How To Sit At A Computer The Right Way: An Ergonomic Guide To Computer Workstations
With postural and musculoskeletal problems on the rise amongst office workers, finding the correct position at your workstation is more important than ever. Even more so now that many people are adjusting to working from home. Back pain is the number one complaint amongst people who sit most of the day. Luckily, learning how to keep good posture can help, and prevent future issues.
The position of your body relative to your desk and computer monitor is crucial. The type of desk you use, the positioning of your equipment, and the chair you sit in are all vital to get this right. Luckily we’ve covered everything, so you can work without the worry of strains and work-related injury.
How Should I Sit At My Desk?
Maintaining the correct posture at your desk can save you a lot of grief. Knowing this is fine, but many of us do not know how best to sit at our workstations to help our body.
To maintain good posture you should aim for the following:
- Your body should be close to the desk.
- You should be upright, and not leaning backwards, arching the neck and spine.
- Knees should be lower than or level with the hips.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor (or footrest if one is being used).
- A gap of 1-2 inches between the knee and edge of the seat should be maintained.
- The angle between the things and trunk should be between 100 and 120 degrees.
- Shoulders should be relaxed and level, and elbows should be by your side.
- Make sure your eye level is 2-3 inches below the top of the monitor (or lower if you use bifocals).
The ideal position is not easy to achieve without the right equipment. An adjustable chair, and a desk which is designed for the purpose are essential if you are to protect yourself from aches, strains, RSI’s and back problems.
How To Set Up A Computer Workstation
If we imagine we’re building an ergonomic workstation from scratch, here are the basics you need plus a few options.
- Desk - Computer desk or standing desk.
- Ergonomic Chair - Could include sit/stand stool, active seating.
- Monitor riser or monitor arms - To correctly position your monitor or monitors.
- Footrest - if your feet cannot reach the ground in your optimum position relative to desk and monitor.
Computer desks are designed to accommodate a monitor and keyboard at a comfortable level for the user, often featuring a slide-out keyboard tray, and a large flat surface above for the computer, monitor and any other equipment.
They should be high enough that you can slide your chair underneath to get close to their workstation, with enough leg room underneath that a comfortable position can be maintained, with feet flat on the floor. Your eyes should be 2 to 3 inches below the top of the monitor, and arms should be level with the keyboard.
Height Adjustable Desks
Sit-stand desks and height adjustable desks provide the option to change your position during the day, and are the best option for finding the ideal seated and standing position. As it is so important to change your posture during the day, a standing desk is a great option for many. Height adjustable desks have a whole host of other benefits too.
Benefits Of Height Adjustable Desks
The benefits of height adjustable desks start with the more obvious, postural plusses. As we’ve covered above, the angle and position you take relative to your monitor and keyboard is crucial to prevent RSI, general aches and pains, and more serious spinal problems.
The ability to make micro-adjustments to the height of your desk makes it much easier to find and lock in your optimum body position and keep good posture. Making sure your monitor is level with your eyes, and your arms to your keyboard is much easier if you can alter the desk height with ease.
Changing your posture and position during the day also relieves strain on your muscles and joints, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to spend part of the day working standing up (or leaning on a stool). Height adjustable desks make this possible.
Standing for part of the day is also a great way of spending less time sedentary: a key contributor to obesity and related health problems. Even better, standing leads to increased blood flow, which can boost energy levels and productivity. Want to explore what's on offer? Check out our guide on choosing the best standing desk.
How To Use A Height Adjustable Desk
Modern height-adjustable desks are super easy to operate, and most can be adjusted with the press of a button. They give you the option of moving from sitting to standing in a matter of seconds.
Most experts agree that roughly 30 minutes standing out of every hour is a good level to aim for. If you have never used a standing desk before, * it is recommended that you build up your standing time. Try standing ten minutes of each hour at first, and add 5 minutes at a time as you feel more comfortable.
Calculating Your Ideal Sitting and Standing Height
As a starting point for setting up the desk, we have included this table which shows the ideal sitting and standing heights relative to your height. Or check out our standing desk calculator which shows the best sitting and standing heights for your height, as well as the correct ergonomic height for your chair and monitors!
Remember that when standing, you will most likely be wearing shoes (if you’re working in the office). So factor the height of your shoes/heels into the equation. If you work from home or shoeless, of course, don’t worry.
Users of bifocal lenses will need their monitors slightly lower to accommodate the layout of the lenses. If you follow the guide and find you’re still not comfortable, feel free to adjust until you are.
Adjustable Office Chairs
Your chair takes the lead role in supporting your body, so a chair which can adapt to the many sizes and shapes we come in is crucial. A good chair can prevent upper back pain, lumbar issues, neck strain and RSI. That’s why an adjustable ergonomic chair that can be set up for your body is recommended. Below are three of the main features you should look for in an office chair, for a more in-depth look, check out our guide on choosing the best office chair.
