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My workplace encourages employees to sit in the right ergonomic position to minimize stress and fatigue related to bad posture. This is completely new to me and my previous employers have never stressed any of this.
We have nice comfy chairs and height adjustable sit-stand workstations.

Problem
However much the employer is stressing on right posture by discussing it in a "safety moment" during meetings or by putting fliers on notice boards, people still seem to like to slide under the desk when they work (especially post lunch hours).

Suggested solution
We could inform my colleagues, during our monthly meeting, that they will be hearing a beep over the PA system. They could use this beep as an audio cue to re-align or adjust the posture.

  • This is least non-invasive way of telling someone to adjust themselves and prevent injury.
  • Other visual cues such as flier and pin-ups have not done the trick

I'm hesitant to suggest this solution to my employer as I could not find any precedence or I do not know if this would be a right way to remind people of something. (This tends to be psychological, as a beep is making one do things that one would not normally do)

Would it be right to suggest this? If so, how would I go about making this suggestion?

37

I myself struggle with maintaining my posture sometimes, and have found browser extensions/add-ons to be a useful solution.

I use one called PostureMinder (available on Firefox as well as Chrome to my knowledge, and maybe others). You simply set it to pop-up small desktop messages every x minutes to remind you to maintain a good posture. There are options for it to provide an audio queue also.

Settings enter image description here

You could encourage staff to set this up in their browsers, where they can then configure it or disable it to their liking.

As other users have said, at the end of the day you can't control every aspect of what people do but this is a relatively lightweight way of giving people the option to be aware of their posture.

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    "have it be mandatory" I would be calling recruiters the day that policy was announced. – Kevin Apr 17 at 0:41
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    Other than the "have it be mandatory" line this is a useful answer, making such a tool available (or at least letting users know it exists) would be a good idea. Any attempt to impose it's use on people though... ugh. – motosubatsu Apr 17 at 13:07
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    Thank you for a constructive / alternative answer. Appreciate your time. – Prasanna Apr 17 at 15:53
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    That's great. I have just downloaded it because every few minutes I begin sliding under the desk. – undefined Apr 18 at 6:54
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    There are phone and smartwatch apps that work similarly, so you could even often users a choice of tools. I think "encourage" is always going to be miles better than "mandate" when it comes to office health projects. – Meg Apr 18 at 12:39
100

I believe there should be a line somewhere between suggesting / advising good practice and appearing pushy for implementation. You don't need to chase everyone, individually to make them follow the advise.

Your organization made enough attempts to make the employees aware of the danger and given them guidelines for safe posture. Now it's up to them to comply. They're not kids. The organization can, periodically keep the campaign running, in form of the usual

"[....] discussing in safety moment during meetings or by putting fliers in notice boards, [...]"

If someone wants to follow the bad and dangerous habits, that's their choice [1]. Nothing you try to do, most likely, will have any effect.

Oh, and please drop the idea of using the audio beep over the PA, it'll be hugely counter-productive, causing unnecessary distraction and annoyance.


[1]: Example: People smoke, despite the packets clearly showing "Smoking kills" and "Tobacco causes cancer".

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive Apr 18 at 10:26
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    This is somewhat different. It’s not people consciously choosing bad posture (or at least, that’s not who the beep would be aimed at). It’s people drifting from correct posture over time. A reminder is much more likely to work here. – Tim Apr 18 at 17:12
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We could inform my colleagues, during our monthly meeting, that they will be hearing a beep over the PA system. They could use this beep as an audio cue to re-align or adjust the posture.

Oh holy noodle.. that sounds truly awful.

Not only is it guaranteed to be annoy a large portion of the workforce it also wont be particularly effective. Assuming you have to do this "beep" reasonably frequently (because otherwise you're going to go so long between reminders that people will be spending hours in the "wrong" posture) then either people will succeed in effectively ignoring the "beep" (in which case it won't be prompting any action) or they won't be able to and it will be intensely irritating (there's a very good reason why the Annoy A Tron sold very well as a prank device!).

The use of a recurring beep to get people to do something is effective (think seat belt warning bongs in cars) but it's only effective because the beeping stops if they do what it wants. In your example you have no such feedback loop - everyone who is sitting in a good posture when the beep goes off is effectively being admonished to do what they are already doing and that's as irritating as all hell.

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    If I was interviewing to work at this company and heard the strange PA beeps, I'd ask what they were. "Oh, we do that because we like to micro-manage the way that our employees sit in their chairs". Good luck finding candidates that don't bail after that first interview. – bta Apr 18 at 2:10
47

People tend to react strongly against:

1) Being spied upon and having transgressions alerted to everyone in the office
2) Being told how to live their lives
3) Being distracted when someone else in the team earns the "posture police" alarm tone (assuming they can hear it over their headphones)
4) People in the team who repeatedly and intentionally sets off the alarm and blames someone else

Companies are pretty good at ensuring that you have an ergonomically healthy working environment, but they have no obligation to make sure that you stay that way.

If you want to continue having good posture while working, that's great - but you can't expect to enforce the same in others.

