How Can Ergonomics Help Posture?

How Can Ergonomics Help Posture

Season 1 Episode 12

We talk to Niamh Pentony from Boyne Ergonomics about posture and ergonomics, hybrid working and working from home. Let’s find out, how can ergonomics help posture?

James Crow
Hi everybody, it’s James from Posture Stars. And today I’m doing a lovely podcast with Niamh Pentony Of Boyne ergonomics. Hi, Niamh.

Niamh Pentony
Hi, James, how are you?

James Crow
Yeah, really good. It’s great to speak to you. I’ve been watching your stuff on LinkedIn quite a lot. And you’re putting up some really useful, helpful and informative stuff. So I wanted to have a chat with you about exactly your take on posture. And how you help your clients with posture. You’re just south of Dublin a little bit, is that right? North of about an hour north of Dublin. An hour north of Dublin, i’m miles out then! It’s a good job I’m not visiting, I’d be about two hours late. Okay, well, you’re, you’re an ergononomist, and you work with individuals and with companies helping them deal with their pain issues, particularly with a lot of the work from home stuff that’s going on. And posture has featured quite heavily in a lot of the problems that people are having recently. So I might as well move in and ask my first question, which is Niamh, what is posture?

Niamh Pentony
Me, posture is all about positioning. So because I find, if we get into the intricacies of it, people get a little bit lost. So for me, your posture is your positioning relative to your spine. So where’s the arms, where’s the legs, where’s the head, where’s the shoulders, where are the hips, you know, yourself, we’re always trying to keep everything as close and as nice and close to the body as we can I can feel the spine and relatively neutral postures when we can when we can.

James Crow
Yeah, and unfortunately, in, in the modern working day, people are spending a lot of time in situations where they are either not doing that, because of their ergonomic problems, or they’re not doing that because they don’t know any better. Which do you think’s right on that front?

Niamh Pentony
What I find is they can’t do it, though, even with the best will in the world, because of the equipment that they’re using, or the workspace that they’re using. They can’t adapt kind of neutral, relaxed posture, or what I call a safe posture where you know, you have the least amount of stress on the body as you can have, it’s just not always possible. And I think a lot of it has to do with fatigue. So people are just spending as I’m sure you’ve found way more time sitting than they ever did before. And the muscles get tired, your back gets tired from holding you upright in a chair. And you might start off with a good posture. But after 45, 50, 60 minutes, you just have to come down on yourself because the muscles are tired from holding you. Yeah, it’s sort of the lack of awareness as well, people just don’t know how everything should be positioned to reduce the stress on your body.

James Crow
So you put out some really interesting diagrams on on the social media channels about how you should see it and and how everything goes together. And I think I don’t think people are naive in that they haven’t got an awareness of this, but they can’t map it into their own bodies. And particularly when they’re at work, they’ve just, they’ve lost that awareness of how they’re sat completely, I think a lot of the time.

Niamh Pentony
Yeah. And then that’s where we come in, because it’s so much easier for us to come in from the outside, and just see how they’re positioned and to give them advice on how to fix it, it’s very easy for another person to see it. And and you know, you’re so I’m sure you’ve noticed yourself when you’re working, we will slip into poor postures ourselves, sometimes because you’re so focused on the work that you’re doing, you lose that awareness of where everything is positioned,

James Crow
Particularly with the screens that tend to because it’s such a big visual stimulus to drag us in. And then also you’ve got that that work ethic that everybody’s really keen to work hard. And even people working remotely now people are still afraid to step away from the desk in case they’re seen as not being present. Which is which is bonkers.

Niamh Pentony
Yeah, and I talked about this with people all the time. And that’s what I say to people. If you’re in your original office building, you would think nothing of getting up every 30, 40 minutes to go and ask somebody a question or to go make a cup of coffee, or even just to go and have a chat with colleagues like it will take because you’re in the office building. So you’re still in work in your mind, you’re still working, because you’re in office. Whereas when you’re working from home when you’re just at the computer, that is your office. So I think a lot of people feel that when they step away from the computer, they’re stepping away from work, which is totally fine, but psychologically it doesn’t feel like it is

James Crow
Yeh it’s strange. Also, just standing up and doing a bit of work. Some people feel as if that’s a weird thing as well. So so I’m stood up now I’ve got a standing desk, I’ve raised it I’m standing to do our podcast, our interview, and I feel quite comfortable doing it. But when I’ve worked with ergonomic assessments when people say hey, you know, you can stand up during your team’s meeting. It’s, it’s almost as if I’ve said something that nobody’s ever considered.

