Are you a Sloucher or a Percher?

by Katherine on July 15, 2010

How do you sit when working at your desk?   Do you have ideal posture?   Or, do you collapse into a slouched posture or sit perched on the edge of your seat, too engrossed in your work to consider sitting well?  I see these postures commonly during my work and both result in a lack of support to the spine and will likely result in fatigue, aches and pains, reduced blood flow around the body and even breathing difficulties.

But why is it we do this?

Some people, despite having a suitable all bells and whistles chair,  still fail to sit well.  Research has shown gender differences to the way we sit, with men commonly slouching more and women sitting on the edge of their chairs and not using the back rest at all.   Research too shows that women feel they need to increase the tone in their bodies and sit overly upright to help motivate them and allow them to multitask!  Does this ring true?

How do you sit?  Why do you sit like this?   I am very interested in why people sit the way they do and I would really appreciate any comments you have on this topic.


Fiona Humberstone July 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Put me down for No 4! And I dread to think how I’m sitting right now. Why do we do it? Unsuitable desks and chairs in my case…

Laura Chesterfield July 22, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I was sitting at my desk in my home office reading your blog and it made me laugh as it was as if you could see me. I am currently sitting perched at the end of my chair. Why? I suppose if I think about it its because I am not relaxed and quite jittery. So by sitting on the edge of my chair I feel like I am more likely to be able to get up and move around if I need to. However I have sat here for about an hour now without moving. My friend got in the car with me the other day and I got a big telling off as I was also sitting leaning forward in my seat and head nearly in the front screen! Tension is all I can say – however its obviously not doing any good as my shoulder, neck and arm are in pain. So there you go.

Kathy July 22, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Thank you for your input Fiona. Do you think you need some workplace assessments done! My next post will be on the dangers of home working. So mnay people now sit hunched over a laptop. This is OK for very short periods, but not when undertaken for hours at a time, like many people do.

Kathy July 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Hi Laura, Thank you for your comments. You are certainly not alone by working in this fashion. It is almost as if the stress that drives us to get going and work will not let us sit relaxed when getting on with our tasks. I find myself that sitting in a chair with a free float that is counter-balanced really helps. I can therefore change from an upright position (but with support from the chair back) to a more reclined position just by transfering my body weight slightly forward or back. Reclining (as opposed to slouching) is good as it reduces the loading on the low back. I therefore recline when I am reading from hard or soft documents but sit more upright when typing, so I can adopt good postures in my neck and arms.

Next blog will be about the perils of home working so this maybe useful to you!
Best wishes,

Louise Quigley July 22, 2010 at 8:45 pm

I have had many an assessment of the way I sit at work over the years and I’m sorry to say I’ve never really heeded any advice given, because I like to sit how I feel comfortable! I realise I may be doing damage in the long run but when you’re sat a desk for hours at a time, you need to feel comfortable, don’t you think?! The only thing I’ve done which has helped me is get an ergonomic mouse which has stopped the pain I was suffering in my hand.

Louise Lenel July 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Kathy – I was very interested in your site. I not only perch but also sit on my feet almost like kneeling – can you help suggest ways to stop this it is? At work they have given me all sorts of footstools etc to stop this but I never seem to use them! Louise

Matt July 22, 2010 at 10:30 pm

What do you reckon to this study?

I can’t see it catching on myself!


Kathy July 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Hi Louise, Thank you for your comments on the blog post. I am pleased that you do feel comfortable when working at your desk. It is difficult to comment about how you are sitting as you have not stated how you sit but the fact you are comfortable is a very good sign. The posture you adopt should be adapted to the task you are undertaking so generally a more upright posture is best when undertaking a lot of input via mouse or keyboard and a more reclined posture when speaking on the phone or reading documents. Frequent changes in posture are ideal and work that generally requires you to get up and down a lot, such as getting up to retrieve your printing or speaking to colleagues, is great due to these natural posture breaks.

Well done on getting yourself a suitable mouse. What type have you found helpful?

Kathy July 26, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Hi Matt, Thanks for posting this interesting link. What the article has failed to address is the impact on the upper back and neck when you sit in such a reclined position. Most tasks we undertake in sitting require us to see what we are doing and most often use our hands. In this position you are forced to poke you head forward awkwardly, which undoubtedly would cause neck pain and also your shoulders would become forward and rounded resulting in likely shoulder impingement when working.

It has long been known that increasing the recline angle of the low back reduces the loading to this area. Having a chair with a recline facility (especially with a good quality free float mechanism) can help you to reduce the stress on the low back for some activities such as viewing screens, reading or speaking on the telephone. However, in my experience most people find 120 degrees to be enough as more than this causes problems in the neck or upper back.

Does anyone have any other comments on this?

Jo Rowland August 26, 2010 at 8:55 am

I am reading this blog at home – kneeling on a chair and leaning forwards to read the computer screen. Oops. Your points are well made! I have experienced backpain before due to bad posture and its generally after periods of working from home as opposed to working in the office, when I tend to move about more. Thanks for the reminder!

Kathy August 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Hi Jo,
Thanks for your comments. Think about how you are going to remind yourself on a day to day basis. We are all creatures of habit and often forget. Maybe a ‘post it’ note on your screen may help that says THINK POSTURE! Good luck

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