Ergonomic Office

Office Ergonomics

Office Ergonomics

By Corinne O’Connor, Physiotherapist.

Over the past few years so many of us have shifted our work space from an office building to working from home, at least part of the time.  And that usually involves finding a workspace that works.  The problem is that without a good set-up, we are more prone to pain and injury.Desk Pain

Office Ergonomics – what exactly is that?

Ergonomics derives from two Greek words: ergon, meaning work, and nomoi, meaning natural laws. Combined they create a word that means the science of work and a person’s relationship to that work.  In practice, ergonomics is about designing and arranging things in a workspace so  that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely.

Our bodies are designed to work most efficiently in certain postures.  Our spines are designed in an S curve, and when this curve is maintained, all the muscles work most optimally.  When we overextend or flatten this natural curve for prolonged periods of time, we put more strain on our muscles, nerves, ligaments and skeleton.Human Spine

Chair selection 

It is well worth investing in a good quality office chair which allows you to adjust the height, back rest and possibly even the tilt of the seat.  Some chairs have arms and some don’t; this is personal preference, but keep in mind that chairs with arms may not always allow you to pull in close to the desk.  Some office chairs are designed with adjustable height arms which means you can adapt them to your individual build and need.

Chairs are definitely not a one size fits all option.  We all have different dimensions, and our thigh length means that some seats may be either too deep or too short for good support.  Like you would store-test a mattress before you choose one to spend 8 hours a day on; the same should be said of office chairs. Ergonomic Office 

Find an office supply store where you can be like Goldilocks and try a few chairs until you can say “this chair is just right!”  Make sure you test it under a desk to make sure any arm supports don’t restrict you from moving in close.

Desk Selection/Set-up

In reality, most of us have a desk that we make do with when setting up a home office, and this article will assume that.  But it is important that the desk space allows the screen to be set back far enough and directly in front as you pull your chair under the table.  Looking at a screen in sustained neck rotation will likely eventually give symptoms around the neck and shoulders and possibly nerve symptoms in the arms. If you use more than one screen, set them up towards the back of the desk to minimise the degree of rotation of the neck.

There should be adequate leg room so declutter under the desk.  Being able to move our legs around while sitting improves circulation.

If you spend all day at your desk, a stand-up desk may be a good option for you, allowing you to change postures regularly through the day.  This is good for muscle, joint and ligament health.

Finding the right chair vs desk height combo

Ideally, think in 90 degree angles.  With a straight back, your hips, knees, ankles and elbows should be at around 90 degrees.  In practice, start with finding the chair height that allows your shoulders to be relaxed and not elevated or depressed when your arms are resting on the desk to operate the keyboard.  Once this chair height is found, if your lower limbs are not at approximate 90 degree angles, a footrest may be needed. Ergonomic Desk Set Up


Computer placement is so important!  Did you know that most people have their screen way too low in relation to their eyes?  Ergonomically, the top of the screen should be in line with your eyes when you are sitting straight.  Use some books under the screen if you need to (if you pick the right ones, they will make you look even more competent at work!!!).  If you are on a laptop, consider getting a laptop stand and a wireless keyboard and mouse to achieve the same effect.

Did you know that most keyboards have little adjustable feet under them?  Flicking these feet up puts your wrists in slight extension which is more efficient for typing.  Make sure too that your keyboard is far enough back on the desk that you can have support under your forearms.  You’d be surprised how much neck and shoulder pain is caused by overused neck and shoulder muscles from typing without the forearms supported.

A good ergonomic mouse and/or mousepad may also be helpful in protecting the operating arm from injury due to sustained or repetitive movements.

Documents and Phones

If you work from documents when using your computer, putting them on a document stand not only improves your posture, but also means you are less likely to spill your coffee on them!

If you spend a lot of time on the phone, a headset or at least using a handsfree speaker will reduce the temptation of poor posture.   

Microphone Icon

Have you ever thought about using voice to text to save on typing effort?  Incidentally, did you know your mobile probably has a little microphone at the bottom of the text message screen where you can speak and it converts it to text?  It’s faster, and so much better for your arms and hands. 


We often forget about light!  Make sure your work space has adequate light but no glare so that your eyes don’t have to work hard at reading.  This will reduce your risk of headaches and dry eyes. 

Good workday practice

We all know this but we all need to be reminded.  MOVE REGULARLY!!!  This is the best thing for your body.  Sustained postures fatigue active muscles, stretch ligaments, and shorten under-active muscles.  it doesn’t have to be a long break – get a cuppa, do some shoulder circles and turn your head up and down and side to side.  Stretch your arms and your legs.  Take a few deep breaths.  Also, if your body feels good, your mind will work better.

Set an alarm on your phone if you need to…and don’t ignore it!!!

And don’t forget to drink water.  Coffee dehydrates your  tissues and makes you more prone to injury and pain.  Make sure you balance your caffeine intake with adequate rehydration.Office Ergonomics Joke

But I have pain already … what should I do?

At Robina Physio on the Gold Coast we can provide a thorough assessment and treatment with regards to your particular problem. Whether it is a chronic condition or an acute pain, we can provide individualised treatment and advice on exercises, postures and work set-up to help you on the road to recovery. Contact us on (07) 5578 7233 or BOOK ONLINE.