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Official Guide To An Ergonomic Workspace

The easy, effective, and inexpensive guide to redesigning your

Proper posture at work is a fundamental component to a sustainably healthy lifestyle.
Many people are active and healthy in their personal lives, but pay little attention to their health
while at work. Or even worse, many other individuals have unhealthy habits both at work and at

This E-Guide will provide you with the information necessary to design a posturally and
ergonomically correct workspace with a minimal budget. When you implement these
suggestions you will experience a myriad of benefits, including better comfort at work, less pain
and joint stiffness, more energy, highly focused attention on important activities, and a greater
level of self-confidence.

Give your workspace an ergonomic makeover and reap the benefits of better health. A recent
poll determined that 86% of employees that work at a desk job were uncomfortable during
work. The poll determined that workers would be more pleasant on the job, more productive, and
less stressed if their workspace design was ergonomically correct. It makes sense, wouldnt you
be happier on the job too if you were pain free and able to concentrate better?

What many employees and employers may not know, is that they are actually putting their bodies
at risk for early onset degeneration if they dont take action to make their workspace a safe
postural environment. Your body is simply not designed to sit in the average work chair. Nor
is the body designed to sit for prolonged periods of time as is required by many jobs.

If you are like the majority of employees, your desk needs a makeover. Consider your workspace
design and how you can make it more ergonomically efficient and comfortable for your bodys
needs. The long-term benefits of proper posture and ergonomics demonstrate a significant
return on investment in terms of financial gains and health benefits. And dont worry, weve
got your back regarding the budget. Precise ergonomic design does not necessarily require a
high price tag.


If you arent quite convinced that you need a postural and ergonomic makeover just yet, consider
the consequences if you dont take action. If you are like the majority of workers in Europe and
America, you already fit the statistic of pain and suffering caused from improper posture. 55% of
European workers have experienced back pain in the last year, and 80% of Americans have
experienced back pain at some point in their lives. Half of American workers currently experience
symptoms associated with back pain each day.

However, its not too late to make important lifestyle changes. Remember, prevention is
the best cure.

Consequences of poor posture and unsatisfactory ergonomic work equipment:

1. Spinal Degeneration:
Simply put, the body is designed to move, not to sit. When you are in a seated position you
increase the pressure in the lower back by about 1.7 times your body weight. And this is
when you sit properly, if you have improper posture the pressure on the spine increases
further. The spine is generally strong enough to tolerate the pressure of poor posture for
about 20 minutes, before the vertebral discs start to absorb the pressure. You may notice
your back becoming stiffer throughout the course of the day to compensate for this

According to the Global Burden of Disease, low back pain is the single leading cause of
disability worldwide. At any given moment 31 million Americans are suffering from low
back pain, making it the second most common reason for visits to the doctors office,
outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.

Although the majority of your colleagues are probably suffering from low back pain too, it
doesnt make it normal. Back pain is completely preventable. Over time poor posture on
the job can cause serious spinal degeneration with associated symptoms such as chronic
back pain, herniated spinal discs, and sciatica.

2. Lowered Metabolic Rate:
Sitting is the structural equivalent of metabolic syndrome. Prolonged sitting with poor
posture has so many health consequences, it is a modern day epidemic contributing to the
onset of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and Type II Diabetes. While seated, your
metabolic rate plummets and cholesterol levels rise. The muscles of the body stop moving
all together and your heart rate slows. Then, the body's caloric expenditure rate drops to
about one calorie per minute; about one third of your metabolic rate while walking!

3. Irreversible Damage:
Researchers have studied sedentary employees to great lengths. What the research is
demonstrating is that the body needs movement throughout the day to stay stimulated
and to function properly. Researchers have discovered that even those individuals who go
to the gym and work out for an hour a day still suffer irreversible damage to their spine
and health if they are sedentary at work. The body cannot be fully revitalized by a quick


workout in the evening if you have had slouched sitting posture for 8 hours already that
day. The key to preventing health consequences on the job is intermittent movement and
posture breaks throughout the entire day.

