and neck cannot sustain the reach and hunch posture for a long time, the person begins to prop themselves up with their non-tasking arm. Over time, this posture puts people at risk of back, arm, wrist, neck, and shoulder injury.

With constantly changing and adapting technology, we need to become more aware of the changes in posture and adaptations that our bodies go through. It is vitally important to keep ourselves mobile, flexible and strong to avoid neck, back and shoulder pain, often associated with sedentary working environments.