  • The organization does not punish people for bad posture. Neither it is policing. It is not as extreme as you make it sound. It is not like hearing "Please mind the gap" before you exit a metro train in Singapore. It sounds every single time the door opens. A random beep - like a sound from a mobile phone - should not be as bad .. I guess... – Prasanna Apr 16 at 13:42
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    @Prasanna If you're already set on the solution of using an audible beep, why are you asking about it here? Instead of arguing with every answer, read them and understand what they're saying. An audible beep is a terrible idea. Don't do it. – only_pro Apr 16 at 15:51
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    @Prasanna So I'm not sitting on a solution and trying to gain consensus from like minded people and that is not what we can give, if the proposed idea is absolutely terrible – XtremeBaumer Apr 17 at 6:48
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    The way I understood this question, the beep would be triggered at some interval to be used as a reminder to check your posture, not in response to someone slouching. Which would make your list somewhat invalid. – Celos Apr 17 at 8:30
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    @Prasanna no, one can't stop there - "No it's a bad idea" is not an answer; because it doesn't explain the reasoning; and it's the reasoning that's the important part. Everyone has explained why it's a bad idea, but you still seem determined to completely ignore it, and say "I'm sure it can't be that bad"; this is why only_pro said you've made your decision; and it's not a baseless assumption at all, it's based on your reaction to ignoring their reasoning. – UKMonkey Apr 17 at 9:22
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Assuming your colleages are all grown-ups I find it quite ridiculous to have a posture police to make everyone sit straight. I bet they are all very aware of the damages bad posture can cause. It is up to them to decide what to do with that information.

And what's next? Enforce a healthy food policy and beep on people's ears when they have chocolate and soft drinks for lunch?

  • No..No...no .. I did not intend to take it in this route. It is not policing that I suggest. I feel somehow people get lost with the work and forget good posture and end up having pain. That is why. I suggested this. No idea of policing or fixing people with beeps... – Prasanna Apr 16 at 13:38
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    Well, it sure looks like a lot of policing to me. – undefined Apr 16 at 14:02
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    @GustavoMP , surprisingly it's now pretty common that companies "encourage" employees to go to the gym, eat well etc! We're all children now – Fattie Apr 16 at 14:19
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    @Prasanna I think you would have to police it. How else will you know if the results are worth the cost of annoying some of your colleagues? Believe me... even the most optimistic outcome will result in a vocal opposition, regardless of the way you remind them. – zr00 Apr 16 at 19:24
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    @Prasanna Please stop denying that what you are suggesting is policing, because it IS – George M Apr 18 at 12:45
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Worst. Idea. EVER.
First - Go to any site (or even google) advice how to keep focus at work. In most in the "worst" three there are audio cues. All advise to turn of outlook notifications, Skype/lynk/communicators "pings", generally block distractions.

Here you are adding distraction for everyone targeted at one person. At random time you take 15 minutes of "refocusing" from everyone because one person didn't sit straight. It take 7 minutes for person to change posture. So you can end up in people never really focusing on their jobs. Rather focusing on sitting straight to not hear that damn beep.

Second - having an irregular sound cue would lead to irritation (and could be classified as "hostile environment") in the work place. People like regular sounds. That's why 4/4 rhythm is popular while 7/11 is not.

Third - People tend to take the most comfortable position. Sliding under the desk is one of them. It's VERY ergonomic.

Best solution - buy chairs that help keep proper posture. Nice comfy chair don't mean it's good chair to work in. Club chair may be comfy to sit in but not for working.

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    and: don't assume that what's sold as "ergonomic" is correct for everyone. Different people have different bodies, and that "perfect" chair you decided on may be horrible for some of them. E.g. my previous employer had their office furniture selected by an ergonomics expert, but it was a big factor in my RSI because the chairs were, due to my size, utterly wrong for my body, causing me to be forced to sit with my arms and hands in an incorrect position because the chair forced me into it. – jwenting Apr 17 at 7:23
  • @jwenting If it's ergonomic it must be highly customizable for people of different sizes and shapes. – user11153 Apr 17 at 8:23
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    @user11153 that's the joke, it's sold as "ergonomic". It's the air force pilot chairs all over again. – SZCZERZO KŁY Apr 17 at 8:35
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    @user11153 within limits, and I tend to fall outside of those limits... Same with desks, some "highly adjustable" desks can't be adjusted down far enough for me. Many display stands can't go high enough for me. Most chairs aren't wide enough for me. – jwenting Apr 17 at 9:24
4

If your employer is really so concerned about good posture...

...suggest that they buy different office chairs.

Fun fact: modern office chairs are specifically designed to have people to slide under the desk when they work (especially post lunch hours).

The pinnacle of office chair development seem to have been reached in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Office chairs have been developed that encourage (or rather enforce) a healthy posture while still being comfortable. "Enforce" seems to be a harsh word here, as it suggests that it goes against the user's free will, but it actually seemed to work by making the healthy posture so comfortable that everyone used it.

The downside? People regularly fell asleep in these chairs. You can still buy such chairs for your private use in your home office, but no reputable office supplier will sell any of these to any company which requires their employees to be awake during work hours.

Of course, you could use the PA system to wake up the employees (which now sleep in perfect posture) every ten minutes or so.

The previous sentence was a joke (I hope). The rest is not.

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    Do you have a link for these chairs? I'm curious after reading this. – undefined Apr 18 at 9:23
  • Sorry, no, I just remember a report on some science paper or so, from the late 1970s/early 80s. My own preference are chairs where the seat is more rigidly attached to the back rest. In a regular office chair, when you lean back the seat stays horizontal or even tilts downward towards the desk, so you slide out of the chair (and cannot fall asleep). With the "non-regulation chairs" the seat tilts backwards together with the back rest, so your back naturally rests where it should. Ideally, the chair lowers at the rear and does not rise at the front. A few "gaming chairs" work that way. – Klaws Apr 18 at 11:43

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