4. Respiratory Dysfunction:
When the head is anteriorly placed in relation to the ribcage and the shoulders roll
forward, this creates difficulty breathing and decreased respiratory function. Poor posture
literally compresses the diaphragm, causing you to have shortness of breath as you
perform your job related activities. This puts a high amount of strain on the respiratory
system, and contributes to a lower threshold of fatigability.

5. Postural Aging
The greatest consequence of poor posture is mortality. Individuals who present with an
increased curve of their thoracic spine (called a kyphosis) suffer a higher level of mortality
by up to 144%! A kyphotic spine is commonly associated with elderly individuals.
However, due to greater levels of inactivity among society, this postural distortion is
becoming more and more common. Poor ergonomic design of your workspace is literally
taking years off of your life and accelerating postural aging.

If these are the consequences of poor posture and ergonomic equipment, what are the benefits?
The benefits are looking better, moving better, functioning better, and feeling better so you
can live better. Proper posture enhances occupational performance, reduces risk for pain and
injury at work, increases productivity and focused attention on important tasks, gives you a higher
energy level, and contributes to an overall better appearance and sense of self confidence.

Its not that your manager doesnt want you to be healthy; it is likely they are stuck in an old
school model of management. They likely dont realize the importance of proper ergonomic
design. Research demonstrates that although proper ergonomics is considered best practices for
employee health and safety 88% of managers surveyed had not heard of ergonomic design and
94% of managers have not studied the consequences of improper ergonomics.

According to the Department of Labor in the United States, an employer who implements an injury
prevention program should expect a return on investment of up to 6 times the initial fees.
Another research study demonstrated how the implementation of a corporate postural ergonomic
program resulted in a measurable increase of employee productivity by 54%, employee
absenteeism dropped 67%, workers compensations cases dropped by 93%, and employee
turnover went down by 94%.

If you are currently an employee at a small business or a large corporation and cant design
your workspace as you choose, what should you do? You should still take action. It is likely
that your employer is not prepared to buy the whole department treadmill desks tomorrow
(although they should). Dont fret too much. There are many easy to implement ergonomic steps
that you can do immediately that will help save your back and your bank. Your boss will thank
you in the end.


Ergonomic Checklist

Reference How To:
Avoid Place most commonly used items in front of you within less than an
arms reach away
excessive You should be able to grab your most commonly used work tools
reaching without straining your arms, twisting your spine, or shifting your
weight distribution from one side or the other
Price point: FREE

Headset or Instead of holding your phone to the side with your neck bent and
shoulder contracted, utilize a headset or hands free telephone
hands free The headset or hands free telephone allows you to move around
telephone comfortably and perform your job tasks with good posture while still
able to talk on the phone
Bending the neck to one side to hold a telephone and looking down
at a telephone to text message are of the most common causes of
neck pain
Price point: As low as $6.50, up to $59


Adequate You should be able to sit comfortably for an hour or more without
slouching your shoulders or hips forward
chair support Chair should be adjusted to a proper height allowing you to have
both feet on the ground. Your hips and knees should be in alignment
creating a 90 degree angle between your hips and legs and a 90
degree angle between your upper and lower leg at the knee joint
Chair should provide adequate lumbar support allowing you to sit
with your hips aligned under your shoulders. If you feel the need to
shift your hips forward, your lumbar spine is not adequately
There should be adequate spinal support allowing you to sit all the
way back in the chair while keeping your spine straight and your
shoulders rolled back
For best results: consider using an exercise ball instead of a chair.
By sitting on an exercise ball it requires you to engage your core
musculature to stay upright. You will strengthen your core while
sitting at work all day
Price point: As low as $10, up to $95


Reduce Reduce excessive forces to muscles and joints by reducing repetitive
actions with hard to utilize tools or heavy objects
excessive For example utilizing a trolley or a cart to transport heavy loads and
forces reducing exposure to whole body vibration
Price point: FREE

