Computer Desk Ergonomics
Computer Desk Ergonomics involves attention in a few areas: height of ergonomic office desk, surface area of desk, undersurface features and ideal body position at work station.
As mentioned several times on Ergonomics-info.com, using or buying with an 'ergonomic' label does not mean it's right for you. And I hope this brief but concise page will help you see that.
We are all familiar with 'fixed height desks'. Pretty much 99% of all computer desks out there are at a standard height of 720mm. In some specialized stores, you may see ergonomic computer desks which are height adjustable.
Now, let's get this straight... it is safe (and nothing wrong) to use a fixed-height desk, as long as there is a suitable height-adjustable chair and an accompanying footrest.
This applies to all of us, except those who are very tall (over 6 ft or 183m). If that's you, you'll will need a 'taller' desk.
How is the Height of Your Desk Affecting You?
Why is it necessary for us to adjust the height of our desk?
If the desk height is too high for you, which is mostly the case for the standard fixed height desk, you will find yourself typing with raised arms and shoulders. This is extremely fatiguing. This can also develop other physical/muscle disorders.
It is also unnecessary because you can easily solve that problem with a raised chair.
If the desk height is too low, you'll find your elbows jutting out as you type.
So, if you are shopping for an ergonomic office desk, you could purchase a specialized ergonomic computer desk with adjustable height features OR simply get something called 'retrofit attachments' which raises your current desk's height by extending its legs. There are other alternatives such as 'crankle handles' (works like a car tire pump) and electrically powered height-adjustable surfaces, which I'm told, have a small panel on the desk that has "up" and "down" buttons.
Sounds really cool.
There are other sophisticated features of these high tech desks, but I shan't digress from Computer Desk Ergonomics.
If you had to choose your own height's desk, it is recommended by professionals to first adjust your chair such that your feet are on the ground and your knees are in a somewhat comfortable right angle. Then adopt the height of the desk that is compatible with the ideal posture at a computer. See also Ergonomic Pictures for more information for how you should position your body at your workstation (to prevent disorders).
Usually that means choose a slightly lower desk, if you're somewhat of an average height.
Yes that means most standard height desks may be too tall for you. If you aren't going to change your desk, ensure you have a height adjustable chair and a footstool.
Important Note: ALL THE ABOVE is assuming there isn't a undersurface feature such as a drawer, a keyboard tray on your desk.
If you do, raising your chair height to the perfect height will not be possible, since then you have to deal with your thighs scraping against the undersurface tray or drawer.
Celine Mckneown, author of Office Ergonomics: Practical Applications suggests that there should be a clear space of at least 650 mm between the floor and undersurface of the desk.
Apart from height of desk, Computer Desk Ergonomics also deals with the issue of the work surface area.
What Is Your Work Space Like?
In other words, what is your desk like? Is it spacious? How much things are lying on your desk? How is your computer screen and keyboard positioned?
As Celine Mckenown promptly puts it,
One of the most important features of the desk is the surface area available.
There are a whole lot of ergonomics for you to know, which may overwhelm you if you're just a beginner.
Examples of Ergonomics is an easy starter, which shows most common lack of ergonomics in the workplace.
But to keep this page concise, simply follow these guidelines below.
Computer Desk Ergonomics Guidelines:
- Monitor and keyboard should be positioned directly in front of you.
- Monitor should be at a 'fingertip' distance.
- If you need to refer to documents, get a document holder attached to the side of your screen (to prevent neck strain).
- If you need more than two screens, it is recommended that you use a specifically designed computer desk for this.
- Your desk area should be sufficient to accommodate what you need, such as your mouse, a telephone etc etc.
- Take note of armrests...ensure they do not hinder you from getting closer to your desk.
- One other point of computer desk ergonomics to note are the edges of the desks. Choose rounded edges because leaning your wrists over a sharp surface may cause the development of an upper limb disorder.
- While it is important to have sufficient space for your desk, ensure that all your things are not so widely spaced out such that you have to reach for everything. Over-reaching is unnecessarily strenuous.
Raise your straight arms in front of you and your screen should be touching your fingertips. That also means your desk should not be too narrow. It should be able to accommodate this.
Do you Use a Laptop instead?
Although computer ergonomic principles are the same for laptops and desktops, the way it is applied could be differently when it comes to the the desk you'll be working on.
Click here to read about Laptop Desk Ergonomics.
Go back to Ergonomic Computer Desk.