Niamh Pentony
Yeah, and I because I find it I have a standing desk as well back in the home office. But I just find, I can’t type and stand. For me, that’s not comfortable. But I like yourself, I will stand for interviews, I will stand for my virtual assessments because I’m happy and comfortable standing and talking on the camera. But if I want to do some work, that involves quite a lot of concentration, I will bring it back down to the sitting position. And like that, I recommend this to people all the time. And again, they’ve just never thought of it. That it’s so much it is easier to stand for calls because you’re not a static. If you’re standing typing, yet you’re standing, put your shoulders, your arms, they’re all still in the static position. Whereas I’m sure you find the same when you’re standing for calls. You shuffle around to talk with your hands, you know, you’re not static. And I think that’s a great benefit.

James Crow
Yeah, I’m swaying now as we talk, just moving from foot to foot. And well, maybe that was last night’s cider. I’m not sure one or the other. So my second question I have, and we’re starting to answer this already is, in terms of your remote ergonomic assessments is what do you do to help people’s posture?

Niamh Pentony
The first thing I do I always take two approaches, the first thing I do is I look at the equipment they have, is it fit for purpose, and are they positioned correctly relative to that equipment. So are they positioned correctly relative to the height of their desk is their monitor positioned correctly, then. So I always start with a desk height. So are their elbows essentially, in the right position, when they let the shoulders fall is the elbow level with the table? Do they have support under their feet, under the floor or for us, whatever it may be. That’s your starting point. That’s the skeleton and then we kind of fill out the workstation from there is the keyboard, the mouse, the monitor all positioned correctly around this skeleton. And that’s kind of part one. And then part two for me is always trying to find ways to build in the mobility during the day, because it’s all well and good having the right equipment, and having yourself positioned correctly with it. But for me, I think that’s only half the battle. The other half is your mobility, you have to keep moving during the day, or you will develop problems with your back, your neck, your shoulders and your eyes. So it’s the mobility is incredibly important. So I always take a kind of a two pronged approach at it. So deal with the physical deal with the workstation, but then try and teach them how to build in mobility. Especially working from home. I think that’s the area that suffers the most lack of mobility.

James Crow
Yeah, yeah. And then when people are working from home, it’s a great opportunity to get out and go for a lunchtime walk or do you know actually I find working from home there’s there’s always stuff to do to keep me mobile, there’s always washing to put on and dishes to clean. And you know, there’s always something that I can do five or 10 minutes an hour.

Niamh Pentony
I agree, absolutely it’s funny because I will do that. And actually, that’s why I’m in a co working space today because I find there’s too much distraction at home. Because I need to get something done so you know, I want to step away, It’s funny I find people working from home, they’re not like at least 90% of people are not getting up and sticking a wash on or getting up and doing a little you know, some kind of task or chore not related to work. I find most people are actually just staying at the desk and trying to get get through the work rather than actually breaking it up with other little tasks during the day. And I think they’re coming into March now. The weather, fingers crossed should start improving a little bit. And I think it’s a great opportunity. I always say to people, once the weather improves. Have a look at what video calls have a look at what virtual meetings you have booked in for the day. What ones can you take on your phone, like do you need to be in front of a screen, take it on your phone, put the earphones in, take it in the garden, take it out for a walk, you know, leave the desk for any call that you can and just take it on the walk because I find it’s great. It’s great for productivity, any of these brainstorming sessions that people do with their teams, it’s actually great to do them on the move because it helps it stimulates the mind and relaxes your back your neck, your shoulders and gives you a break from the desk.

James Crow
Yeah, so it’s a great idea. A lot of counsellors and psychotherapists. Now we’re starting to take outdoor sessions as well just because getting people moving is really good for for their well being. And that’s the kind of task task rotation kind of thing you know, if you’ve got several things on in the days, spread them out so that you can you can go for your little walks while you’re doing them. There’s there’s no point sitting there for six hours and then having two hours on your mobile walking around the park. Yeh, spread it all through.

