Basic Computer Workstation Positioning Tips

By Tony Sharrock posted 10-26-2020 01:15 PM


Whether you're working from home, or in your office, your workstation set up can make or break how your body feels by the end of the day. Positioning yourself properly - and encouraging others in your school district to do so - can go a long way in preventing muscle strain, fatigue and more. This article describes useful tips for better ergonomics at your workstation.

  • Monitor and keyboard should be directly in front of you.
    • The purpose is to eliminate static twisted postures for either the employee’s neck or the torso.
    • Performing static work, such as holding a fixed posture, causes the muscles involved to fatigue more quickly.
    • Additionally, holding a deficient posture (i.e. twisting), puts added stress on the joints involved.
    • Input device should be next to the keyboard, so it can be used without reaching.
    • When using a laptop for extended periods, strongly consider using a docking station and “full-size” keyboard.
  • Monitor should be at a distance set at your best focus distance to avoid eye strain and leaning forward to read.
    • This is typically at least 20 inches away. Larger monitors (>20”) may require increasing the distance.
    • If the employee has any vision correction, the specific monitor viewing distance should be provided by the employee’s optometrist.
    • The purpose of placing the monitor at the proper viewing distance is to minimize eye strain and leaning forward.
  • Forearms and thighs should be nearly parallel with the floor.
    • When the employee’s forearms are parallel with the floor, and their arms are comfortably at their sides, deficient shoulder postures can be minimized.
    • When the employee’s thigh is parallel with the floor, there is less tendency to lean forward in the chair, and more tendency to use the chair back support.
    • When the elbow and knee joints are <90°, then blood circulation may be impaired.
  • The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level.
    • This recommendation is for uncorrected or most corrected vision. The purpose of this vertical monitor location is to eliminate neck flexion and extension when viewing the screen.
    • However, an employee’s using Bi-focal, Tri-focal, or other special prescriptions that are designed for the individual to look through a specific portion of the lens, will have different vertical monitor placements. The individual’s Optometrist should be able to give advice on the specific vertical location.
  • Your wrists should be in a neutral posture.
    • The purpose is to minimize stress and irritation to the finger flexor tendons, and their lubricating sheaths, as they pass through the wrist (Carpal Tunnel Region).
  • Feet should be flat on the floor or on a foot support/rest.
    • When your thigh is parallel with the floor, there is less risk of mechanical compression (pressure) on the back of the thigh. This type of compression should be avoided because discomfort and circulation in the lower extremities may be impaired.
  • Lumbar curve of your back should be resting against (and supported by) the backrest on your chair.
    • The purpose is to reduce stress on the operator’s lower back.
    • Leaning forward, even slightly, requires the muscles in the back to work at supporting the torso and upper body. This type of static work can cause the muscles being used to fatigue.
    • Your head and neck should be aligned with your torso.
    • Your shoulders should be relaxed, with your arms “hanging” at your sides.
  • There should be approximately a hand’s thickness between the front edge of the chair and the back of your knees.
    • The purpose is to ensure proper seat pan depth so that the employee has adequate opportunity to use the chair back support.
    • Additionally, this helps eliminate the need for employees to sit toward the edge of the chair.
  • Place your document holder at approximately the same distance (and level) as the monitor.
    • The purpose is to minimize neck flexion (bending forward) and rotation (twisting) when gazing between the document/material used and the monitor screen.
    • If you need to use the phone and computer simultaneously, then strongly consider using a headset.

Consider advising Video Display Terminal Operators to:

Change position frequently. The best posture for spinal discs is leaning backward with the backrest supporting most of the user’s weight. This posture reduces the compressive forces on the discs and reduces the risk of injury. However, because it is stressful on muscles and circulation for employees to maintain one position for a long time, they should be instructed to organize their tasks to allow for position shifts and getting up from their chair.  All seated positions should have a torso-to-thigh angle of 90 degrees or more; therefore, a properly designed chair with a seat pan that tilts and a backrest that can follow motions is important.

Not slouch. Slouching puts uneven pressure on the discs, which can lead to a portion of the disc being pushed out to one side (herniated disc). The disc, in turn, may press on the adjacent nerve and cause sciatica. Also, slouching weakens muscles and ligaments, making employees prone to back injuries.

Avoid extreme bending at the knees, such as tucking legs under the chair, and avoid sitting with one leg underneath the buttocks. Such bending can interfere with circulation, irritate nerves, and strain muscles and ligaments.

Minimize time spent with legs crossed tightly above the knee. This position can cause nerve compression, which can lead to numbness and tingling in the legs.

Avoid sitting with large items, such as wallets and notebooks, in rear pockets. This can reduce circulation, crowd nerves, and cause unbalanced muscles. Sitting this way for prolonged periods can cause pain and lower-back injuries.

Consider the following issues, when using the mouse:

  • Hold the mouse loosely, as if you’re holding a small bird. And touch lightly, when you click.
  • Hold the mouse with all fingers, don’t lift your small (pinkie) finger.
  • Don’t rest your forearm or wrist on the table while you move the mouse.
  • Use your whole arm, including the shoulder, to move the mouse - not just your wrist.
  • Keep your wrist in a neutral position.