We all know the importance of good posture and most of us have felt the ill effects of bad posture at some point in our lives – but that doesn’t stop us from falling into bad habits. Too often, we find ourselves addressing our posture only when we’re experiencing pain or injury.  

Whether we’re on our feet or sitting at a desk, till or workstation, the way we sit or stand at work has a huge impact on our wellbeing and productivity. Given how much of our lives we spend at work, our work posture has far-reaching implications for our overall health. 

Below, we’ll outline why maintaining good posture is crucial in the workplace and run you through the simple steps all workers can take to ensure you and your team are best positioned for success on the job. 

Why Is Posture Important in the Workplace?

Good posture is vital in any workplace, not least because many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at our jobs. We also tend to spend our workdays engaged in the same or similar activities all day long, meaning we’re at greater risk of repetitive strain injuries. 

When work environments are ergonomically designed, they are set up to encourage healthy posture and minimise strain and injuries related to poor posture. Alongside minimising the risk of strain, pain and injuries, good posture in the workplace can lead to greater productivity and better worker wellbeing. 

With workplaces increasingly called upon to take better care of their employees, starting with the simple baseline of encouraging and facilitating good worker posture is a no-brainer. In the long term, preventing injuries from poor posture reduces absenteeism. It’s also something that individual workers can take ownership of, taking simple steps to protect themselves from the ill effects of poor posture.

man sitting at table with laptop and coffee

The Risks of Poor Working Posture

There are a range of risks, health issues and poor outcomes associated with compromised working posture. Issues arising from poor posture tend to worsen over time, unless the poor posture and its underlying causes are rectified.

Back Pain

Back pain can be one of the first symptoms to arise from poor posture at work and lower back pain is the most common form, but other areas of the back and neck are also commonly affected. Back pain is one of the most common workplace-related musculoskeletal disorders and is associated with a range of occupations. While back pain is a particular occupational risk in jobs that require heavy lifting, manual labour and long periods of standing, it is also common among desk users and office workers who need to sit for long periods. Poor posture whilst at work can exacerbate existing back pain which over time can become chronic.

Other Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorder, or MSD, is an umbrella term for a range of conditions affecting the joints, bones, muscles and connective tissue. In the work environment, poor posture and poor ergonomic set ups can result in conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and back injury (discussed above). Workers who are required to adopt awkward postures for prolonged periods of time and repetitive movements could be at risk of MSD due to the load and pressure being placed on certain areas of the body. Over time, this could potentially lead to an increased risk of osteoarthritis.


Slouching might feel ‘easy’ in the moment, but over time, poor posture places increased demand on your joints and muscles which leads to muscle strain, which in turn increases overall fatigue. Poor posture may also compress the diaphragm, meaning your lungs need to work harder to get oxygen to your body – including your brain. This can make you feel more tired and ‘foggy’ during the workday.


Muscle overuse and jaw tension can be caused by poor posture which can lead to strain and tightness in the head, neck and shoulders. This muscle tension and imbalance could cause cervicogenic type headaches and exacerbate an existing predisposition to headaches.

Digestive Issues

Poor posture, particularly long stints of compromised seated desk posture, is associated with gastrointestinal issues. A slouched posture can compress the digestive organs, leading to discomfort and potentially slowing the digestive process (which is just one reason why frequent movement breaks are vital). 

Reduced Work Performance

None of us perform at our best when we’re in pain! Pain, injury, fatigue and headaches due to poor work posture are all associated with increased absenteeism (time off work) and presenteeism (working with reduced performance, in this case, due to pain or discomfort). As discussed, muscle strain and reduced oxygen caused by poor posture can also leave you feeling foggy and fatigued, reducing your capacity for productive work throughout the day.

How Does Posture Affect Mental Health and Work Concentration?

Good posture and ergonomic work environments more generally have been widely linked to better concentration, less stress, higher motivation and improved productivity in workplaces. Healthy posture allows workers to perform their daily tasks more efficiently by reducing fatigue and minimising the stress and distraction of the chronic, daily pain that poor posture can cause.  

Good posture has also been linked to increased positive feelings, like self-confidence, and reduced negative feelings, like stress and depression. The confident body language of good posture may even positively influence how workers are perceived by colleagues and clients. 

A man and woman working in a shop

Identifying Poor Posture at Work

So-called ‘correct posture’, whether that’s good desk posture or standing posture, looks different for everyone. Healthy posture should feel natural and easy, not stiff or forced (though it might take some time to build up your back and core muscles if you’ve been slouching for long enough to lose muscle tone). You should be aiming for a gentle ‘S’ curve in the spine, with shoulders relaxed, rather than looking to achieve a ramrod-straight back with a puffed-out chest.  

Despite individual variation, there are tell-tale signs you can look for to identify poor posture at work. We’ll outline some of them in more detail below.

