Workstation Setup

How to set up your Workstationquick-5-step-button

TEMPORARILY WORKING FROM HOME:  Join us for the Webinar: Common Sense Ergonomics While Temporarily Working From Home (see Events Page for multiple dates).

In addition to materials in the Resource Library and Ask the Coach section, below are important steps to setting up your computer workstation for good posture.  One thing to keep in mind is that any one position is not ideal for an indefinite time period.  Changing positions and posture frequently by adjusting equipment and alternating tasks (typing, writing, walking, standing, even fidgeting) will ensure a healthy setup.  Lastly, posture is the most important factor to ergonomic health.  Chairs, working surfaces, accessories, monitors, keyboards, etc. can help, but they cannot cause good posture.                                                          

Steps to a healthy workstation: desk-sitting

  1. Make sure you have an adjustable chair and that it is adjusted to fit you.
  2. Make sure commonly used office items (monitor, documents, keyboard, mouse, and phone) are positioned close to you.
  3. Make sure you have adequate lighting and minimal glare.
  4. Take short and frequent rest micro-breaks, and do gentle stretches to keep your muscles limber.
  5. Move your eyes frequently and focus them away from the screen.
  6. Ask for assistance if necessary.

1. Chairs

chair-setup-imageMaintaining good posture while using a computer is a primary key to healthy sitting. This doesn’t mean that maintaining the same posture throughout the day is necessary.  In fact it is good to vary your sitting postures.  It is also a good idea to get out of your chair frequently and move around. Even if it’s for a minute at a time; it’s helpful.

While sitting, it is important to be comfortable. This is a personal issue, and everyone is different, which you should recognize when considering an office chair.  In addition, a chair should have sufficient adjustability to allow for various postures during the day.  Chairs should have adjustability in the seat height and depth, backrest height and seat tilt.  Armrests are not necessary, but if they are desired they should be adjustable.

2. Frequently Used Items

A. Monitors
Your monitor should sit directly in front of you, and in line with the keyboard.  A twisted working posture may lead to discomfort.  Also, the top of the screen should be at or a little below eye level, as it is natural to look slightly downward. When determining monitor distance, place it at about arm’s length, and then adjust according to your comfort level.  For bifocal wearers, see Vision section below.

If the job requires privacy while working, instead of move your monitor to one side, consider a privacy screen, which will allow you to keep the monitor directly in line with you and the keyboard.

Finally, keep your computer screen clean by wiping it very lightly when needed with a paper towel or special cleaning solution.

B. Documents
If the job requires working from paper documents while at a computer, it’s important to keep them as close as possible to the computer screen, and at about the same angle.  This will eliminate a twisted working posture, and also put the document at an easier to read angle.

For frequent users of documents, consider using a document holder.  Some are available that place the document to the side of the monitor, between the monitor and keyboard, and even some that can hold books.  Consider your personal preference and job needs when looking for one.

C. Keyboardswrist-position-keyboard
The keyboard should be at or slightly below elbow height, and parallel with your forearms.  If it is possible to slope the keyboard, make it a slightly downward slope (the front of the keyboard is higher than the back).

This may sound unconventional, but the idea is to keep your wrists straight (in a neutral/natural position of function).  In other words, if the keyboard is below elbow height, a downward sloping keyboard allows this.  If your keyboard has feet on the back that prop the keyboard up, make sure to lower those feet, in order to keep your wrists straight.

Adjustable keyboard trays can be helpful, but they can limit the “free space” available for your arms and hands. Individual factors (height, weight, and amount of keyboard and mouse use) will determine if the use of keyboard tray is the right solution.

If you type frequently and do not touch-type, consider taking a typing class.  You can alleviate the annoyance of having to shift your eyes from the keyboard to the monitor.  Also, you will become more productive.

It is also beneficial to learn shortcut keys (versus using a mouse for every command). (See shortcut keys)

D. Mouse
The mouse should be positioned as close to the keyboard as possible, and at about the same height, as they are normally used together.  You want to avoid reaching to get to the mouse.  It is also advisable to avoid resting your forearm or wrists on a sharp edge or hard surface.

There are other alternatives to using a traditional mouse, such as trackballs and touchpads.  Trackballs are stationary devices, so they may require less room. They are normally larger than a mouse.  Touchpads, which are also stationary, are essentially pressure sensitive screens that you place your finger on.  However, for those that can, the most effective way to maintain ergonomic health is to rotate use of a mouse between the right and left hands every 30 days.

E. Phone Use
If the phone is a commonly used item at your work area, keep it within comfortable arms reach, so it’s easy to get to.  If you have the tendency to cradle the phone, consider getting a hands free headset, as cradling the phone between your head and shoulder strains the muscles in the neck and shoulder.  A headset will also allow you to work with both hands while conversing on the phone.

*It is important that other commonly used items such as staplers and calculators be located close.


3. Lighting

Most office settings have moderate, indirect lighting.  To minimize glare, position your monitor so it’s perpendicular to or below the light source, use window shades, or tape a piece of cardboard across the top of the monitor to act as a visor.  Glare screens can reduce glare if needed.

4. Vision

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, keep them clean. For bifocal wearers, it is important to be aware of your monitor height.  Consider placing it at a lower height than normal to avoid tilting your head back, which may lead to neck discomfort.  It might also be beneficial to consider a pair of computer glasses.

Good eye health tips:  Blink often, and take frequent rest pauses.  Close your eyes for a minute, refocus by looking away from your monitor at something in the distance, and roll your eyes up and down, left to right.

5. Rest Breaks

Short, frequent micro-breaks are more beneficial than longer, more infrequent ones.  Micro-breaks can be as simple as standing up and walking around your desk three times.  You should also break up your sitting period by walking to the water fountain, printer, etc.

6. Exercises

Here are some tension-relieving exercises that you can do throughout the day (click on the image for details):


See the Resource Library for more specific information