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According to recent research, in 20 years’ time the average office worker will have a hunched back, protruding stomach and sore eyes. The research also showed that 90% of office workers of workers who suffer from health issues because of their job are therefore performing more poorly at work.

To accompany the research, commissioned by office equipment firm Fellowes, a model has been made to show what the future holds. Named Emma, the model is a result of a sedentary lifestyle and an uncomfortable, unpractical working environment.

The research is a wake-up call to all office workers and begs the question: what can be done to prevent it? The answer is to create an “ergonomic” workspace that is conducive to comfort and efficiency.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to achieve this, from being more selective with furniture to encouraging employees to be more active. With this in mind, we’ve written a guide to ergonomic office space design to help you create a suitable environment.

Let’s face it, no one wants to look like Emma, so sit up straight and read on for some useful ideas. You definitely won’t regret it!

*Image source: Sky News

Ergonomic Office Task Chairs

A good everyday task chair is essential – especially for those suffering from back pain. For optimum comfort, there are a number of things you should look for before purchasing. Consider the following:

Given that there are many options, it is good to have an ergonomic office setup checklist to inform your decision. By considering these important factors, you’re sure to make the right choice for your workspace.

Active Seating

It’s a long known fact that sitting down too long is bad for your health. In fact, research shows that being sedentary can have an adverse effect on posture, blood circulation, breathing and mental health.

While the obvious solution is to get up and move around more often, one alternative is to introduce active seating. Active seating keeps your body moving by encouraging the same natural posture shifts that occur while standing or walking. Here are a few examples:

  • Self-balancing chairs – This is essentially a backless chair or stool that helps you to integrate more movement than a regular task chair. These help to improve posture, build core strength, and release back, neck and shoulder tension.
  • Kneeling chairs – A kneeling chair typically consists of two pads: one to rest your lower knees on and one to sit on. As you kneel on the chair, your pelvis opens and your spine adopts the correct alignment. This strengthens your core and back muscles, improves blood circulation and keeps you more alert during tasks.
  • Balance ball chairs – What do you get when you cross an exercise ball and a task chair? A balance ball chair of course! Balance ball chairs allow you to change positions frequently, improve posture, align your spine and strengthen your core.

As active seating is somewhat unorthodox, consider alternating it with general task chairs. This also means your body will feel the unique benefits of multiple office furniture solutions.

Height Adjustable Desks

Like office chairs, there are plenty of desks out there to choose from. From an ergonomic point of view, the most important aspect when choosing a desk is height.

A desk that’s too high will cause strain on your forearms while typing, while a desk that’s too low will cause you to hunch over and put strain on your back and shoulders. Therefore, it’s essential that your desk is height adjustable.

Some desks even raise to the point where you can stand while working. Known as “standing desks”, the benefits include reduced back pain, improved energy levels and a lowered risk of heart disease.

Despite the benefits of standing desks, being on your feet all day can lead to aches and pains. Therefore, you should look for a setup that allows you to change the height or your workstation and use a chair when needed.

Activity Areas

To create a truly ergonomic office space design, it is essential you encourage employees to move around. If you have enough space, one way to do this is to implement dedicated areas for activities.

The great thing about activity areas is that you can really get creative with with the design. Here are a few concepts to get you started:

  • Yoga rooms – If you’ve got space for a mat, then there’s no reason why you can’t introduce a yoga area! Yoga is particularly good for offices as it can alleviate common pain and stiffness caused by being sedentary. So, for workers that spend hours a day slouching over a desk, a good stretch is the perfect remedy!
  • Game rooms – A game room is a sure-fire way to get the blood flowing and joints moving. By introducing snooker tables, ping pong tables and dartboards, you will encourage employees to step away from their desks and take part in physical activities whilst having fun.
  • Indoor gyms – Introducing a gym area is invariably good for an employee’s physical health. Moreover, a recent study by Bristol University showed that employees are more productive and motivated during workout days. While you may not have the space to introduce a swimming pool and mega gym like the Nike headquarters, consider bringing in some basic equipment like rowing machines and exercise bikes for a 10-minute cardio hit!

Another great way to encourage employees to step away from their desk is to introduce a breakout area. For some great design ideas, take a look at our blog: “20 Office Breakout Room ideas for Your Workspace.”

Environmental Elements

It’s easy to overlook the environmental elements, but they are key part of ergonomic office space design. The three key environmental elements in offices are light, air and temperature.

  • Introduce natural light A recent study by Cornell University proved that natural light in an office significantly improves health and wellness among workers. To increase the natural light exposure in your office, consider replacing stud walls with glass partitions. This will make your employees more alert and help to reduce eye-strain like poor Emma.
  • Improve air quality Research shows that employees who work in a clean air environment perform better – particularly in mental tasks. Ways to clean the air include introducing an air purifier and regularly cleaning your ventilation system. For a really drastic solution, consider moving to an office that has less traffic pollution nearby.
  • Offer temperature control If you offer employees the ability to change the workplace temperature, this will typically make them happier. Make sure you have a good air-conditioning unit and hand over the control.

By improving the environmental elements of your workspace, you will create a much healthier working environment. This will boost both employee happiness and productivity, meaning everyone wins!


While it’s great to introduce things like activity areas and ergonomic furniture solutions, there are plenty of accessories out there that will make a workspace comfortable and efficient. For example, you can buy footrests for support while sitting at your desk, lumbar pillows for chairs to support the lower back, ergonomic mouses and keyboards, and monitor-friendly glasses to reduce eye strain.

Don’t forget, each employee is different in terms of their needs. Therefore, consider asking your employees if they require any accessories to make their workstation more comfortable.

Activity Based Working

With activity based working, employees are not assigned a desk but given a choice of work “zones”. With this set up, employees are able to work in a way that suits them, whether it be at a desk, sofa or collaborative workstation.

Given that activity based working is all about options, this is an ideal way to create an ergonomic workspace. For example, if an employee suffers from back problems, they may wish to use an area with a standing desk. A typical activity based working office will also have areas for exercising, meaning employees can get in a few minutes of yoga, meditation or cardio before work or during lunch.

Ultimately, activity based working is all about creating an environment that is comfortable and practical. This is a sure-fire way to make employees happier, healthier and more productive.

To see an example of an office using activity based working, see our Hudl case study here.

Read also: “Should Your Company Switch to Activity Based Working?”

Thank You for Reading Our Ergonomic Office Space Design Guide

We hope that this article has given you plenty of inspiration to make your office space more ergonomic. Remember, a few simple changes can go a long way. Some new furniture or accessories can really improve employees’ lives and help them to avoid the same fate as Emma.

If you’re a business owner, we recommend reaching out to your employees before you start. Ask them about their pain points and identify what can be done to make their working environment more efficient. Just don’t be surprised if you’re inundated with requests for a game room!

For more articles like this, make sure you keep an eye on our news section here.