Why Office Workers Need to Heed The Neutral Reach Zone
Your car is in the shop and you need to borrow a friend’s. It shouldn’t be too complicated, but there’s a snag: your friend insists you don’t alter anything. Your friend is a completely different build from you, and suddenly it’s not so easy. You find yourself struggling to reach critical controls like the steering wheel and indicators. You have to stretch your neck to see in the rear view mirror.
Who can drive like that?
Yet this is exactly how many people approach their office work area. Instead of having things comfortably to hand they stretch and strain to reach basic equipment. All this places the body in awkward postures and causes unnecessary muscle strain. By applying some common sense ideas and having your neutral reach zone correctly configured, these problems can be avoided.
What is the neutral reach zone?
The neutral reach zone is simply the area of your desk which is easily reached without having to stretch to access frequently used tools. Simple enough, right? Generally speaking this is the area within an arc of about 18 to 24 inches of where you are sitting. It should have all your frequently used stuff within it. Beyond this area is where you should place less frequently used items.
So why does all this matter?
Why is the neutral reach zone important?
Think of this area as your own personal cockpit. It’s the hub of where all you work is performed. So if there is a key piece of equipment that is outside this area you’re going to waste time reaching for it throughout the day. More importantly, you’re going to be placing unnecessary strain on your muscles as you keep stretching for it.
Continual movement while working in the office is absolutely vital for a healthy body. What we’re trying to avoid here is making unhealthy stretches and contortions to get to the key stuff we need. Over the course of a day, a week, or a decade these unhealthy movements and positions add up.
How do you set up your neutral reach zone?
Setting up your own personal neutral zone is largely a case of common sense. Begin by observing how you work during the day. What tasks do you do and what tools or equipment do you use to do them?
This will probably include things like:
Whatever it is you use frequently during the day needs to be part of your neutral zone.
Once you know the items you can then set about placing them conveniently on your desk. So the first thing would be to get your office chair adjusted to the right height and in a comfortable working position.
Next set up your monitor so that your eyes are level with the top of the screen. Making sure you can read the screen’s content easily without craning your neck, typically about an arm’s length away.
From there place your keyboard so you can type with your wrists straight. Position your mouse so it’s close at hand and you can use it without having to move your arm too far to reach it.
Once you have these things correctly positioned, place any remaining items conveniently to hand.
If you get things properly set up it will ensure you are making good use of your neutral working zone.
What if it were possible to make things even better?
We’ll be back tomorrow with more information on specific tools that can make a big difference.
More and more often we’re talking to people who want to make the switch to LED task lighting from their tired desk lamp. Whether it’s for the minimal environment impact, the incredibly stylish options, or minimizing glare on your computer screen LED lighting has become increasingly popular.
Koncept offers contemporary, powerful LED task lighting. The Equo LED desk lamp has accumulated include Best of Year 2011 Interior Design award, Japan Institute of Design 2011 Good Design award, amongst others. It’s one of our favorites, and a great introduction to the many options in LED task lighting.
For more on the Koncept Equo click here, and to see our full selection of LED task lighting click here.
We are fortunate enough to truly love what we do. Part of that passion means following what people are talking about around the web in terms of ergonomics, adjustable-height desks, and other healthy working topics. Below are links to some of the things we’re thinking about this week:
Its most striking finding was that people who sat more than 11 hours a day had a 40% higher risk of dying in the next three years than people who sat less than four hours a day. This was after adjusting for factors such as age, weight, physical activity and general health status, all of which affect the death risk. It also found a clear dose-response effect: the more people sat, the higher their risk of death.
The health risks of sitting too much are certainly real and concerning, but we choose to use adjustable-height desks because it really does feel better at the end of the day. Standing desks are becoming more and more popular with office worker, but the ability to vary your position throughout the day makes the biggest difference in our productivity and energy.
The heir to the throne, Capisco Puls has been one of the most highly anticipated chairs since its announcement. Fans of Peter Opsvik’s original design looked forward to a sleeker, simpler version of the incredibly iconic chair, and he delivered. The lightweight molded polyurethane seat and back add a refreshed feel to the design.
