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How to Set Up an Ergonomic WorkStation

October 29, 2020

How to Set Up an Ergonomic WorkStation

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

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.

Work Surface Height

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

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Monitor Height

With computer based tasks, you want the work surface to accommodate your computer. When seated, the top of your computer screen 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 centimeters, 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 3-5cm 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. 

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Chair Armrests

Your arm rests 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

An “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 is 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 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.


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 monitor brightness and contrast settings on your computer screen. Make sure that the size of the text of 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 point.

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

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