The ability to alter the chair height is crucial to allow you to find the optimum position. Most good quality adjustable chairs will have pneumatic or gas lift. Height should be set so your forearms reach your keyboard with your arms by your side and bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbow.
The backrest should be height adjustable, to make sure both the lumbar region, lower back, upper back and your neck are properly supported. Many seats will have adjustable lumbar support, so the muscles in your lower back are fully supported. If the backrest has adjustable tilt, aim for a 100-120 degree angle between the trunk and thighs.
If you have shoulder or neck strain, supporting the weight of your arms could be a contributing factor. However, it is important that your armrests do not prevent you moving your chair underneath the desk. You need to be able to get as close as possible to your computer, so if the armrests prevent this they should be lowered.
If your feet do not reach the floor when seated on your chair, a footrest is a must. It will help you support some of your weight on your feet, minimising strain on the other core muscle groups in your back. Rests should have a non-slip, sloped surface, and grip the floor sufficiently to not move.
Good lighting prevents eye strain, but also the bad postural habits we develop when leaning in for a better view. For writing and reading tasks, light should be relatively high, but computer tasks require a lower level.
How To Position Desk Equipment
The way we configure our desk layouts can make as much difference as the desks and chairs we choose. Below are some of the key things to consider when setting up your workstation.
Setting Up Your Monitor
The placement of your monitor should be carefully considered:
- The screen should be directly in front.
- Set the screen between eye level, and no lower than with the top of the screen around 3 inches above eye level, to minimise eye fatigue.
- The screen should be roughly one arm’s length away from your eyes.
- Monitor risers and monitor arms should be used for greater flexibility of positioning.
Setting Up Multiple Monitors
If you use more than one monitor:
- If you have a primary monitor, this should be set up centrally so you face it. Secondary monitors should be set to one side, in a position where you can swivel your chair to see (without twisting your neck.
- If you use both equally, an arched configuration should be used.
- Multiple monitor arms and dual monitor arms provide the greatest positional flexibility.
How To Set Up Your Keyboard
Your keyboard should be directly in front of you, so you can type without twisting. With your arms by your side and your elbows bent at 90 degrees your fingers should reach the middle row of keys with your forearms flat and supported by the desk.
Touch (or floating) typists will normally set their keyboards slightly lower so they can hover over the keys. The armrests should be high enough to support the weight of their arms in this position.
Positioning Your Mouse Or Track Pad
Your mouse or desk pad should be as close to your keyboard as possible and at the same height. You might want to consider a slimline keyboard without the number pad to allow you to move your pointer closer in.
Laptop Computer Placement
Laptops are not ideal for long term use on their own, but if you do need to use one, consider adding an external monitor, or external keyboard and mouse. Coupled with a laptop riser or monitor arms, it is still possible to find a safe position.
Any documents you are working with should be placed as close to the monitor as possible and in the same eye line. This minimises the movement in the neck when working.
If you are looking at the document more than the screen, consider placing the document centrally and shifting your monitor to one side.
Telephones should be placed centrally and no more than an arms-length away, to prevent stretching and twisting. If working in an environment that receives a high volume of calls, the use of headsets is recommended to save workers from the strain of repeatedly picking up, and holding the phone for long periods. A conveniently placed headphone stand may help.
What Do I Do If My Desk Is Too High?
If your desk is too high, you can try raising your chair. If your feet don't reach the floor, use a footrest. It is important that you find the correct level relative to your computer setup to avoid strains. If the ideal position, with your arms level with your keyboard and eyes level with your monitor, is not attainable, you should consider a sit-stand desk.
This will allow you the flexibility to find your ideal seated position.
How Do You Counteract Sitting At A Desk All Day?
Even in the optimum position, sitting in the same posture all day is still problematic. The best way to counteract this is to change your posture as often as possible. Most problems occur when one muscle group is overused, so sharing the strain across muscle groups can make a huge difference.
There are many ways you can do this. Rotating your tasks can help, allowing you to build more active jobs in throughout the day. Taking short breaks every 30 minutes to get out of your chair and walk around will keep your joints moving, boost blood flow and let your body reset. If you work in a busy environment where you are often tied to your desk though, this might not be possible.
Height adjustable desks remain one of the best ways to alter your posture and keep active during the workday. They actively encourage users to vary their posture during the day, and they are known to be effective in relieving back pain and other workplace ailments. Check out this post on using your sit-stand workstation correctly for more info.They also make achieving the correct posture much easier, whether it’s seated or standing, which prevents injuries occurring in the first place. View the Desky range of standing desks today and improve your health at the workplace.