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Setting up your workstation

The right chair is only one part of creating a good workstation setup. Other elements include your desk, computer, monitors, mouse, keyboard, lighting, headset and footrest.

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When you spend so much time at work, you want to feel comfortable and we don’t mean just in the lift.

The most common case of poor posture at a computer workstation is known as ‘Turtling’ - sitting forward with a hunched back, bent neck and poked out chin.

Bad posture can lead to injury and pain but can be fixed by making sure your workstation is set up right for you.

Dock your laptop and have a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse if you’re using mobile computers in the office.

Adjust the height of your chair to suit your desk.

Set monitor height to your eye level or just below and about arms distance away. This might vary if you wear glasses. Adjust display brightness, contrast and font size to reduce visual fatigue.

If you use two screens equally, position them symmetrically in front of you.

Keep your arms by your side when using your mouse and keyboard. The keyboard and mouse should be on the same level and directly in front of you, 10 to 15 centimetres away from the edge of the desk. Keep the mouse parallel and close to the keyboard.

If you have a sit stand desk, make sure you use it! It’s an easy way to get out of your chair which is good for your back and legs. Varying your posture is the key. Our bodies aren’t made to spend long times in any one position.

When you’re standing, set up your workstation the same way as when you are sitting.

If you’re moving from sitting to standing, you may need to make some small re-adjustments like the monitor height.

Now you know how to set up your workstation, make sure you know how to select and use your chair and stay active.

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Tips for setting up your workstation

  • If you’re working for long periods of time from a laptop or tablet, ideally you should use a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse. This will help your posture and visual comfort.
  • Set the monitor height to your eye level or below, depending on what type of glasses you wear. If you don’t have a monitor available, raise your laptop on a riser, stand, or another stable item such as reams of paper or large hardcover books.
  • Ideally, set up your monitor distance at about an arm’s length from where you're sitting. You can adjust the distance depending on the size of the monitor screen and what’s comfortable for your eyes.
  • If you use two or more monitors equally throughout the day, position yourself and your keyboard at equal distance to both screens so you don’t have to twist your neck and spine. Also make sure the monitors are both at the same level.
  • Put your keyboard and mouse on a flat surface, directly in front of you about 10 to 15cms from the edge of the desk. This provides you with forearm shoulder and neck support. Keep your mouse next to and parallel to the keyboard as much as possible. This will reduce shoulder discomfort. Different keyboards and mouse designs can be more comfortable and useful for different workers.
  • After adjusting your chair, use a footrest if your feet can’t comfortably sit flat on the floor. Check its height so your hips and knees are level. It should be stable and large enough to comfortably rest both feet and sloped for ankle comfort.
  • Wireless headsets and earphones allow you to work on your computer during phone calls easily. They also allow you to stand up and move around during and between phone and video calls. Use an angled document holder if you often do tasks that involve significant reading or writing from hard copy documents.

If you have ongoing back pain or a known medical condition, speak to your employer about arranging an ergonomic assessment by a provider who can assist with your specific requirements.

Tips for choosing a desk

  • The desk surface should allow you to have your keyboard, mouse and writing needs all on the same level.
  • A fixed sitting desk should be between 680–720mm high and, if height adjustable, up to 1200mm.
  • A desk depth of 800mm will allow you to correctly position your monitors and have a comfortable amount of leg room.
  • You should have clear space under the desk to comfortably stretch out your legs and avoid sharp desk corners.

Sit/stand desks

Using a sit/stand desk is a simple way to change postures when you’re doing computer work. Getting out of your chair and moving regularly is important to avoid aches and pains and to improve your health and wellbeing.

  • A full desk unit, where the whole desktop can be raised or lowered, is generally easier to use.
  • A tabletop unit, which is a separate unit placed on top of a normal fixed desk, is usually cheaper and quicker to install. However, some issues with tabletop units include:
    • limited space for desk top items and work activities
    • not enough space and stability to rest your forearms in front of the keyboard
    • not suitable for taller workers who require greater desktop depth
    • cords being caught in the height adjustment mechanism.

Tips for selecting sit/stand desks

  • The desktop should be able to rise to at least 1200mm to suit taller workers.
  • The design of the sit/stand desk should be able to accommodate all required equipment, for example two monitors, a keyboard and a place to write.
  • You should consider how awkward and how much effort is required to move manually operated desks or units along with all usual desktop items.

There is no evidence that anti-fatigue mats make you more comfortable than wearing suitable footwear. They can also be a manual handling and trip hazard. Supportive shoes, compression stockings and changing position from standing to sitting regularly can be more beneficial to prevent musculoskeletal or vascular symptoms from prolonged standing.

Tips for using a sit/stand desk

  • When moving your desktop to a standing position, make sure it is at the same level as your elbow so that your forearms are supported.
  • When you move from sit to stand you may need to adjust your monitor height.
  • Aim to change your posture every 30 minutes. Standing for a long time can also cause problems.
  • Have a safe place for your chair when you’re standing up, so you or others don’t trip on it.
  • If you’re pregnant, or have a pre-existing musculoskeletal problem, moderate your sitting and standing times to suit yourself.
  • Wear low-heeled or flat, supportive shoes when standing

Workload and stress

Work-related stress, such as high work demands or low support at work, can contribute to pain and injury. If you are experiencing pain and symptoms while working on your computer, it is important to look beyond just the physical causes.

Psychological stressors can also indirectly cause you to work longer hours, sit for long periods of time without a break and in poor postures.

Constant high-level problem solving and thinking may also put you at risk of injury.

Addressing work-related stress is a significant part of preventing pain and injury with computer-based work. It is important the causes are identified and managed. Learn more about psychosocial hazards and factors.

More information

Working in the office — computer workstation checklist