How to Set Up an Ergonomic Workstation

Setting up an ergonomic workstation isn't necessarily simple. There are a lot of factors which should be considered in order to do it properly. Although most people know the basic principles of ergonomics, the practice isn't usually done well.

The basic setup

The fundamental concept of ergonomics is to site people so they're comfortable while working, and not subjecting themselves to any added stresses on their bodies. These stresses cause a range of "athletic" injuries, like tendon damage, muscle issues and other significant problems. These injuries can be quite serious in some cases.

Chairs: When setting up your chair, you need to be in a position where:

  • Your back is well supported.
  • You have easy access to the computer and peripherals like phones, screens, etc.
  • Your chair is well balanced, at the right height.
  • Your seated posture is comfortable and natural.

Important note: If you're a particularly large or small person, you should ensure that you're not finding the chair in any way unbalanced, or that you're straining to reach things. The effect of having to balance can put stress on your lower body and hips. You may need a custom chair, if you're finding the chair is tilting sideways, or otherwise seems unbalanced. (The fact is that some office chairs can't support larger people, and can be dangerous for smaller people because they're always out of a well balanced position.)


  • Screens: The screen should be towards the back of the workstation, not close up where glare can affect the eyes. Serious eyestrain is no joke, and the effect of having the screen too close can be to cram the workstation, involving subconscious adjustments to the keyboard, another repetitive task issue forcing involuntary movements.
  • Keyboard: The keyboard should be positioned so that you don't have to put your arms on the desk. A shelf for the keyboard is the best option. Make sure when siting the keyboard that you can operate it naturally, and aren't making adjustments to posture to use it.
  • Computer box and wiring: Keep this in a safe position where you can access the drives and USBs comfortably from your chair.
  • Peripherals: Make sure all using your additional equipment doesn't involve unusual postures. Don't put anything in a position where you're likely to be reaching over to use this equipment. This is a matter of balance, and putting extra strains on muscles repeatedly. 

The general work station environment: Things to avoid

Spinal movement: All work stations, particularly those of busy people, tend to have "essential clutter" all over them. The problem is that digging around in them can involve a lot of spinal movement. All OHS specialists advise that twisting the spine is to be avoided. Sitting in a chair, turned sideways, trying to find something, puts a lot of strain on your spine, and related muscles. Turn the chair, not yourself.

Neck movement: If you're getting neck pains, you're out of the right ergonomic position. It's probably the chair, but in some cases correcting posture is a cause. This can do serious neck damage, including disk injuries. Try new positions and adjustments to get yourself comfortable.