Computer workstation set-up guide

Computer use is an integral part of the modern work environment. Prolonged sitting and use of the keyboard for data entry pose a risk for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

General principles

  • Keep most frequently used items in easy reach
  • Work at proper heights
  • Work in good postures
  • Reduce excessive forces
  • Minimize fatigue
  • Provide clearance and access

The workstation should be set-up around the ideal seated position so the hands and wrists are in the neutral position when using the keyboard and mouse. The workstation height should be adjusted as necessary to accommodate this position. As an alternative, the chair can be raised or a keyboard tray can be installed if the desk is too high. A footrest may be required for support of the legs and feet if the feet are not flat on the floor. Position the most frequently used items in the comfort zone which is about 11 to 18 inches in front of the body.

Click on the components of the workstation below for information on how to set up your workstation. You can also complete the Workstation Self Evaluation Form to document assessment of your workstation.

Workstation setup

The chair is the most critical part of the office workstation. A high quality ergonomically designed chair makes working while seating as comfortable as possible. The keyboard, mouse, monitor and other office equipment is built around the ideal seated position.

Ideal sitting position

Office chair


  • Feet flat on floor
  • Knees 90-110°
  • Thighs parallel to floor
  • Elbows 90° and close to body


Footrests are used as a last resort if feet are left dangling after workstation and chair adjustments are made. This can be a concern for persons of small stature at desks that are too high.

When using footrests:

  • Change foot position often – tuck under chair, move from side to side
  • Use the footrest to put feet up from time to time to relieve pressure on the back of the legs.

Ideal keyboard/arm position

Ideal Keyboard/Arm Position

  • Wrists neutral and relaxed
  • Arms close to body, elbows at 90°
  • Wrists and forearms parallel to floor
  • Keyboard sloped 10-15°

Bad postures

Wrist extenstion

Wrist extenstion

Wrist flexion

Wrist flexion


Alternate keyboards and keyboard trays

Use alternate keyboards and keyboard trays as necessary to obtain neutral hand and wrist postures.


Alternate Keyboard
keyboard tray

The most important point with lighting is to avoid a bright light behind you while seated. Light from this direction can cause glare on the monitor. Light coming into the office through windows is the most common cause of monitor glare.

Lighting 1
Lighting 2
  • Keep the display at 90° to the windows
  • Use light diffusers
  • Cover windows with blinds or shades
  • Use an anti-glare screen on the monitor as needed
  • Adjust the monitor brightness and contrast
  • Keep the screen surface clean
  • Use the tilt and swivel adjustments of the monitor to prevent reflection
  • Use tasks lights to illuminate documents if needed.

Ideal monitor set-up

  • Monitor directly in front of user.
  • Top of monitor display at or slightly below eye height.
  • Swivel and tilt to obtain comfortable viewing angle.
  • Clean monitor display regularly.
  • If there is glare from a light or window, use a anti-glare screen.
  • If two monitors are used, place side by side at same height and distance or place the monitor most frequently used in front of the operator with the other slightly off to the side.
  • Remove the PC from under the monitor and/or use stack tables if necessary to achieve proper height.

monitor 2

Upper extremity, shoulder, hand and back discomfort can result from improper or prolonged use of the mouse.


  • Keep the mouse close to the keyboard.
  • Position the mouse at the same height as the keyboard.
  • If a keyboard tray is used, put the mouse on the keyboard.
  • Use a trackball or alternate style mouse to reduce hand and arm movement.

Mouse use

  • Hold lightly and click without using force.
  • Keep the mouse at the same height and distance as the keyboard.
  • Try switching the mouse to the other hand.
  • Keep the ball on the bottom of the mouse clean.
  • Adjust the mouse speed settings as necessary.
  • Use the mouse scroll wheel when moving through documents.

Document holders

  • Document holders should hold documents at the same height and distance as the monitor.
  • Angle the holder so the copy is straight toward the eyes.
  • If work involves looking at more paper than at the monitor, put the document holder directly in front instead of the monitor.
  • Use a line guide to help enter tabulated data.

Wrist rests

  • Thickness should be about the same as the front edge of the keyboard.
  • Type with "floating" wrists. Use the wrist rest to support hands during pauses.
  • Rest palms on wrist rest not wrists. Resting wrists on the device can cause pressure on the carpal tunnel nerve and tendons.

Wrist rest


Cradling the phone between the ear and shoulder causes awkward neck posture. Use a headset or speakerphone instead.

Man on the phone 1
Man on the phone 2

Four-step adjustment process

  1. Adjust your chair and seating position first so feet are flat on the floor with knees and hips at 90- 100°. Adjust the backrest so you have lower back support. Adjust the seat pan so there is at least 2 inches of clearance between the seat pan and the back of the legs.
  2. Adjust the workstation height to accommodate proper keyboard and mouse position so elbows are at 90° and wrists are in a straight neutral position.
  3. Adjust the monitor so it is squarely in front of you while seated and the top of the display is at eye level
  4. Adjust the workspace "comfort zone" to avoid reaching for accessories like the phone, calculator, document holder, etc.

Work practices

Once the workstation is set-up properly good work habits will help prevent MSDs. Maintain good posture and sit against the backrest of the chair. Keep the keyboard and mouse close to avoid reaching. Hit keyboard keys with a light touch and keep the wrists straight when typing.

Prolonged static postures inhibit blood flow and circulation. Take short micro-breaks from one to three minutes every 20-30 minutes. Get up, move around and do other tasks such as making copies, filing or making phone calls. Try and get away from your computer over lunch breaks. Take a few minutes and stretch the neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Refocus your eyes by looking away from the monitor at a distant object.