Guide to Proper Sitting & Standing Desk Ergonomics

With Americans working an average of 47 hours per week, how you spend your time at work is an important part of your health. Proper workplace ergonomics will reduce musculoskeletal disorders such as tennis elbow (an inflammation of a tendon in the elbow) and carpal tunnel syndrome (a condition affecting the hand and wrist). If you want to reduce your chances of back and neck pain, as well as reduce your risks of all of the issues associated with extended periods of sitting, check out our infographic below where we detail proper ergonomics for sitting, standing, and talking on the phone.

For someone standing:

  • Find your Ideal Standing Desk Height so that you don’t strain your back, wrists or elbows.
  • Elbows should be close to the body and the keyboard should be around hip level so the hands are at the height of the elbows, or slightly lower. That means that the table top should be roughly at or slightly below elbow height. This can be easier to accomplish with a desk that has a separate keyboard tray.
  • Wrists should be at 180 degrees to the forearm. The hands should not be less than 180 degrees (called “claw hands” that strains the wrists).
  • Monitor should be eye level and the distance from the eyes to the screen should be roughly the size of the screen. So if you have a 17 inch monitor, your face should be 17 inches from the screen. The screen should be tilted 20 degrees backward.
  • Shoulders should be back, not rounded forward.
  • The head should be set back over the spine so that if someone looked at you from the side, your ears would line up over your shoulders.
  • One leg can rest on an overturned garbage can. When you’re standing you shouldn’t hold any one position for a long period of time. You can also shift your weight from one leg to another, stretch, dance, do yoga poses, squat, do calf raises, do lunges, etc.
  • Shoes should be comfortable, and no high heels. Orthotic wearers should be using orthotics.
  • Items on the desk that you use the most should be in closest reach. Items that you use less often should be the furthest from you.
  • Mouse close to keyboard.
  • A good standing desk mat will help reduce fatigue.
  • Optional- use a leaning seat that creates a 135 degree angle between your torso and legs. With this option, it’s good to have a footrest to keep your ankle at a 90 degree angle, or use a seat that is attached to a rounded bottom section that will hold the feet in the correct position.

For someone seated:

  • Elbows should be at 90 degrees.
  • Knees are at 90 degrees.
  • Torso 90-100 degrees to thighs.
  • Monitor should be eye level and the distance from the eyes to the screen should be roughly the size of the screen. So if you have a 17 inch monitor, your face should be 17 inches from the screen. The screen should be tilted 20 degrees backward for better viewing.
  • Optional-back support in chair for lower back.
  • Feet flat on floor or on a footrest.
  • Items on the desk that you use the most should be in closest reach. Items that you use less often should be the furthest from you.
  • Mouse close to keyboard.
  • Try kneeling on one knee with your other leg in front of you with foot flat and knee bent and 90 degrees. What’s referred as “half-kneeling” is a helpful change of postural position which improves balance and core stability while maintaining proper upper body ergonomics at a seated desk. Use a cushion, rolled up towel, or better yet an anti-fatigue mat to keep your kneeling knee comfortable on a hard floor.
  • Optional- For back support in chair for lower back. Increase the lumbar support on your chair to a comfortable level to maintain the natural curve of your low back. If you do not have lumbar support feature or there’s simply not enough, you can purchase this low-tech device or use a rolled up towel.

For proper cell phone, tablet, and laptop use:

  • Use a bluetooth headset, wired headset/earbuds, wireless bluetooth headset, or speakerphone.
  • Looking down at your phone can create what’s known as known as “iposture”, or a cell phone slump, which places a lot of strain on the muscles and vertebrae of the neck and upper back. The greater the slump, the greater the pressure. Hold your phone in front of your face at eye level.
  • To get your laptop at eye level when you stand, you can use a standing desk conversion kit. You put this on top of your desk and can raise it and lower it as you sit and stand throughout the day. You can use a wireless keyboard or keyboard attached to your laptop via USB to make sure your arms are in the correct position.
  • Another option is to look at your phone or tablet while laying flat on your back so you’re looking straight up at your device.
  • You can also use a tablet/cell phone holder that you can attach to your desk that will keep your device eye level without straining your arms.

REFERENCE

  1. Reference: McKenzie, Robin (2001) 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life: How to Rapidly Relieve Back and Neck Pain. New York, New York: Penguin Group.
  2. http://money.cnn.com/2015/07/09/news/economy/americans-work-bush/
  3. http://safety.uchicago.edu/tools/faqs/ergonomics.html
About the Author

Dr. RJ Burr

RJ received his Doctor of Chiropractic Degree from the National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) and has accrued more than 700 hours of post-graduate work with an emphasis on manual therapy, rehabilitation, biomechanics, nutrition and movement restoration. He's earned certifications in Active Release Techniques (ART) and Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) medical track, and can sit for the American Chiropractic Rehab Board Diplomate (DACRB) and Certification in Mechanical Diagnosis & Therapy (McKenzie). RJ's owns and operates Reach Rehab + Chiropractic Performance Center out of Plymouth, Mi.