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Expert's Guide on Setting Up Ergonomic Workstation

January 15, 2024

Expert's Guide on Setting Up Ergonomic Workstation

Written by Physiotherapist, Paulina Wegryzn

Creating an ergonomic office desk setup goes beyond aesthetics — it's about optimising your environment to minimise the risk of discomfort, strain and repetitive stress injuries. 

In this blog, we will share valuable insights and practical tips on your ergonomic desk setup. With expert and easy-to-understand ergonomic desk setup diagrams, learn how to select the right chair, keyboard, mouse and how to achieve an ergonomic desk setup with two monitors — encouraging proper posture, reduced physical stress and maximised efficiency.

Ergonomics in the workplace is an important consideration for injury prevention and pain management. Follow the below guidelines to ensure your workstation setup is optimised. An ergonomic workstation setup can help decrease neck, back, hip, shoulder, or wrist pain.

Benefits of an ergonomic office desk setup

Investing in an ergonomic office desk setup not only prioritises your well-being but also enhances your performance and job satisfaction. Here are the benefits you can expect with a correct ergonomic desk setup:

  • Improved posture— One of the key advantages of an ergonomic office desk setup is its ability to promote proper posture. By providing adjustable features such as height-adjustable desks and ergonomic chairs with lumbar support, you can align your spine in a neutral position, reducing strain on your neck, shoulders and back. 
  • Reduced risk of musculoskeletal disorders — An ergonomic office desk setup is designed to minimise the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) associated with prolonged sitting or repetitive movements. By implementing ergonomic principles, such as adjustable desk heights and ergonomic accessories like keyboard trays and monitor stands, you can reduce the strain on your muscles and joints.
  • Enhanced comfort and reduced fatigue — Working at a desk for extended periods can lead to discomfort and fatigue. However, an ergonomic office desk setup aims to alleviate these issues. With features like padded and adjustable chairs, wrist rests and footrests, an ergonomic desk setup reduces physical stress and fatigue, allowing you to focus on tasks without distraction.
  • Increased productivity— A well-designed ergonomic office desk setup can significantly boost productivity. By minimising discomfort and distractions caused by poor posture or inadequate equipment, you can maintain focus and work efficiently. 
  • Improved circulation and energy levels— Traditional office setups that involve prolonged sitting can lead to poor blood circulation, resulting in decreased energy levels and increased fatigue. By incorporating sit-stand desks, you can alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day, promoting better blood flow, increased energy levels and improved overall well-being.
  • Better eye and neck health— An ergonomic desk setup with two monitors also considers the positioning of your computer monitor to reduce strain on your eyes and neck. By placing the monitors at eye level, maintaining a proper viewing distance and utilising ergonomic monitor stands, you can minimise eye fatigue, neck pain and the risk of developing vision-related issues.

How To Set Up An Ergonomic Workstation

Work Surface Height

If doing paperwork tasks, the height of your ergonomic desk setup should be 2.5-5 cm above your elbow height if you are sitting in a chair.  

Monitor Height

With computer based tasks, you want an ergonomic desk setup with two monitors to accommodate your computer. When seated, the top of your computer screens should be where your line of sight naturally falls.

Monitor Distance

Your monitor should be about an arm’s length away from you.

Monitor Tilt

Tilt your computer screen back away from your face to decrease the strain on your neck and eyes. Tilting your monitor back about 3 centimetres so that your eyes naturally fall on the address bar (or URL bar) of your internet browser will decrease the strain on your neck and keep your eyes at a comfortable level.

Chair Depth

Your buttocks should be positioned very close to the back of the chair. Your knees should not be touching the front of the chair cushion. Ensure that there is about a 3-5 cm gap between the back of your knees and the front of your chair.

Chair Height

Lower your chair so that your feet rest comfortably on the ground with your knees bent.

Chair Armrests

Your armrests should not interfere with arm movements or limit your ability to sit close to your computer. Ensure that your armrests are at a height where your forearms can rest naturally with your elbows bent and your shoulders relaxed.

Ergonomic Workstation Setup

Workstation Layout

A straight or “L” configuration is recommended to allow easy access to both computer and open desk space.

There should be no obstruction to the knee swivel space, to ensure that transition between both spaces is easy and fluid.

Document Placement

Place frequently used items within forearm’s reach. Place occasionally used items within arm’s reach. Documents should be supported on a raised vertical angle if they are being consulted while using a computer. Consider purchasing a document ramp for this purpose. Documents should be positioned beside the monitor or between the monitor and the keyboard.