Niamh Pentony
It has to be broken up. Like if you sit there for 6 hours, you’ve done the damage already. The walks not going to do anything you know,

James Crow
Yeah, well, you’re not going to be able to walk because you’ll just collapse onto your knees when you leave the desk. So yeah, I mean, when you’re working from home, you’ve got a great excuse to move because you look after adoptive kittens. Is that right?

Niamh Pentony
Yes. Yeah. So we have our own cat and then we foster kittens, and until they’re kind of ready to go to be adopted. So there’s always a creature lurking around to keep me on my toes and keep me busy.

James Crow
Do they jump into the screen when you’re doing remote virtual assessments?

Niamh Pentony
Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. And even even my older cat does it sometimes normally worn like, I know, because I work from a bedroom and I’m doing the virtual assessment, there’s always a cat on the bed, it always was gonna be, but there will always be a cat on the bed during the day,

James Crow
they just can’t keep away, can they? They can’t keep away. So. So you’re helping people with remote virtual assessments, and presumably visiting offices as well and helping people in those environments,

Niamh Pentony
back on site, offices, factories, wherever, wherever there’s an issue

James Crow
is that it’s early 2022. Now, do you think there’s going to be a move back to workplace predominantly? Or do you think it’s going to stay as a hybrid thing wherever possible?

Niamh Pentony
Majority of people I’m talking to are staying hybrid, because a lot of companies I’m dealing with now have gotten rid of a lot of their office space. So there’s now where there might have been 200 desks, there’s now 100 or 75 desks. And they’re just rotating through I think hybrid will stay for the majority people.

James Crow
I think so and a sort of hybrid hybrid, because companies that I talked to looking for workshops, kind of want the workshop in the office, and then the remote assessments, obviously remotely, so they kind of doing teams stuff together and then sending people off to, to go off and do their own thing again. And I mean, the pros, the cons of all of it, but it’s for those people who get to work hard, but it’s, it’s good for most of them. But I have some of my assessments, I see people who their space at home is just so compromised, that it is impossible for them to work properly without the addition of extra furniture or extra equipment at the very least. Are you seeing a lot of that?

Niamh Pentony
Oh, absolutely. I find especially a lot of younger workers who are house sharing, like the only private space they have is their bedroom. And I’ve been I know I’ve met on virtual assessments, young people who are quite new to the workforce, they will be sharing a house with four other people. And the only space they have is the bedroom. The common areas are the kitchen and the sitting room. And there might be somebody working from there. So yeah, I’ve definitely met people who are really limited for space. The one thing I’ll say is, there is usually something that can, I’ve never had an assessment yet, where we haven’t been able to do something. Even if you’ve had to think outside of the box office a little bit, there’s always a way to improve posture, like my own workspace at home is very small. But you can make it work. And the thing is to have been I’ve found anywhere cool. But there’s been big advancements on the equipment that you can get for small spaces. Whereas at the start of COVID, you were really very limited on what you could get. Yeah, that’s right. That’s always something you can do. Even if you have to, you know, jig something together on the fly, there is always something you can do.

James Crow
You can have your own, have your own area with something as simple as some floorboard planks, or, you know, some books under your feet, a couple of pillows and strap them to your chair, there’s always something you can do. So those of you who are working at home and having a rough time of it, try and take five or 10 minutes to improvise. And you could step back from where you’re working and look at it as an outsider. As niamh says, sometimes it’s really hard to see the wood for the trees. So pretend you’ve walked into someone else’s house and look at it and think, Well, how can I fix that for them?

Niamh Pentony
Yeah, get a third person get I’m sorry, second person, get someone else to take a side view of you at your desk. Just sit as you normally would, do what you normally do and either get someone to record it on your phone in a short video. Or take a side view that side view angle, that side of your picture can tell you so much. And you’ll see straight away what you need to fix. You know what I mean? Yes, absolutely. Look at where the hips are, look where the knees are, where’s your head? Where’s your elbows? And then just have a look around your space? What do you have that could help? You know what could help my feet? What can make me sit a bit higher, you know, the side view tells you loads and if you have somebody that can help and do that for you, you will be able to see where you’re going wrong.

