Desk health ergonomics

Work station advice

The symptoms you are experiencing are likely to have arisen as a result of a combination of factors which include your work habits, the type of work you do, your workstation arrangements and your hereditary makeup.

The same basic principles apply when preventing and recovering from work related upper limb conditions.

  • Apply sound ergonomic principles to your work station set up
  • Be aware of ‘good’ postural habits and typing techniques
  • Take regular, effective breaks from static postures
  • Carry out regular exercises and stretches to counteract static postures

Good posture at a keyboard

  • Head:  directly over shoulders, about an arms’ length from the screen
  • Shoulders: relaxed and down
  • Back: maintaining a gentle curve of the lower back, rest into the back of the chair
  • Elbows: relaxed at just more than a right angle
  • Wrists: relaxed in a neutral position
  • Fingers: gently curved
  • Knees: slightly lower than hips
  • Feet: firmly planted on the floor

How you work is important

As well as improving your posture and work station set up, it is vital that you also look at the way you are working. The amount of time spent in a static posture (even if your posture is excellent) can have an effect on your symptoms.

It is important that you regularly change your posture and/or task. These are some suggestions for varying your work patterns.

Every 10–20 minutes (but before your pain increases) STOP working with the keyboard and mouse. Perform one or more of the following:

  • Take your hands off the keyboard and mouse
  • Do some simple stretching/refresh exercises
  • Have a drink of water
  • Correct your sitting posture
  • Stand up/move around
  • Do another task not requiring a PC
  • Try the 20–40–60 pattern of breaks

Choosing a chair

Prolonged sitting can result in muscle fatigue around the shoulder, neck and back; bad posture can contribute to this. If you commute to work, sit most of the day, have lunch at your desk and relax in the evenings, you could be sitting for 12 hours a day. Maintaining ‘good’ posture is important in preventing WRULD. Using an adjustable chair, appropriately and regularly adjusted for you, combined with good work habits can help you to work more efficiently and comfortably.

General considerations when sitting:

  • Your feet should be flat on the floor
  • Maximise the contact between your back and the back rest
  • The seat depth should provide support under your thighs
  • A five star base will give most stability
  • Arm rests should not obstruct access to the desk
  • Use the available adjustments
  • It may take experimentation to get the most comfortable position
  • Regularly check the adjustments, someone else may have used your chair and the position may ‘sink’ with time
  • Your posture may need to change with a change in task

A good chair should be adjustable in:

  • Seat height: To fit the height of the user and the height of the desk
  • Seat Tilt: A variety of angles to allow different postures for different tasks
  • Seat Depth: There needs to be a 1–2 inch space between the back of your knees and the edge of your seat
  • Back Height: Should adjust up and down to fit the individuals natural curves
  • Back Contour: The back of the chair should make full contact with your back and support the lumbar spine
  • Back Angle: The back should adjust independently from the seat tilt to provide back support in a variety of positions.


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