Source Document On One Side Of Workstation

Mouse Placement

Place the mouse as close to the keyboard as possible. Your mouse should be the same vertical height or slightly higher than the keyboard. It should never be lower than the keyboard. A mouse that is far away from and lower than the keyboard forces the user to reach further. Appropriate mouse placement keeps the mousing arm close to the body, the elbow bent, the shoulder neutral, and the wrist straight. This is the optimal ergonomic position for the upper extremity.

Keyboard Placement

Your keyboard should line up with your computer screen. Never have the keyboard and computer screen at different angles. This will cause excessive neck strain and movement throughout your work day. Below is a diagram of appropriate mouse and keyboard placement.

Keyboard Shoulder Strain

Keyboard Guidelines

Keep your wrists straight while you are typing (as if you were playing a piano). If your keyboard is on a retractable platform, tilt it slightly away from you or keep it level; never tilt it towards you. This means that the front of the keyboard (the side closest to you) should be level or slightly lower than the back of the keyboard.

Do not anchor your wrists while typing, but keep them floating above the surface of the keyboard. Your forearms resting on the edge of the desk or on the armrests of your chair should be taking the weight of your arms while typing.

Having the keyboard too low can cause you to extend your wrists to type. Another common reason why your wrists could be extended is that your keyboard tray itself is propped up on its small legs. If this tends to make you extend your wrists, lower these legs to make your keyboard sit flat.

Wrist extension (bringing the back of your hand closer to the back of your forearm) causes more pressure on your carpal tunnel, which is a sensitive structure in the base of your wrist. Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are tingling or soreness on the palm side of your wrist.

Use a soft touch when typing, and keep your fingers gently curved. Break up prolonged keyboarding with other tasks for at least five minutes of every hour. Beyond this larger break, take frequency micro-breaks to stretch your arms and hands.

Wrist Placement While Typing and Mousing

It is common to have a bent wrist while typing or using a mouse. Bending your wrist causes increased tendon friction and irritation. It also requires more muscle force to accomplish a task. Lastly, bending your wrists to type increases pressure in your carpal tunnel area, which is a common site of nerve entrapment at the base of your wrist, where it meets the palm of your hand. Keeping your wrists straight while you type and use a mouse decreases pressure in your wrist and lowers the risk of injury.

Wrist Angles For Keyboard And Mouse

 

Reduce Glare

Reducing window glare will help prevent your eyes from being strained and tired. Place your monitor perpendicular (at a 90-degree angle) to the closest window. If necessary, use window blinds to further reduce glare.

Lighting

Light sources should be on either side of your monitor, not in front of or behind you. Ensure that you have access to operate window blinds, and that the blinds can be lowered or raised as needed.

Reducing Eye Strain

A good way to reduce eye strain is to adjust the monitor brightness and contrast settings on your computer screen. Make sure that the size of the text on your screen is at least 3.5 mm high. This will ensure that you are not straining your eyes to see the text when the screen is a comfortable arm’s length away from you. A good font size for most people without vision problems is around 12 points.

Make sure that the refresh rate on your computer is set to as infrequent a rate as possible to avoid constant flickering of your screen, which can strain your eyes over time. 

About every 30 minutes, look at a distant view for 30 seconds to 1 minute (at the other side of the room, down the hallway, or out the window) to rest your eyes. Your eyes use different muscles when looking at something close up and something far away, so this break for your eyes is an important way to decrease discomfort from looking at your screen.

Ergonomic WorkStation Arrangement

Get the ergonomic desk setup you need at UpDown Desks

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Browse our website today and elevate your workspace to new heights with the best standing desks on the market. Your body and mind will thank you.

By Paulina Wegrzyn.

Paulina Wegrzyn is a physiotherapist residing and practicing in British Columbia, Canada. She completed her Master’s in Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada. She currently treats a large persistent pain population. Paulina is a certified pelvic floor physiotherapist, and takes a biopsychosocial approach to treatment. She uses a combination of education, manual therapy, soft tissue release, and exercise prescription with her clients. She is interested in educating others regarding the benefits of physiotherapy in order for them to feel empowered to take control of their health. She enjoys writing content related to this field of study as she believes that physiotherapy should be accessible to all.
Pauline - Masters Qualified Physiotherapist
 

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