The Puls’ ability to make one of the most innovative and modern chairs on the market look somewhat dated was one of the first areas where it impressed. After spending a month with the chair in our office, we are confident that fans of the original Capisco, plus new admirers, will be thrilled with the newest addition to the Capisco family.
Having enjoyed the original Capisco daily for the last year and a half, Puls had some big shoes to fill. All of us spent a significant amount of time in the Puls before forming our opinions on the chair.
We love it.
That’s not to say I’d immediately toss out my original Capisco in favor of the Puls, but we will definitely give it a look when it comes time to replace our chairs. And we certainly have no reservations recommending it to any of our active sitting clients.
The key difference is in the materials. Few people would choose to sit on plastic in favor of foam during their work day – me included. HAG understands this, which is why instead of making the entire seat polyurethane, they included foam padding where you need it most. The strip of foam on the seat makes a difference when you’re sitting in the chair for more than an hour at a time.
That brings us to what we feel is the most appropriate way to use the Capisco Puls. We advocate active sitting, and Puls is great for active sitters. We all use quick-adjusting height adjustable desks, and the ability to sit and stand for an hour at a time is perfect for the Puls. If you do significantly more sitting than standing, the extra cushion on the original Capisco might be better suited to your work habits.
All of the same benefits you find in other saddle seats are standard features on the Puls, including cutouts in the seat pan for your legs to hang down, allowing you to more evenly distribute your weight. The cutouts of course also facilitate proper pelvic position (tilted slightly forward) which allow your back to form a natural S-shape curve. If you’d like more specific information on saddle seats, try this.
Another difference is the base and color options. The Puls is available in five sleek shell colors, and a new nylon base option. Featuring the same style and shape as the standard Capisco, the nylon options are exclusive to the Puls.
Other than the optional nylon base, the Puls and the original are identical from the seat down. The patented balanced movement mechanism delivers all of the features that has made the Capisco one of the most versatile chairs on the market for decades. Puls is of course available with three different pneumatic lifts, the same lifts as used on the original Capisco. The tall, 265mm pneumatic lift is ideal for working at a sit-stand desk.
As you can tell, we’re definitely excited about the Puls. If you have any questions, please drop us an email or leave a comment below.
So, you love your new sit stand desk, but it’s reminding you why you spent so much time in your chair to begin with: standing is hard on your feet. We found out the hard way, after standing on our poured concrete showroom floors for hours at a time. Once we came across anti-fatigue mats, it was a no-brainer; we were able to stand for longer periods without experiencing pain in our feet and calves.
When you invest in a height adjustable desk it’s well worth adding an anti fatigue mat to your new set up. The good news is you’re likely only looking at an investment of $60. It especially makes sense if you’ve spent many years sitting in an office chair, because your body will need to get used to a new way of working. Think of it as an inexpensive chair for your feet.
Standing to work means rarely used muscles in your feet, calves and even upper legs suddenly have to support your body’s weight. While this isn’t normally a major problem, an anti fatigue mat will help to cushion the load.
You might think it won’t make much difference. Most offices are carpeted, so wouldn’t that be enough support? Office carpets and carpet tiles typically don’t have much give in them and are actually firmer to stand on for long periods than you might imagine.
Adding extra support in the form of a plush anti-fatigue mat makes sense, even before knowing the specific benefits.
What are the benefits of an anti-fatigue mat?
When you stand to work, particularly when you haven’t done so regularly, it’s surprising how quickly your feet and calves tire. The connection between body and floor is pretty firm meaning that your feet and leg muscles suddenly have to do a lot more to support you. A good quality anti-fatigue mat forms a cushion between you and the floor and helps take the harshness out of standing.
A properly designed mat will offer comfortable resilience and remove the hard connection. And it’s not a good idea to just pick any old mat or area rug for sit stand working.
What should you look for in an anti-fatigue mat?
