Illustration by Brown Bird Design; Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg Businessweek

From Sloppy Slouchers to Discreet Leaners: What’s Your Desk Posture?

  1. The Drawers
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    The Drawers

    Grandma would be appalled. It seems no one sits up straight anymore. A study by furniture maker Steelcase (SCS) has just identified nine common ways that modern workers are sitting, mainly to use all those gadgets on their desks. The report, based on a survey of 2,000 people in 11 countries, also points out the stresses we impose on our bodies by sitting in unfamiliar postures.

    Take what Steelcase calls “the Draw,” for instance. It’s a posture especially common among people who use tablets. The device frees them from the desk, allowing them to recline. The problem: Arms become fatigued after holding a device for long periods. Also, reclining can cause back pain when lower back support is inadequate.

    Illustration by Brown Bird Design; Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg Businessweek
  2. The Multi-Devicers
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    The Multi-Devicers

    Here’s a typical scenario: An uber-wired worker keeps one hand on the phone, one hand typing, both eyes squinting at the laptop. There's a lot going on, and people lean forward to get a better view of all the small screens they’re using.

    The problem: You’ll need additional support for arms that are constantly occupied with all those devices, plus a chance to recline.

    Illustration by Brown Bird Design; Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg Businessweek
  3. The Texters
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    The Texters

    These people love smartphones, which means they’re looking downward for extended periods.

    The problem: Without arm support, shoulders can strain. And if the device is not elevated to a natural line of sight, neck pain will follow.

    Illustration by Brown Bird Design; Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg Businessweek
  4. The Cocoon-ers
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    The Cocoon-ers

    This is the posture of Gen Y, which Steelcase describes as “the most casual generation in the workforce.” It’s fit for using small, mobile technology—especially, it appears, on the floor or a bean bag chair.

    The problem: Bending the knee can reduce circulation in the legs. The neck is angled down to view the screen, and the lower back is probably not getting support.

    Illustration by Brown Bird Design; Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg Businessweek
  5. The Swipers
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    The Swipers

    Tablet users often sit this way when working at a table, and they can often be seen swiping pages as they read—thus, the name.

    The problem: Hovering over a screen and leaning forward for a long period causes back pain. Unsupported arms strain the shoulders, while looking down tires the neck.

    Illustration by Brown Bird Design; Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg Businessweek
  6. The Leaners
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    The Leaners

    You’re in a meeting but you’re totally not paying attention to the presentation. That GIF of Beyoncé on your phone is way more interesting. Even your junk mail seems more interesting. Smart leaners know how to position their bodies so that what’s on the screen will remain private.

    The problem: Actually, it’s pretty comfortable to sit like this for a short period, though a little arm and back support would be nice after a while.

    Illustration by Brown Bird Design; Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg Businessweek
  7. The Entranced
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    The Entranced

    Deep. Focus. People sit like this when they're in "the zone."

    The problem: Leaning toward the screen strains the neck and adds pressure to the thighs. Many people unconsciously place their feet on the chair base for relief.

    Illustration by Brown Bird Design; Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg Businessweek
  8. The Take It In-ers
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    The Take It In-ers

    Workers with large computer screens often lean back—way back—to see it all. It indicates that they're absorbing information, rather than generating it.

    The problem: It might look sloppy, but this posture is actually a healthy way to sit, providing the chair offers lumbar support.

    Illustration by Brown Bird Design; Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg Businessweek
  9. The “Strunch”-ers
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    The “Strunch”-ers

    Laptop monitors are too low for most people, forcing users to stretch out and hunch over. (Or “strunch,” as Steelcase calls it.)

    The problem: Lots of them. There's a high likelihood of discomfort and, over time, injury to the back, arm, wrist, neck, and shoulders. So stop strunching.

    Illustration by Brown Bird Design; Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg Businessweek