Office Workers

Poor desk posture is common among office workers. The most obvious visual signs of poor desk posture include rounded shoulders and a markedly forward head position, aka ‘tech neck’. 

Recurring back, neck, wrist or shoulder pain may be your body’s way of telling you that your posture is off. More subtle ways your body might communicate poor desk posture include headaches, fatigue, neck and jaw pain, gastrointestinal distress or tight hips. 

Over time, if poor desk posture is left unremedied, pain may worsen and could develop into one or more of the chronic musculoskeletal conditions listed above.


While teachers often benefit from mixing up their workday with periods of standing and sitting postures, this variety means they also need to be mindful of maintaining correct posture in a range of positions. Also depending on what age group the teacher works with; the furniture can be the wrong size for the teacher which then makes them have to adapt their posture to fit to the chairs / tables when teaching their students.  

When seated, teachers should look for the same signs of poor posture as desk and office workers. Rounded shoulders and ‘tech neck’ are key visual clues that seated posture is compromised. Come marking or report-writing time when they are sat for prolonged stretches of time, teachers should be on the lookout for physical symptoms of poor posture, like back and neck pain, fatigue and headaches.  

If poor teaching posture is left untreated, symptoms will likely worsen over time, causing pain and limiting movement, both of which can significantly impact the performance of teaching professionals.

Retail Workers

Retail workers often benefit from movement and varied activity throughout the day, but there are still risks involved with maintaining a static till posture and being on your feet for long periods. Till workers who stand for the duration of their shifts should be aware of common signs of poor standing posture, like lower back pain, lower limb and joint pain. 

In retail work, there can be lots of lifting involved, some of which can be heavy. Back pain can be a sign of poor lifting posture, which can result in injuries in the short term, and these can become chronic musculoskeletal conditions in the long term if they aren’t treated.

Manufacturing and Factory Workers

Depending on the line of work, factory workers and manufacturing personnel may spend long hours either seated or on their feet. Both positions present postural risks, which should be managed with ergonomic workflows and equipment.  

Factory workers are at increased risk of repetitive strain injury and should look out for early warning signs like pain, tingling, numbness and cramping. These signs should not be ignored, as they can lead to chronic conditions if adjustments to workflow and/or posture are not made. 

Factory and manufacturing workers who spend long periods on their feet may notice they become fatigued more quickly when their posture is poor. They may also notice other common symptoms of poor posture like back, neck or shoulder pain, or varicose veins.

A black woman teacher and Student Standing in front of a Class

Improving Work Posture

While employers have a responsibility to educate their employees about good posture and provide ergonomic work environments, there are also simple steps you can take as an individual to improve your own posture at work, no matter what setting you’re employed in.

Listen to Your Body  

The first step in improving your work posture, whether you’re at a desk or on your feet, is becoming attuned to your body. Often, we are so completely absorbed in our work that we forget to listen to what our bodies are telling us minute to minute, throughout the day. It’s easy to ignore early warning signals, like neck tension or aching in your lower back. This feedback is our bodies telling us to move, stretch or change position.  

Tuning into your body’s subtle signals more regularly, and responding accordingly, will greatly improve your posture. You might find you need to alternate between a sitting and standing desk set-up at regular intervals throughout the day. Or, you might discover that you need to stretch your neck and shoulders every half hour while working on a production line. The more attuned you become to your body, the healthier your posture will become.

Set Yourself Up for Success  

If you have a desk job either at home or from the office, it’s important to set yourself up for success with an ergonomic desk space. You should always use an adjustable ergonomic desk chair. If your chair does not have built-in lumbar support, add your own lumbar support using a cushion or a towel. Both feet should be grounded either on the floor or a footstool. Your arms should be parallel to the floor when using your keyboard and your desk should allow your forearms to rest on it comfortably, and your monitor should be raised to eye level to avoid neck strain from looking up or down. Ideally, use a sit/stand desk that allows you to vary your posture throughout the day. 

If you work from home, you may not have the space or funds to invest in an ergonomic sit-stand desk, but you can still take proactive measures to minimise risks associated with poor posture, such as ensuring your monitor, desk and chair are at appropriate heights, and taking regular movement breaks. 

If you spend a great deal of time on the phone throughout your workday, you should use a hands-free headset to avoid compromising your posture with asymmetry. 

Detailed guidance on correct desk setups can be found online at Posture People or tailored to suit your needs specifically with support from an ergonomics professional, like an Osteopath.

Nail Your Stance 

Workers who spend a long time on their feet, such as teachers, manual labourers, and factory, retail and hospitality workers, should wear appropriate, supportive footwear and consider standing on an anti-fatigue mat, which can reduce lower back and limb pain by providing extra cushioning. Avoid favouring one leg when standing; instead, spread your body weight evenly across both feet to reduce joint strain.  

Protect your back when lifting heavy objects by bending at the knees and following workplace protocols. 