It’s easy to think that all that’s needed is a slab of foam rubber, surely that will do? There’s a bit more to it than that. The core of an anti-fatigue mat will indeed be foam rubber based, but not just any old rubber. When you use cheap foams they just flatten and bottom out meaning you gain no benefit. What’s needed is a durable closed cell sponge which is designed to be resilient and retain its springiness so you really do get a proper cushioning effect.
Other types of mats should be avoided too. Many of these have been designed for use in manufacturing and are intended to form a gasket between workers and cold concrete floors. These sorts of mats are usually rigid and firm and don’t have any give in them. Let’s look at what’s needed for the office.
What makes a good choice of anti-fatigue mat for the office?
As we have have already seen, the core of the mat should be made from high quality, closed cell sponge. When this level of foam is used it’s possible to get good comfort with a sponge thickness between 3/8” to 3/4” thick.
Just a minute, isn’t there a chance you will trip over the mat? With a well designed mat the sponge core is generally encapsulated in high quality plastic. Not only that the edges should be chamfered all round to avoid being a trip hazard. Carefully taking these points into consideration will help you select the right mat.
In our experience, the anti-fatigue mat is a simple addition to your sit-stand routine. In our showroom, when we aren’t using the mat, we simply slide it under the desk and hop back in a chair for a spell. In fact, take a look at the image next to this post. I snapped a photo while writing to give you a sense of how we work. After a year and a half of daily use on our anti-fatigue mats, they still hold their shape well and are thankfully very easy to clean.
Let’s quickly summarize the main points we’ve covered here:
The perfect mat for your adjustable height desk
We’ve carefully researched suitable mats and recommend the Rhino anti-fatigue range of mats. You can find out what’s available here.
Two years ago the New York Times published a roundtable discussion of professional ergonomists along with other experts in the field on whether sitting is really that bad for you. Their answers? A collection of resounding “Yes!” responses.
How to deal with the inevitability of sitting for eight+ hours per day, on the other hand, was not as cut and dried. The thread tying the responses together was the idea that we all need to move more throughout our day. Of course, if you’ve visited our blog before you won’t be surprised to learn that we totally agree.
If you haven’t already, check out the article here. Or, if you prefer the CliffsNotes, a couple of highlights are below.
Galen Cranz, UC Berkeley:
…some postures are better than others. The neutral body posture, as NASA calls it, is half way between sitting and standing; it balances our musculature between front and back…Also called the perch position, it requires a higher than currently conventional desk, not a standing desk, but definitely higher than 28 inches.
Jack Dennerlein, Harvard School of Public Health:
Get up and move frequently.
Peter T. Katzmarzyk, Pennington Biomedical Research Center:
The take-home message should be that the more time we spend out of the chair, the healthier we are likely to be.
Each week we welcome clients into our showroom to test drive our saddle seats, kneeling chairs, and more traditional seating options. And each week we find people recognizing that one of the most effective changes you can make to encourage active sitting is to avoid sitting, and stand for part or all of your work day.
Over the past 12 months we’ve watched thousands of people make the switch to sit-to-stand desks. The abundance of information has helped make the case that moving throughout the work day is good for employees and employers alike. Whether alleviating back and neck strain, looking to shed some extra calories, or simply wanting to feel better at the end of the day, adding the ability to stand to your active sitting regimen is a realistic and substantial change you can make.
Again, there is plenty of information available about the health benefits around the web and on our site, but as a part of our active sitting series, we thought we’d take a quick look at what it’s actually like to use a sit-stand desk in an office.
Personally, I’m more of a sitter than a stander. I’ve set a goal for myself of standing up 15 minutes of every hour, and for the past year that’s worked well for me. Over the course of a typical day I’ll switch between sitting to standing several times. I often find myself standing for well past my planned 15 minutes, resuming sitting again after an hour or two. A coworker I’ll refer to as W, on the other hand, will stand well into the afternoon before sitting for the rest of the day. He’s sort of a showoff that way, but we appreciate his dedication to active sitting working all the same.
