The Importance of an Ergonomic Workstation

Millions of people work at a desk with a computer every day. As a result of repetitive motions on the job, improper body mechanics, and inappropriate office set-up, countless individuals suffer from back, neck, shoulder, elbow, and wrist pain and injury. In fact, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, ergonomic injuries cost an average of 15 billion to 20 billion annually for workers compensation and 30 billion to 40 billion in other expenses such as medical care. Most of this could be avoided by setting up ergonomic workstations in the workplace.

Setting yourself up with your own ergonomic workstation--a work area designed for maximum comfort, efficiency, safety, and ease of use--can prevent or reduce your risk for pain and injury associated with the physical stresses of a desk job. 

How to Create an Ergonomic Workstation

Here are some basic design goals to consider when setting up a computer workstation or performing computer-related tasks.

  • Make sure the top of your computer monitor is at your eye level so you don't have to bend your neck to read what's on the screen.
  • Have the distance of the screen at a place where you don't have to bend forward to read the screen.
  • Make sure your computer monitor is straight in front of you so you don't have to twist your head and neck.
  • Position your monitor somewhere where you will not get a glare that may cause you to strain your neck to read the screen.
  • If you use a document holder, place it at about the same height and distance as your computer monitor so there is little head movement, or need to re-focus, when you look from the document to the screen.
  • Position your telephone so that it can be used with your head upright (not bent) and your shoulders relaxed (not elevated) if you do computer tasks at the same time.
  • Make sure your chair allows you to put both feet flat on the floor.
  • Make sure your chair provides adequate support for your lower back and also for your buttocks.
  • If your chair has arm rests, make sure that they do not interfere with your movement. They should support your forearms.
  • When sitting at the computer to type, your wrists and hands should be in line with your forearms. Your shoulders should be in a relaxed position, with elbows in close to your body.
  • Make sure that your mouse is located next to your keyboard so you don't have to reach for it.
  • Make sure your mouse is easy to activate and that the shape and size fit your hand.

Tips for Body Posture on the Job

  • When you sit, make sure your head and neck are aligned with your torso (not jutting forward or leaning back). And make sure your torso is perpendicular to the floor. Your head, neck and trunk should be facing forward (not twisted).
  • When you sit, make sure your thighs are parallel to the floor and lower legs perpendicular to the floor. Although if needed, thighs may be slightly elevated above knees.
  • Upper arms and elbows should be close to the body (not extended outward).
  • Wrists and hands to be straight (not bent up, down, or sideways.)

Note: The basic rule for ergonomic workstations is to create an environment where your joints are naturally aligned. By working with your body in this way, you reduce stress and strain on your muscles, tendons, and skeletal system that can come from spending so many hours at the computer. If you suspect you may already have a work-related injury, contact your doctor for an evaluation.


"Computer Workstation Ergonomic Training and Evaluation Program." Web. 22 Mar. 2010.

"Ergonomics and Stretches." University of California Davis, Physical Wellness Resources. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.

United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "Computer Workstations." 4 Apr. 2008. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.