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How to set up a desk workstation for ergonomics

March 9th, 2012

Workstation desk setup following ergonomic recommendations.

As part of our occupational rehabilitation services, we often go into businesses and provide advice and training for setting up workstations ergonomically.

The following is from an information sheet we often hand out which refers to the above image. Often poor postures can be corrected using Spineangel as a biofeedback learning device.

The following checklist will help people adjust their workstation so they can be comfortable and look after their bodies in their daily duties. It may be a good idea to work through it with a friend and observe each other’s body position, as often it is difficult to determine your own body position. It may take several tries to get the best set up, so give yourself some time to perfect the position for you.


Step by Step Instructions



  • Feet should be comfortably flat on the floor or footrest
  • Thighs should be horizontal and the lower legs approximately vertical. The chair should not place pressure on the underside of the thighs as this can cut off circulation to the legs. There should be a two finger clearance between the front of the chair and your knees.
  • Set the tilt of the chair to horizontal initially, although you may choose to tilt it slightly forward for comfort
  •  Adjust the back rest so that it provides support in the lower area or the back. To determine the position for this start with the back rest at its maximum height and sit right back in the chair. If this is not comfortable lower the height of the back rest and recheck for comfort. Keep doing this until the most comfortable position is found.
  • Adjust the forward/backward position so comfortable pressure is exerted on the lower back
  • Chair arms may support the forearms but may also limit access to the desk, so consider their use wisely. Some arm rests are able to be adjusted downward, out of the way of the desk, otherwise they may need to be removed or replaced with smaller ones if they are a problem.


  • Once your chair is adjusted to the correct position adjust the desk if this is possible using the steps below. If you are unable to adjust the desk then you may require a footrest or to lower/raise the desk height.
  •  The desk should be finger length below the height of the elbows, with the arms hanging in a relaxed vertical position.
  •  The height should allow for sufficient leg clearance.
  •  Use a higher desk for standing duties



  • Place the keyboard as close to the front edge of the desk as is comfortable.
  • Tilt the keyboard using the feet at the back if required. Most keyboard users prefer the position where the feet are down and the keyboard sits flat on the desk.
  •  Place the mouse mat directly beside the keyboard on your preferred side.
  •  Forearms as horizontal as possible, upper arms hanging vertically in a relaxed position.
  •  Wrists should be straight or in a slightly flexed position.
  •  Hands should be in line with the forearms.
  •  Do not over stretch the fingers. Move the hand rather than stretch the fingers to the cursor and function keys in particularly. Do not twist the wrist when using the mouse, but ensure that the wrist is straight and that the whole forearm moves as a unit.
  •  Ensure there are adequate micro pauses or chances for the forearms, hands and fingers to relax.



  • When looking straight ahead you should focus on the top of the screen and be able to scan down with your eyes. This means that the centre of the screen will be usually near shoulder height.
  • Place the screen at approximately one arm’s distance however; the individual’s eyesight will effect the exact placement of this.
  • Position the screen to avoid reflected light.


  • Place the mouse and all items that are often required within comfortable reach.
  • Place the telephone on the opposite side to which you write to enable you to take notes if receiving a large number of calls. If you are making a large number of calls you may prefer the telephone on your dominant side.


  • Place the document holder next to the screen and on the same level as the screen.
  • Angled reading and writing surfaces are available to improve neck comfort if a person’s job involves a lot of reading or writing.



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