Office Ergonomics – A Guide to a Healthier, More Productive, and a Happier Work Environment

The Problem

70% of the U.S. work force now sits on the job, many in front of computers. With so much work being done in a seated position today, a comfortable workstation is of greater importance than ever before. Poor sitting posture and poorly designed workspaces are major causes of neck and back pain, which are the main reasons for lost work time.

Physiological Rationale

The human body was not designed to sit for extended periods of time, or work in awkward positions that chronically contract or stretch muscles. Unfortunately, most jobs today require people to perform such activities. Therefore, a well-designed workstation and proper sitting postures are essential in reducing and preventing potential problems caused by the demands of today’s jobs.

Ideal Office Ergonomic Features

You should have a large enough workspace that allows you to avoid improper postures in answering the phone, moving files from cabinets, etc.

Your telephone should be positioned within reach of your non-dominant hand. This allows your dominant hand to perform activities while holding the phone in your non-dominant hand.

The use of telephone headsets (earphones) is preferred because they allow both hands to be free and bad neck postures are avoided

When using a computer terminal, overhead lighting should come from the side and not directly above the terminal

Noise due to vents, phones, printers, and co-workers talking should be minimized

Temperature and air quality should be controlled

Tops of computer terminals should be at eye level, keyboards angled, movable, and mouse pads installed

Computer terminals should be equipped with glare protection screens

Sitting posture while at your computer should be as follows: feet flat on floor, knees at 90 degree angle, back resting against back of chair with lumbar roll supporting spine, shoulders relaxed, elbows at 90 degree angle, and wrists in neutral position

Wrists should not be supported on edge of table, but can be supported on palms or on wrist supports

Document holders should be at eye level to avoid eye muscle fatigue

Head should be kept in neutral position

People who wear bifocals should have one set of glasses for “terminal” work and another pair for other activities

Your work chair(s) should be stable, adjustable for height, and equipped with rollers, lumbar curve, curved front (“waterfall”) edge of seat, and five-pronged support base

Avoid using armrests while working to reduce stress on your wrist and finger joints

Workplace Tips

Follow the 50-10 rule. For every 50 minutes you work sitting at your desk, take a 10 minute break. During your break, walk around, stretch out your muscles (refer to stretches listed below), mingle with co-workers, get a drink, etc.

Do whatever you want, as long as you are not sitting!!!

Useful Office Stretches

These should be performed, while standing as straight as possible, at least twice throughout your workday. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.


If these symptoms occur, consult your physician.

  1. Cervical Flexion – Bend your head forward so your chin touches your chest. Provide gentle overpressure to the back of your head with either hand. Hold for 30 seconds. You should feel a stretch along the back of your neck, and possibly down your spine.
  2. Cervical Extension – Tip your head back so you are looking at the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds. You should feel a stretch along the front of your neck and underneath your chin.
  3. Cervical Sidebending – Tip your right ear toward your right shoulder. Provide gentle overpressure to the left side of your head with your right hand. Reach for the floor with your left hand. You should feel a stretch along the left side of your neck between your ear and shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat to the other side.
  4. Cervical Rotation – Place your right hand on the back of your head. Turn your head to the left, so you are trying to look over your left shoulder. Provide gentle overpressure to the right side of your jaw with the back of your left hand (in a fist position). Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat to the other side.
  5. Lumbar Extension – Place your hands at the small of your back. Lean back and look up to relieve pressure on your lower back.

Useful Office Exercises

These activities should also be performed while standing as straight as possible.


Consult your physician if these symptoms occur.

  1. Chin Tucks – Bend your head forward, so your chin touches your chest. Make a double chin with your head in the forward bent position. Hold for 5 seconds. You should feel a “stretch” in the back of your neck. Repeat 10 times.
  1. Scapular Retraction – Keeping both your arms at your side, bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  1. Shoulder Shrugs – Keeping both arms at your sides, shrug your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold for 3 seconds. Roll and lower your shoulders backwards. Keep your elbows straight throughout the exercise. Repeat 10 times.