One of the most under-rated and reported on features of an electric height-adjustable desk is the ability to vary its height throughout the day—without the limits of simply sitting or standing. While the chair you are currently sitting in will absolutely work with this type of desk, the desire to sit at a traditional height of 28 or 30 inches suddenly becomes much less attractive when you can move your chair and your desk up and work at 34 or even 38 inches. We call this position semi-standing, or perching. At these heights you are able to open your hip angle which emulates the natural posture your spine takes while standing.
Put plainly: it just feels better to sit higher.
There are literally dozens of ways to use an electric height-adjustable desk. If you’ve recently made the switch or were an early adopter, we’d love to hear how you use your desk throughout your work day and how it might have evolved. As always, questions, opinions, and suggestions are welcome in the comment section.
All of us would love the chance to be more active during the day. Unfortunately, the fact for many of us is extended periods of sitting is part of our daily reality. It’s been the norm for so long, it feels like there really isn’t an alternative to sitting in a traditional office chair for eight hours per day. The kneeling chair concept was invented to reduce the amount of damage we do to our bodies during these prolonged periods of sitting.
The kneeling chair encourages an upright and natural posture, an open hip angle, and proper spine alignment. Sound familiar? The same basic principles that make the saddle seat an excellent option for active sitting are also fundamental components of kneeling chairs. Both the kneeling chair and saddle seat encourage your body to move while seated, they just approach it differently.
The kneeling chair works by aligning the user’s head, spine, and hips through the ankle while seated. This position not only fully supports the spine without the need for lumbar or back support, but requires the user to regularly readjust and find this natural balance line.
When getting ready to fall asleep tonight, take note of the position of your legs. Chances are you don’t sleep with them at a 90 degree angle in front of you, but rather tucked under you slightly. Kneeling chairs achieve this same posture by tilting the pelvis forward in the chair while supporting the body’s weight with knee pads/platforms.
For those with lower work surface heights a kneeling chair can be a great option to encourage active sitting.
Ergo Depot offers a number of kneeling chairs from the Varier Balans collection. To learn more about which chair might be best for you, give us a call or check out the video below.
Occasionally, clients call us a few days after receiving their HAG Capisco chair, explaining they are experiencing discomfort. This is a completely normal occurrence, and one we refer to as the “Capisco Break-in Period”.
Your normal, everyday task chair affords your body many ways to laze, cheat, slouch, or otherwise cause damage by putting you into positions that are unnatural and unhealthy. Not so with the Capisco. The Capisco’s unique saddle seat design and patented Balanced Movement Mechanism™ force your body to keep itself in balance. We like to think of it as “Capisco tough love.” The Capisco chair will help your body remember the more natural, and healthy positions to sustainably support itself.
For some users, the Capisco break-in period will last about 2-3 weeks. The discomfort you experience during this period might be felt in the thighs, groin, buttocks, abdomen, lower back and/or the neck-shoulder region. Many people jump in the Capisco saddle and experience no break in period at all. If you are one of those lucky people, congratulations! For the rest of us, the break-in period is a small price to pay for reconnecting with better posture and a healthier lifestyle.
Note: If you are experiencing pain while using the Capisco chair, this is not normal and we suggest that you contact your dealer immediately.
USA Today released an article on a new report which links sitting too long to breast cancer and colon cancer. While this isn’t news to many of our clients, the health risks of prolonged sitting are slowly creeping their way into the national conscious.
Alpa Patel of the American Cancer Society commented on the study:
In a study of 123,000 people, she found that the more time people spent sitting, the higher their risk of dying early. “Even among individuals who were regularly active, the risk of dying prematurely was higher among those who spent more time sitting,” she says.
Even if you are doing half an hour of aerobic activity a day, you need to make sure you don’t sit the rest of the day, Patel says. “You have to get up and take breaks from sitting.”
We couldn’t agree more.
While it’s tough to step away from your desk during the day, making small adjustments to the way you work is more important than ever.