Lawyers: Six Tips for Workplace Health

Employees in law offices spend a lot of time sitting at desks, staring at screens and poring over case documents. Add in long hours and the stress of deadlines, and an attorney’s workplace begins to pose serious health threats.

Having a sedentary lifestyle (either because of work or personal choices) can put you at risk for serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Additionally, workers who sit for long periods of time are prone to neck, back, and shoulder pain associated with poor posture.

As a board certified physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, I’ve seen the impacts that poor workplace health can have on patients. Those who don’t make changes to their work routine can suffer chronic, long-term medical issues, which can be complicated to treat. If you experience aches and pains each day after working, you shouldn’t ignore them.

Here are six tips for attorneys who find themselves working long hours in the office.

1. Have an ergonomic workstation

Some employers will offer an ergonomic evaluation to determine proper desk, chair, lighting, and monitor setup. Even if your office doesn’t have professional evaluations, you can find great tips for a functional workspace online. Typically, your computer screen should be eye level, your elbows should rest comfortably at a 90 degree angle while typing and your chair should support your back while you sit upright with your feet flat on the floor.

It’s easy, especially after long hours, to start to slouch while at your desk. No matter how ergonomically sound your office is, poor posture for long periods of time will take its toll.

2. Exercising on your off time

Having an active lifestyle outside of the office can help with workplace wellness. Doing exercises like yoga or Pilates can strengthen your core, making good posture much easier to maintain. The stronger your core, the more support your spine has, and the easier it is to sit upright all day.

Activities that build up your endurance can also help you fight against fatigue in the workplace. Long hours are never easy, but if you have strong endurance your body will react better.

3. Switch up your office chair

Sitting on an exercise ball isn’t really an option when you have clients visiting. However, switching out your office chair for an exercise ball (sometimes called a stability or physio ball) can help in two ways: it elicits good posture and it works to strengthen your core. If you have a convenient place to store it when you’re not using it, give an exercise ball a try during morning prep time or in-between clients.

4. Adjustable desk

Standing desks or adjustable desks are great for those who need to work long hours. Again, there is a level of professionalism that needs to be kept for those seeing clients, so a permanent standing desk won’t work for everyone. Sit-to-stand desks are good options for those who need to change between sitting and standing throughout out the day. Standing while you work is great for your posture and circulation. Just make sure your computer screen is at eye-level and that you are wearing shoes you can stand comfortably in.

5. Take breaks

Perhaps one of the easiest things you can do to improve your workplace health is to take short, periodic breaks from your desk. You should try to stand up or stretch about every half hour. This gives your back, neck, shoulders and eyes rest from sitting at the computer and breaks up the monotony of a long work day. It’s easy to fall into a work trance, especially if you’re on a deadline. Luckily, there are lots of smartphone apps on the market to help remind you to take short breaks.

6. Eat healthy

Having a balanced diet makes it easier to be active. When your body is getting the nutrients it needs your brain functions better and it’s much easier to get through the work day. In addition to a balanced diet, eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce back, neck or shoulder pain associated with desk work. Turmeric is one spice that is fairly popular for reducing inflammation naturally.

Remember, if you’re experiencing daily pain you should see your physician. Treating aches and pains soon after you start experiencing them is much easier than addressing them farther down the line. The longer you wait to adjust your lifestyle or address pain associated with office work, the more likely you are to develop chronic pain. Treating pain that’s been a part of your life for years is sensitive. It involves a balance of physical and mental remedies. Think of healthy work habits as an investment in your career!


Neal Varghis, MD is a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation doctor who practices with Mercy Medical Group, a service of Dignity Health Medical Foundation in Sacramento. He specializes in musculoskeletal injuries, acute back and neck pain, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, pain reducing injections, and electromyography. A graduate of Albany Medical College, Dr. Varghis completed residency at Stanford University and has been practicing for five years.

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