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Good Ergonomics: Do you pass The Holiday Test?

Why being lazy is good and the back rest is your friend

If I were to simplify one of the main ways to reduce pain in the office, it would be this:


The backrest is there to be used. If you’re not using it right now, then you’re probably working your muscles harder than they need to be.

Here’s a quick test that will illustrate the difference – The Holiday Test.

  1. At any point during a workday, note the position you’re sitting in. If you’re touching the desk with your arms, rest them in your lap.
  2. Now, relax every muscle that you can in your body. Imagine you’re on holiday, sitting on a tropical island with sand between your toes and palms gently swaying in the breeze. Nice hey?
  3. Holiday test photo 1Notice what happens to your posture.
  • If you stay fairly still, perhaps only sliding on the seat a couple of centimetres, that’s a good result. Keep it up!
  • Holiday test photo 2If you fell forwards or slumped forwards, you probably were not using your back rest for the right support, or at all.

True, this is not the most rigorously scientific test. But think about it; the amount that your position changes in The Holiday Test relates directly to the amount of muscle effort you’re using to hold yourself in the original position. If you didn’t move much, it’s likely that you were well supported in your posture and thus using minimal energy.

When conducting economic consultations for Bend + Mend, I so frequently find workers who sit at the front edge of the chair and do not use the back rest. While the position or shape that they’re in might be appropriate (“we were all taught to sit up straight weren’t we?”), for any person who needs to sit for long periods of the time in the day, it is necessary and advantageous to conserve energy. To reduce muscle strain. To sit in a fairly good position, but with support.

So, make friends with your backrest.

Now, here is the tricky part. If you don’t automatically feel comfortable in using your backrest, something needs changing. Perhaps several things. And getting this right on your own isn’t easy. All the heights and angles that we can alter during an ergonomic consultation are about helping people to feel great when they’re sitting correctly. This ‘tinkering’ process is what we do, and from the feedback we get from happy clients, it’s worth it.

Contact us at our Sydney CBD Physio Clinic to book an ergonomic assessment and start conserving energy today. Or I’m afraid you might feel the need for a holiday sooner rather than later…

It should be noted that movement and muscle effort are often good things, and we would never want to recommend staying static sitting in the one position; that has its own problems. But for sustained computer use being able to comfortably sit with support from the backrest in a reasonable posture is essential and far better than expending energy trying to sit up straight, or to inevitably fall forward into a worse position.

Blake van Koesveld

Blake graduated from the University of Sydney in 2003. He has worked in both Sydney and London and completed a Certificate in Spinal Manual Therapy in 2011. Blake has particular expertise with orthopaedic conditions and enjoys helping patients to weigh up their treatment options and with post-surgical rehabilitation. As a lifelong sports fan, Blake uses his knowledge of sports to customise rehabilitation for his athletic clients. After battling his way around the 2012 Edinburgh Marathon he has a deeper appreciation of the “foolish but fun” world of amateur endurance events.

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