For workers who spend a lot of time completing the same, repetitious movements, such as factory and manufacturing workers, ergonomic workspace design is essential. For example, workstations should be set up to minimise reaching. This is the responsibility of everyone in the workplace and shouldn’t come down to individuals to manage or enforce.

Move Your Body  

Regardless of how or where you work, movement and variety are essential components of maintaining a healthy work posture and reducing the risks associated with poor posture. While good posture looks different for everybody, every worker will benefit from moving regularly throughout the day, adding variety to their workday routine, and taking adequate breaks to avoid long periods of standing or sitting. Employers should encourage regular movement breaks and design workflows to maximise variation for workers. 

A regular stretching and exercise routine will help to both counteract the effects of less-than-ideal posture and strengthen the muscles required to improve your posture over time. Aim to stretch your back, shoulder and neck throughout the day on a daily basis, and incorporate a core, back and full-body strengthening routine into your weekly schedule. Yoga and Pilates are great modalities to have in your healthy posture toolkit. All of these activities help you maintain well being enabling you to work and life more comfortably.

Seek Support  

If you are struggling with the ill effects of poor posture or less-than-ideal ergonomics at work, don’t hesitate to seek help. All UK employers have a responsibility to provide education and equipment to keep you safe at work, so you should feel confident to reach out to management or your HR department for support and guidance. You can also seek support from a doctor, physiotherapist or Osteopath.

How Can Employers Encourage Good Posture in the Workplace? 

Employers have a key role to play in encouraging good posture in the workplace – in fact, they are legally required to do so in the UK. Employers must provide employees with adequate education about correct desk posture and performing safe manual labour. They must also provide appropriate ergonomic furniture, equipment and supports to protect employees from strain or injury. 

Employers can learn more about how to keep employees safe and fulfil regulatory requirements via the British Health and Safety Executive.

Can Ergonomic Furniture Really Improve My Posture at Work? 

Ergonomic furniture is an essential component of good work posture. Ergonomic equipment, like chairs, desks and footrests, should always be adjustable since everyone’s body is different. Along the same lines, not everyone will need the same equipment to perform their job safely and comfortably, so workplaces should be flexible about meeting individuals’ requirements.  

Today, there are a host of ergonomic furniture and equipment options on the market. They range from high-tech wearable posture monitoring devices to relatively basic and widely available items like footrests, sit/stand desks and quality office chairs with adjustable lumbar support. 

Of course, equipment is just part of the puzzle. Workplaces must ensure that workers are properly trained to use and adjust their ergonomic furniture to support their individual safe working posture needs. Providing adequate breaks and training and designing workflows with ergonomic principles front of mind (for example, breaking up repetitive tasks), are equally essential when it comes to improving posture and minimising injury at work. 

The Role of Ergonomics in Improving Posture 

‘Ergonomics’ refers to the science of designing work environments and workflows to suit the human body. Ergonomic workplaces are optimised for their workers and go a long way towards improving posture and preventing posture-related issues.  

Ergonomic furniture and workstations, such as adjustable chairs, sit/stand desks, hands-free headsets and setups that minimise reaching, form the basis of ergonomic workplace design. Truly ergonomic workplaces go beyond these environmental basics, ensuring workflow, task assignment and break schedules are also ergonomically optimised to support healthy posture and worker well-being. 

As we’ve mentioned above, education goes a long way too. All workers must be properly trained to perform their jobs with correct posture. Workers should also be equipped to understand the basic ways they can take control of their workspaces, including how to adjust their ergonomic furniture to suit their needs, be attuned to their bodies, change positions as often as possible, and take steps to address postural concerns before they progress to bigger issues.

People Having a Meeting at Work

The Role of Osteopathy in Improving Posture (and Helping With the Impact of Poor Posture) 

While poor work posture can sometimes be resolved by mindful habit changes or ergonomic environmental tweaks, it isn’t always as simple as swapping in a new chair or remembering to ‘stand up straight’. In many cases, poor posture develops over the course of years. By the time it is causing enough problems to attract our attention, it is already associated with poor muscle tone and secondary musculoskeletal issues.  

In these cases, it can help to consult an Osteopath to assist you with your postural concerns. Your Osteopath can offer short-term treatment solutions to alleviate the back, neck or shoulder pain you may be experiencing. Unlike many other modalities, Osteopathy will also get to the root cause of your pain, improving your posture with tailored treatments and exercises for long-term relief. 

If you’re looking to correct years of bad posture or dealing with a posture-related injury, chronic back pain or musculoskeletal disorder, seeking support from an Osteopath is a great place to start.  

Developing and maintaining a healthy posture at work is essential. A range of risks and negative outcomes are associated with poor work posture, many of which will only worsen over time without intervention. The good news is that improving work posture is often simple and achievable, both for individuals and employers looking to support their workers. With some awareness, basic environmental adaptations and appropriate interventions, it’s relatively easy to improve work posture and improve health outcomes for workers in all kinds of work environments.