How Should Your Workstation Be Set Up – 5 Simple Steps

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Sitting is the time when you have more pressure on your back. So during this guide we will take you through some key areas worth focusing on to make ensure you keep the burden on your spine to a minimum. You may well have benefited from a workplace desk assessment. In which case we hope that everything is still set up as you have been recommended. It may well be worth a quick review by cross checking with this guide to be sure you are still doing everything that you can. This is not an exhaustive list, just some key pointers. It is in no way a substitute for a professional assessment:

The 5 Steps:

1. Start With sitting On Your Chair First

Heads, Shoulders, Hips And Knees, Hips And Knees.

When you are sitting you need to make sure that you are in alignment. Imagine a line running from your ear down the side of your body to your hipbone. These areas should be in alignment with each other.

If your head/chin drops forward it puts a lot of extra pressure on your head, neck and upper back resulting in pain in these areas including headaches. If you lean forwards you not only put more strain on the upper part of your body but your lower back too.


In addition your chair must be at a height that puts your hips higher than your knees when viewed from the side. This automatically tilts your pelvis into a better position and takes some of the load off your lower back. Be sure that when you do this, your feet are still firmly planted on the floor. Dangly legs create more pressure on the lower back. If you can’t easily reach the ground then you will need a footrest to remedy the situation.

It is also beneficial to angle the slope of your seat downwards slightly to help ensure your hips are higher than your knees (if your chair does not have this feature a simple wedge put on the seat gives the same effect).

2. Desk Height

Now that your seat is set up correctly it is time to check your desk height.

If your desk is too high then you will be creating tension in your upper back and shoulders, as you have to tense these areas to reach. A desk that is too low will mean that you will have to reach down or slump causing all manner of problems.

When your desk is at the correct height your forearms should be level with the ground, or sloping downwards very slightly, as you rest your hand on the desk/keyboard. This way you can work away whilst remaining relaxed in your muscles.

Our Tip

3. Where Should I Put My Monitor?

Your monitor should be positioned straight ahead of you so you are not looking off at an angle.

If you are working with more than one monitor the straighter you can position them the better.  If there is one monitor you use more than another, place that one straight ahead. At the very least try and set things up so you have a roughly even amount of time looking at each monitor.  If you can change them around. Then you will be moving your head and neck to each side equally and reducing the effect of the offset monitor position.


Monitor Position

  • It should be straight ahead, roughly 20-­‐40 inches away depending on the size of the monitor itself. It should not be so close that it causes eyestrain or so far that you have to lean forwards and squint to see what is on the display.
  • The top line of the monitor should be level with or just below eye level so you are not bending your neck too much to see what you are doing.
  • If you work close to a window you will need to make sure that your monitor is at right angles to it. This minimises any glare and reflection on the screen again making it easier on the eyes.

4. Your Desk

Keep It clutter Free

Particular the area where you need access to your keyboard, mouse and/or phone.  Avoid having everything sprawled out over your desk.

It is so easy to get engrossed in your work, lean forwards towards the monitor and the next thing your mouse starts to move further and further away from you.

Do you tend to need to use a lot of paperwork or need to take phone calls whilst using your keyboard?

With both of these things you will be increasing tension in your upper back and arms and potentially over time creating aches and pains.  If you catch yourself doing this reflect on how you feel are there any aches/pains/tension anywhere?

Ideally you should have your arms relaxed at the side of your body. Your wrists extending in a nice straight line from your forearm as your hand settles on the mouse/keyboard (like the second image in this article).

If you do a lot of point and click work it may be worth moving your keyboard to one side whilst you are completing that work so you have the space to work with the mouse in the most comfortable position. Otherwise just keep everything nice and close so that you remain relaxed.


5. Does Your Work Involve Typing Off Paperwork?

Are you often inputting information from paper documents onto the computer?

Having them on your desk off to one side is bad for the neck. If you are looking to the left to read the content whilst typing away, you are creating tension in the neck muscles on your right as they are contracting to hold your head in that position. Do this repetitively and it can certainly cause pain and tension down the line.

By using a document holder (such as this one from Paperstone) you can place your paper work straight ahead of you. This also forces you to ensure that your keyboard and mouse are closer and you can work away in a lot more comfort.