Keyboard Your keyboard and mouse should be placed at elbow height so you
can maintain a neutral position of your wrists while typing
and mouse Avoid excessive wrist flexion for prolonged periods of time
utilization Your keyboard and mouse should be comfortably placed in front of
and you so that you can sit up straight with your shoulders back and type
For best results: utilize a small cushion under your wrists to allow
neutral wrist position
Price point: As low as $30, up to $399 (for keyboard and mouse), as
low as $9, up to $34 (for keyboard and mouse wrist pads)


Placement of Your computer screen should be placed in front of you at eye level so
you can look straight ahead while using your computer
computer Keep your neck in a neutral position with your eyes parallel to the
screen horizon and the ears in alignment over your shoulders
Avoid looking up or down for prolonged periods of time
Be sure that you have adequate lighting and volume on your
computer. When straining to hear or see, people naturally lean
forward to be closer to the computer, slouching the shoulders
forward and bending the spine
Note: this is generally a larger problem for laptop users. If this is the
case for you, you can buy an ergonomic screen riser, or simply place
something underneath your laptop to rise the screen up to eye level
(such as a book)
Price point: FREE, up to $149

Foot Feet should comfortably reach the ground. Both feet should be
placed on the ground with equal weight distribution
placement Avoid crossing your legs while seated
If your feet dont reach the ground, place a footrest below your feet
Price point: As low as $17, up to $102


Document To avoid looking down while reading, place documents in an
ergonomic document holder
holder The holder should be placed at eye level
Price point: As low as $5, up to $49

Avoid Place most commonly used items in front of you to avoid twisting
your spine to grab work tools
excessive When turning to the side, contract your core musculature to support
spinal your spine
twisting When lifting objects always stand directly in front of the object being
lifted, avoid bending to the side to lift an object
Price point: FREE


Reduce noise Noise pollution is unwanted or overly loud noises that cause
pollution When loud noises are present it can cause headaches or undue
tension from straining to hear
To reduce unnecessary noise pollution consider building a
soundproof room
A less costly way to reduce noise pollution is to wear ear plugs,
headphones, or close the window or door to outside noises
Price point: As low as $11, up to $68

Avoid Survey your workspace for cracks in the ground or uneven surfaces
that you can trip over
standing on If unable to fix the floor, avoid walking or standing in that area.
uneven Standing on uneven surfaces can cause preventable injuries
surfaces If standing on an uneven surface be mindful of your posture, avoid
shifting more weight to one side than the other. Stand with equal
weight distribution over both feet
Price point: FREE


Perform work Perform work at elbow height to avoid excessive reaching and
at elbow Repetitive movements should be performed at elbow height
height allowing neutral position of the shoulders, forearms, and wrists
Utilize padding on the desk if necessary to rest forearms on for
reduction of tension
Get a chair with arm rests allowing you to rest your arms at elbow
Price point: FREE

Adequate Allow adequate clearance room for arms and legs while seated and
clearance Your knees should not hit the desk and your elbows should not hit
room the desk or chair
When turning from side to side you should not hit or run into any
Keep sharp objects away from edges
Price point: FREE


Standing Standing desks allow you to move around comfortably while
performing work
instead of Standing burns more calories, increases flexibility, and improves
sitting joint mobility
For best results get a desk that is adjustable, allowing you to sit and
stand for intermittent periods of time
Another option (but more expensive) is a treadmill desk, allowing
you to perform work while walking and exercising
Price point: As low as $49, up to $479 (adjustable standing desk),
starting at $449 up to $1489 (treadmill desk)


Posture Checklist

Postural How To: Example
Proper head Eyes looking forward and
and neck parallel to the horizon
alignment Neck muscles relaxed
The ears are aligned over the
Avoid rounding your spine and
jutting your head forward

Proper Shoulders are relaxed with

shoulder minimal muscle tension
alignment Shoulders are back, not rolled
The shoulders are the same
height from left to right
Shoulders are aligned over the
Keeping the shoulders back and
aligned over the hips allows
your mid-back (thoracic spine)
to be straight throughout the
While seated, avoid slouching
forward with your shoulders
While standing and walking,
avoid looking down. Pull your
shoulders back and look straight

