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Office Ergonomics

Four steps to set up your workstation

Step 1: Chair

  • Push your hips as far back as they can go in the chair.
  • Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are equal to, or slightly lower than, your hips.
  • Adjust the back of the chair to a 100°-110° reclined angle. Make sure your upper and lower back are supported. If you have a lumbar support mechanism on your chair, use it to make frequent position changes.
  • Adjust the armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed and elbows are at about 90° angle while typing on a keyboard.

Step 2: Keyboard

An articulating keyboard tray can provide optimal positioning of input devices. However, it should accommodate the mouse, provide leg clearance, and have an adjustable height and tilt mechanism.Pull up close to your keyboard.

  • Position the keyboard directly in front of your body (it should be on the level of your belly button).
  • Determine what section of the keyboard you use most frequently, and readjust the keyboard so that section is centered with your body.
  • Adjust the keyboard height so that your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are in a slightly open position (about 90°-100°), and your wrists and hands are straight (neutral position).
  • Keep the tilt of your keyboard at the negative angle. This will make your wrists at the most neutral posture and will prevent development of the carpal tunnel.
  • Wrist support can help to maintain neutral postures and pad hard surfaces. However, the wrist support should only be used to rest the palms of the hands between keystrokes. Resting on the wrist support while typing is not recommended. Avoid using excessively wide wrist support, or wrist support that is higher than the space bar of your keyboard.
  • Place the mouse as close as possible to the keyboard.
  • If you do not have a fully adjustable keyboard tray, you may need to adjust your workstation height, the height of your chair, or use a seat cushion to get in a comfortable position. Remember to use a footrest if your feet dangle.

Step 3: Monitor, Documents and Telephone

Incorrect positioning of the monitor screen and source documents can result in awkward postures. Adjust the monitor and source documents so that your neck is in a neutral and relaxed position.

  • Center the monitor directly in front of you above your keyboard.
  • Position the top of the monitor approximately on your eye level. (If you wear bifocals, lower the monitor to a comfortable reading level.)
  • Sit at least an arm's length away from the screen and then adjust the distance for your vision.
  • Reduce glare by careful positioning of the screen.
  • Place screen at right angles to windows
  • Adjust curtains or blinds as needed
  • Adjust the vertical screen angle and screen controls to minimize glare from overhead lights
  • Position source documents directly in front of you, between the monitor and the keyboard, using an in-line copy stand. If there is insufficient space, place source documents on a document holder positioned adjacent to the monitor.
  • Place your telephone within easy reach – left-handed users should place it on the left, right-handed users – on the right side of the workstation.
  • Use a headset or speaker phone to eliminate cradling the handset.

Step 4: Task and Stretch Breaks

Once you have correctly set up your computer workstation, use good work habits. No matter how perfect the environment is, prolonged, static postures will inhibit blood circulation and take a toll on your body.

  • Take short 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes. After each hour of work, take a break or change tasks for at least 5-10 minutes. Always try to get away from your computer during lunch breaks.
  • Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes periodically. Look away from the monitor and focus on something in the distance.
  • Rest your eyes by covering them with your palms for 10-15 seconds.
  • Use correct posture when working. Keep moving as much as possible.

How to Select an Ergonomic Chair

Consider your work tasks, and your body size and shape, when choosing a chair. A single size or type of chair is not appropriate for all tasks, and cannot suit all body shapes and sizes. When you sit to perform a task, your spine is most comfortable when it is in "neutral posture", a slightly reclined sitting position. The following adjustment options can help you maintain "neutral posture".

Seat

  • Height: Seat height should adjust to fit the height of the user and/or the work surface.
  • Tilt: The seat should adjust at a variety of angles to allow for changing positions and postures for different tasks. A rocking mechanism can provide continuous active repositioning while working.
  • Depth: The seat should support your hips and legs, and provide about 2-3" space between the front edge of the seat and the back of your knees. Sliding seat pan options can help you set the proper depth position.

Backrest

  •  Height: The backrest should adjust up and down to fit the curves of your spine. Adjustable lumbar support is often necessary to accommodate flat, average or deep low back curves.
  • Contour: The backrest of the chair should support your upper and lower back, while allowing free arm movement. If you recline, you may need a backrest that extends up to your shoulders or neck.
  • Angle: The backrest should adjust independently from the seat tilt to provide optimal support for a variety of work positions, such as reclining or leaning forward (not recommended).

Armrest

  • Armrest: Armrests can provide additional upper extremity and back support when taking breaks or pauses between writing and keying tasks.
  • Height: If you have armrests, they should be adjustable. Your forearms should be able to rest on the armrests with your shoulders relaxed.
  • Width: Inward and outward adjustment provides additional personal fit. This is especially important with large and small stature individuals.
  • Pivot: Pivoting armrests provide both width and angle adjustment of the armrests.