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Office Ergonomics: Important Considerations for Office Workstations

In today’s digital age, where a significant portion of the population spends long hours working on computers, the importance of a proper workstation setup cannot be overstated. Proper ergonomics not only enhance comfort and productivity, but also play a crucial role in preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. We’ll delve into the significance of a well-structured workstation, focusing on key ergonomic considerations to improve worker productivity, comfort, and overall health.

Before discussing important ergonomic considerations for office set up, it’s best to first define Ergonomics. Ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace to meet the specific needs and capabilities of the worker. A workstation that is ergonomically sound aims to fit the job to the worker, not the worker to the job. This involves optimizing tools, equipment, and the work environment to prevent injury and improve performance. Why is this important? Improper workstation set-up can lead to a range of health issues including back pain, neck pain, eye strain, and repetitive use injuries like tendinitis and bursitis. As we’ll outline below, for those working long hours behind a computer or at a desk, there are simple considerations to enhance a workstation and reduce worker stress.

Key Components of an Ergonomic Workstation


A good chair is a wonderful starting point for creating an ergonomic workstation. While there is a plethora of options available for purchase, more expensive doesn’t necessarily equate to better ergonomic features. Features to look for (and are relatively common in reasonably priced chairs) include: adjustable seat height, adjustable lumbar support, adjustable arm rests, and an adjustable seat depth.

Did you notice the common thread in the prior sentence? All of the features of the chair are adjustable. Since an office workplace is made up of a large variety of shapes and sizes of employees, offering a chair that can be adjusted to the specific size/shape of the worker is crucial to building an ergonomic workstation. An adjustable height chair is important as many desks are not adjustable.  A chair that adjusts will allow a worker to tailor their seated position at the correct height for the desk. This will have important implications for elbow/wrist positioning as well as arm rest height.

Lumbar support is important to offload the joints and muscles of the back.  Adjustable arm rests support the elbows and forearms, reducing strain on shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The arm rests should adjust both up/down and in/out. Ideally, the worker can rest their arms on the armrests without needing to shrug their shoulders or move their elbows away from their body. Elbows should be bent at ~ 90 degrees with forearms resting comfortably on the armrest.

Finally, a chair that has an adjustable depth allows the back of the chair to be set to the right depth so as to avoid contact stress to the back of the thighs/knee. Since many neural structures move from the low back to the foot along the back of the thigh, avoiding prolonged compression of these sites is important to avoiding neural irritation. Having 2-3 fingers worth of space between the end of the chair and the back of the knee is the recommended amount of space.


An adjustable monitor should be set up on the desk at a height that places the top of the monitor at approximately eye level. The monitor should be positioned on the desk at about an arm’s length away. To avoid eye strain, try not to place the monitor in a setting where a window is directly in front or behind the monitor. Light sources will create glare on the screen and force the eyes to work harder. This can have implications for reduced productivity (as the eyes fatigue) and poor posture (as the worker leans in towards the screen as eyes tire). 

For those using dual monitors, it’s advised that the primary screen be directly in front of you, with the secondary screen offset to the side of your dominant eye (unsure which eye is your dominant eye? A quick internet search will produce lots of tests to aid you in determining your dominant eye). Since most of the work will be done on the primary monitor directly in front of the worker, neck strain will be reduced by keeping your head in a neutral position. The secondary screen can still be referenced easily.

By setting up your workstation in this way (and not where both monitors sit side-by-side), you’ll avoid the common pitfall of dual monitors (a constant degree of cervical rotation as you work).

Keyboard / Mouse

The keyboard and mouse should be easily accessible directly in front of the worker. Setting the adjustable chair to the correct height/position (so that the elbows are supported at 90 degrees of flexion, forearms supported by the armrests, and wrists in a neutral position as they type or work the mouse) is crucial to ensuring ergonomic use of the keyboard and mouse.


A lot of emphasis has been placed on proper set up of the adjustable chair to the desk. So, what happens if the chair is set properly to accommodate the desk and monitor, but now the worker’s feet are not touching the ground? In these instances, footrests must be implemented. Ideally, when a worker is seated at their desk, their hip flexion angle is at 90 -100 degrees. This facilitates a posterior tilt of the pelvis, and allows the worker to sit back in the chair, leveraging the chair’s support. When a worker is too short for their desk, and a footrest isn’t used, then the hip flexion angle will be less than 90 degrees. This pulls the pelvis into an anterior tilt, pulling the worker away from the support of the chair. This often results in pain and poor posture. Many of the other ergonomic set up considerations fall short of their intended benefits if the worker’s feet aren’t supported by a footrest.

When it comes to office ergonomics, the above recommendations are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, we’ll be discussing more advanced ergonomic considerations in next month’s blog. That said, when it comes to things that workers can influence, and at little to no cost, the 4 considerations above are the best starting point for creating a more ergonomically sound workstation. While it may be nice to purchase a new chair or a sit/stand desk, customizing a workstation is often as simple as adjusting basic settings of equipment already in use. By leveraging the information shared above, workstations can be made to fit the worker, which will have important implications for worker health and productivity.

To learn more about how Upstream Rehabilitation and our family of brands can assist with Workers’ Compensation, and how physical therapy plays an effective role in helping injured workers return to work, contact our Workers’ Compensation team today!



  1. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Ergonomics.
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2020). Office ergonomics: Your how-to guide. Retrieved from
  3. Advanced Therapy Programs in Occupational Health – Ergonomics for General Industry, Office, and Healthcare – Academy of Orthopedic Physical Therapy (2022)
  4. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Computer Workstations eTool.