Supported To support the lumbar spine
Lumbar spine while seated, contract your core
Align your hips under your
If it is difficult to keep your
lower back straight while seated,
place a small lumbar support or
cushion behind your lower back


to support the natural curvature.
This will help you maintain
proper posture for prolonged
periods of time
While standing, balance your
weight evenly over both feet and

Proper hip Align your hips under your
alignment shoulders
While seated it is more common
that the hips will be anterior (in
front of the shoulders), be aware
of this and tuck your pelvis back
into proper alignment by
contracting your core
While standing, it is more
common that the hips will be
posterior (behind the shoulders)
causing an increased curvature
of the lower back. Pull your
pelvis forward by contracting
your core musculature
The hips should be equal height
from right to left
Proper Feet and knees should be
position and pointed forward
weight Avoid shifting weight unequally
to one side
distribution of
When there is an unbalanced
the lower shift of weight certain
extremities articulations absorb more stress
and there is uneven muscle
While seated, place each foot on
the ground, avoid crossing one
leg over the other
While standing, avoid holding
heavy bags or items on one side
of the body for prolonged
periods of time. This will cause

a compensation pattern of
weight distribution throughout
the rest of the body

Proper Avoid excessive reaching and
position of strain of the arms and upper
upper extremity
While at work, whether seated
extremities or standing, organize your
workspace so you can work at
elbow height
Repetitive reaching and strain of
the upper extremities can cause
awkward postures and
unnecessary spinal twisting
While working at elbow height,
there should be a right angle at
the elbow between the shoulder
and the wrist
Keep your arms close to the
center of your body
Keep wrists in a neutral position,
avoiding excessive flexion or
extension (flexion is more

Adequate shoe Foot injuries are common in the
support workplace. People who stand
for long hours at work often
have sore feet and low back pain
If you work in a place with heavy
or sharp objects it is important
to protect your feet from
lacerations with good shoes that
cover your feet
Shoes with adequate support

have good arch support, fit
snuggly but are not too tight, are
the proper size (not too large)
Shoes with poor support are
high heels and pointed shoes


Activation of Strong core activation protects
core the integrity of the spine and
musculature prevents common injuries
When lifting, sitting, standing,
switching positions, bending
forward, etc. activate your core
musculature before performing
the movement
Dont focus on sucking in your
stomach instead, think about
contracting your navel towards
your spine (when doing this
activity you will notice that you
instantaneously straighten your
spine and have better posture)
You will know that your core is
weak and not activated if you
see a flaccid belly. For example,
when bending forward, your
stomach should tuck in not
pouch outward

Proper lifting Proper posture is essential to
technique proper lifting techniques
When lifting objects (especially
with heavy objects), keep your
back straight and contract your
core musculature
Bend your knees, keeping your
back straight. Avoid lifting
objects with your spine bent in a
C shape
Always lift the object right in
front of you and hold it close to
your body. Avoid bending and
twisting to lift, or twisting your
spine while holding the object

Posture Posture breaks are effective for
Breaks stretching the commonly
contracted postural muscles
(especially for people who work
seated at a computer for
multiple hours per day)


Sitting in your chair, open your
chest muscles up and back (as
shown in the picture)
Lean your neck and head back
You can keep your hands behind
your head, or let them fall out to
the sides
Hold this position for 20 seconds
at a time
Repeat this stretch every 30
minutes throughout the day

Posture Postural correction, like losing

Reminders weight, is a natural biologic
process that requires healthy
lifestyle habits. Utilize Posture
Reminders as a cue to have
healthy posture habits
Posture Reminders are there so
that when you see them it
triggers you to check your
You can utilize an object as a
Posture Reminder, such as a
sticker that you place in your
workplace, or a bracelet that you
You can utilize technology to
remind you; set a posture alarm
on your phone reminding to
check you posture and take a
posture break
You can also associate an object
with a Posture Reminder such as
a mirror. Every time you look in
the mirror check your posture