Poor posture at work: how to get people’s backs up

The device (seen here on a lapel) buzzes to remind the wearer to improve their posture.

Poor posture can lead to back pain and higher levels of stress, depression and absence. Could a new wearable device help to straighten up the workforce?

Did you know that the average employee spends 38 minutes of every hour slouching and only 22 minutes holding themselves in a position of good posture? Or that a woman’s posture is generally 20% worse than a man’s?

According to research published in Health Psychology last year, holding a poor posture for as little as half an hour can lead to higher levels of stress, depression and fear.

Furthermore, 70% of people in developed countries will suffer lower-back pain at some point in their lives, making it the second most common reason to visit a doctor.

Whatever the cause, back pain is an issue that will affect a majority of the workforce at some point. This will result not only in personal discomfort but also potentially time spent off work and lost productivity.

Imagine that there were a way to zap them into shape. Step forward California-based Lumo BodyTech with its Lumo Lift posture tracking device.

The Lumo Lift is a wireless gadget designed to change how we carry ourselves, in a fashion reminiscent of Pavlov’s dog. It is a small sensor that a wearer can place on or under their clothing to read their position. It vibrates when their posture becomes misaligned.

Changing behaviour

A recent partnership with cloud-based health platform Validic – which enables employers to track corporate wellness – means organisations deploying Lumo Lift sensors can now collate information, along with data from other wearable wellness devices such as Fitbits. Using this data, they can monitor trends or create competitions.

To get the Lumo Lift up and running, individuals must move themselves into the best position that they can before double-pressing the sensor, which takes a snapshot of their posture and uses it as a benchmark for future reference.

They can then either passively track behaviour and look at trends, or turn on the coaching vibration feature, which can be set to reflect a time delay of their choice – for example while they are in a meeting.

Spending up to 40% of your time indulging in good posture will earn a “good posture hour” commendation, while staying at it for 60% of the time wins a “super posture hour” accolade.

Tansy Brook, the company’s marketing and research lead, explains the product’s rationale: “One of the biggest challenges with posture is that people get engrossed in work and just forget. But it’s all about muscle memory so the goal is to teach your body about good posture and to get the sensor to help you change your behaviour.”

Individual devices can be bought through Amazon or Apple stores in the UK, but organisations looking to improve workforce posture on a grander scale and access support as a corporate client will need to buy from the company’s California headquarters.

Considering all the negatives associated with poor posture, this could be a (virtual) nudge in the right direction.

Cath Everett

About Cath Everett

Cath has been a journalist and editor for more than 20 years, specialising in HR and technology issues.
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