Are You Sitting Comfortably? Top tips to stay healthy whilst dealing with email.

May 26, 2020


Does spending too long dealing with email affect our well-being? A young friend of mine said they needed to see an osteopath because of reading their emails on their laptop while sitting on an office sofa. The employer paid for about three months of physiotherapy and osteopathy back treatment. Studies over the past decade, link the rise in musculoskeletal disease to the increased time we spend working at our computers. In 2013 it was estimated that in the UK businesses lost about 30 million days through musculoskeletal related illness such as chronic back, lower limb, wrist and hand problems.

‘Text neck’ is a phrased coined recently to describe the neck pain many suffer as a result of the neck disorders caused by hanging the head while using a mobile device (be it to text, email, post on social media, etc). Eyes too become strained and fatigued with prolonged looking at a screen, which can result in headaches and deteriorating vision and eye infections. I want to get old gracefully.

I want to have good posture, I want to be healthy and be an example to my children.

~ Sting

Improve your performance by keeping your whole body energized
Here are ten top tips drawn from talking to a range of medical and related experts (such as physiotherapists, orthopaedic specialists and ophthalmic consultants) to keep you at peak performance and ultimately save time whilst dealing with email (and indeed any technology related task).

  1. Work in twenty-minute slots. Our body can only tolerate being in the same position for 20 minutes maximum before tension starts to creep in (this applies for all devices).
  2. Stop frequently and do some stretching and breathing exercise for two minutes (for example, back, neck, hands and legs). Even take a quick walk. Sitting hunched up means that insufficient oxygen reaches our body and it slows our metabolism.
  3. Eat your lunch away from your desk. It is amazing what you find in people’s keyboards. The keyboard and mouse are also harbingers of bacteria.
  4. Keep hydrated. We often become either so engrossed in our work or distracted by new emails and social media alerts that it is easy to forget to drink water. Ideally you should drink about 1.5 litres of water per day. That can be hard, so set a sensible goal of say 0.75 litres.
  5. Eat healthy food like fruit and health bars. Chocolate in moderation is a good source of energy but you may find yourself on a roller coaster.
  6. Maintain good posture, sit up straight and support your back properly. Use your chair back rest to help you. Think right angles (90 degree) for your knees, elbows and hips. That means sitting at the right height and keeping your feet flat on the floor/a foot rest.
  7. De-clutter your desk to make it easy to access anything else you frequently use, for example, the phone. Otherwise you are stretching but not in a healthy manner.
  8. Protect your eyes by avoiding squinting at the screen and staying focused on the screen for too long. For example, from time to time look away at a distant object and remember to blink frequently to hydrate your eyes.
  9. Hold mobile devices gently and vertically and at face level rather than bending over it (from tablets to smart phones). This avoids the ‘text neck’ syndrome and relaxes your hand and arm muscles which will otherwise become tense.
  10. Switch off all technology devices for at least one hour before going to sleep. Computer screens have been found to disturb sleep patterns as they affect our circadian rhythm.

Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.

~ Theodore Roosevelt

In a work and social culture where many are time poor it is all too easy to sit at the computer dealing with emails and forget to look up and take that all important break. These are just a few of the ways to improve your well-being and performance in the always available and connected society in which many of us live.

About the Author

Dr Monica Seeley is the CEO and founder of Mesmo Consultancy. She is a leading international expert on email best practice. Her acclaimed workshops enable participants to reclaim their lives from the inbox and save up to 45 minutes a day (every working day) through managing their use of email more efficiently. Monica is author of Brilliant Email and The Executive Secretary Guide to Taking Control of Your Inbox.

This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication for administrative professionals. You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us. Visit the website at to find out more or to get your 30% discount email [email protected] and tell them we sent you.

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