James Crow
So well my third question is, if you were to offer one piece of advice to our listeners right now, what would it be? Do you think that would be your advice to use a second person?

Niamh Pentony
That’d be one. But I have to think my main piece of advice is I’ve actually got one myself recently. So I am very big as you know on mobility because as I said, I think equipment and positioning is 50% of the problem I think lack of mobility has a lot to answer for at the moment to what I have actually recently got like a lot of people have smartwatches that will buzz every 50 minutes tell them to move. Very easy to ignore. A lot of people have little apps on their phone that will be very easy to ignore, hit snooze. I’m not moving. I’m in the middle of something. What I have actually found and I got one myself to give it a go and I find it really useful. So I got myself a little productivity clock now it looks like a little I don’t have it here but looks like a little small alarm clock. Okay, yeah, you just twist, I twist it to 45 minutes and my 45 minute segment is green, because I’m going very visual, my little product is green. And I can see it getting smaller and smaller and smaller, and then a little alarm goes off, when it gets to 45 minutes, that has, for me changed, definitely how I work, I am a lot more. And I’ve recommended to a lot of people recently, and I’m getting really good feedback, I’m a lot more focused in the time that I’m at the desk. So when I’m doing my reports and that kind of thing, I get very easily distracted, I will type two sentences of a report and I’m gone, I’m away with the fairies. What I find with this clock, I see the green, know I’m gonna get this done. So I’m focused when I’m there, then I move when the time comes, I get x amount done in this 45 minutes or 30 minutes, whatever it needs to be, I get x amount done and I step away and I go do something else. I just find we have become so reliant, like the likes of the watches, like they’re so easy to ignore those little movement reminders that we blocked them out altogether. So I’m always trying to find tools and tips that will help get people out of the chair. So it could be the movement, I find other productivity stuff that works for me. Another thing I find is, yes, use a productivity app or break reminder app on your mobile phone. But don’t have the phone on your desk, put the phone across the room. So every time you get a notification every time the alarm goes off, you have to get up and go and get it yeh it’s annoying, and it’s irritating. But it does your body so much good that you have left that chair, even for a minute. That’s all you do,to do that frequently during the day does your body so much good.

James Crow
Brilliant. So it’s the act of moving isn’t it and having so you’re talking about having an external indicator or an external stimulus, which is outside of the screen outside of you your current working practice.

Niamh Pentony
Yeah, because everything that’s inside, it’s so easy to ignore. Whereas I find if you have something external, like the productivity clocks, or the reminders on your phone, as long as the phone is not on your desk, it needs to be outside of your workspace. So when the alarm goes off, you have to get up to turn it off.

James Crow
It’s like me in the morning Niamh, if i’ve got my alarm clock next to me, then I’m not getting up for another three hours. But if it’s on the other side of the room, then I stand a chance.

Okay, so I think I’ve covered what I want to chat with you about we’ve got what is posture? How do you help posture and what would you recommend people to do? So how do people get ahold of you? If they want some more advice from you?

Niamh Pentony
Yes, me, my website is www.boyneergonomics.ie I can be contacted there, there is a link there to contact me but you can also email me at info@boyneergonomics.ie Or you can find me on Instagram is probably the best place to find me. And it’s going under boyne_ergonomics I’m always on Instagram, I’m always posting little tips and just like yourself, James trying to help the masses reduce discomfort.

James Crow
You are prodigious on Instagram definitely worth following Niamh on Instagram, everybody, and some really useful stuff on there. So I’ll put some links on my website as well that those of you who are listening to this on the website can click and get out too. And for those of you who are sat and listening to this podcast or watching this podcast, I urge you now to turn us off and go and do some movement and do something else apart from sitting there and sat staring at a screen or listening to us because as interesting as we are there’s a whole world out there so go and have a bit of a break.

Niamh Pentony
Exactly go put the kettle on, get out of that chair!

James Crow
Go and have a nice cup of tea. Well, Niamh, it’s been great talking to you. Thanks so much for your time and I hope our listeners have learned some little tips and tricks there that they’ll be able to apply and we look forward to seeing you another time. Thanks for listening everybody. This has been the Posture Stars podcast with Niamh Pentony from Boyne Ergonomics.

Niamh Pentony
Thanks James

 

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