Introduction to setting up your computer workstation
Use the computer workstation self-assessment to help you assess your computer workstation and make some simple adjustments to optimise your comfort. You should complete this checklist when you join the University as a staff member, or when you move to a new location.
Once completed, provide a copy of your form to your manager or supervisor for review.
If you are unable to resolve your office workstation problems, seek assistance from:
- the office ergonomics training videos
- your manager or supervisor to identify solutions, or
- your local Health and Safety Business Partner.
Note: If you have issues hearing any of the videos on these pages, you may need to open them in a different browser.
Setting up your task chair
Set up your task chair to ensure it is a suitable fit and provides optimal comfort and support by following these steps:
- Set your backrest. You should do this while seated in your chair. If you are not able to reach the lever without awkwardly twisting, ask a colleague to assist.
- Set your backrest height. The pronounced, outward curve of the back support should sit firmly in the inward lumbar curve of your lower back, centered about navel height. There should be a gap, approximately the size of your fist, between the seat pan and the backrest.
- Set the backrest angle. The recommended backrest angle is approximately 100°. That is, a slight recline position, allowing an open angle at the hips.
- Adjust your seat pan. The seat pan should be relatively flat, or horizontal. The depth should accommodate the length of your thighs, with only 1-3 fingers' width clearance between the front edge of the seat and the back of your knees when sitting right back into the chair.
- Set your seat height. The seat height should allow your shoulders to adopt a relaxed, symmetrical position and allow your elbows to be positioned slightly higher than the desk height. Generally, the desk height should be level with your navel.
Use the task seating sizing guide for more information on choosing the correct chair.
Office chair problems and solutions
Common problems with desk chair set up include:
- Problem: the seat depth is inadequate and does not provide adequate support for your thigh length.
Solution: your seat depth should accommodate your thigh length. If you have longer thighs, you may need a deeper seat pan. If you have shorter thighs, you may need a shallower seat.
- Problem: you sit forward in your seat because the seat puts pressure behind your knees.
Solution: your seat is too deep. You should have approximately 1-3 fingers' width between the back of your knees and the front of the chair when sitting back.
- Problem: your seat is not wide enough.
Solution: choose a chair with a seat that extends approximately 2cm either side of your hips.
- Problem: your seat is not padded enough, has bottomed out, or does not provide enough cushioning.
Solution: choose a new office chair with adequate cushioning.
- Problem: you chair rolls away when used on non-carpeted floors.
Solution: fit your chair with glides of pressure lock castors, instead of standard castors.
- Problem: your chair is the wrong height.
Solution: adjust your chair so that your feet are firmly placed on the ground, and not tucked back onto the chair base.
- Problem: your chair has faulty adjustment mechanisms.
Solution: ensure chairs are inspected periodically.
- Problem: your backrest is in the incorrect position.
Solution: position your backrest so that it is firmly positioned in the inward curved section of your lower back.
- Problem: armrests interfere with your access to the workstation.
Solution: remove the armrests.
Please note: If anything is hung (coat, scarf, bag, etc) over the back of your task chair, please ensure that it does not interfere with the mechanics of the chair or impede your posture in any way.
Setting up your desk
The ideal dimensions for a (seated) desk, whether fixed height or adjustable, are:
- height: between 680-735mm
- depth: minimum 750-800mm
- thickness: maximum 33mm, and
- a clear width of 400mm either side of the navel.
Equipment and object on your work surface should be laid out according to the optimum, maximum and outer reach zones.
Desk problems and solutions
Common problems with desk set up include:
Freestanding height adjustable desks
- Problem: desk wrong height.
Solution: the best height for the desk is so that the height of the desk is at navel height when you are seated.
Freestanding fixed height desks
- Problem: the desk to too high for you.
Solution: set your chair height higher, and use a footstool.
Freestanding fixed height desks with adjustable keyboard trays
- Problem: your desk height is incorrect / you do not have enough space on the keyboard tray for your mouse / the adjustment mechanism in your leg space obstructs your knees.
Solution: set the keyboard tray level with your desk so the entire desk is the same height. Adjust your chair and use a footstool if necessary.
If your desk has capacity for adjustment, it is better to lower the desk than use a footrest.
If you find you are unable to place your feet firmly on the floor when seated comfortably at your desk, you may require a footrest.
- have height and angle adjustability and be large enough to accommodate both feet positioned comfortably
- have a carpeted base, and
- support your feet in front of your body and not interfere with the chair base.
Footrests can be ordered via iProcurement.
Setting up your keyboard and mouse
When using your keyboard, it should be directly in front of your body at a distance that feels comfortable and supportive for your arms and shoulders.
The slope of your keyboard should be as close to the flat position as possible. This is largely determined by what feels comfortable. However, there should be a good straight alignment across your forearms, wrists and hands. Where possible, you should keep the feet at the rear of the keyboard lowered to minimise the height and angle of the keyboard.
You might prefer to use a keyboard without a numeric pad, as this reduces the keyboard width and allows you to reach less for the mouse.
Try not to anchor your wrists on the desk while typing. Your wrists should be slightly extended upwards (10-20 degrees) creating a sharp angle at the wrist joint. You might find a wrist pad, no higher than the keyboard, helpful in reducing wrist stress.
Your mouse should fit your hand so that the padded sections of your palm connect with the desktop.
Position your mouse directly to the right or left hand side of your keyboard.
When using your mouse:
- relax your shoulders
- keep your elbows close to the sides of your body
- support your forearm on the desktop
- keep your wrist still, do not move it from side to side
- keep your middle finger in a straight line with your forearm, and
- use circular, smooth, whole arm movements.
Setting up your monitor
Your computer monitor should be:
- directly in front of you and approximately arm's reach away, and
- positioned so that the top of the monitor is at the same height as your eyes.
If using two monitors, they should be the same height. You should be able to swivel on your chair to visually navigate between monitors.
Your computer screen should be:
- adjusted to a comfortable level of brightness, contrast and font size, and
- free from glare or reflections from light sources.
Setting up your desktop items
Document holders are designed to hold reference material so that they can be positioned according to your visual needs. Document holders help to keep your head balanced over your shoulders and are useful for work that involves a lot of copying while working at the computer. Ideally, the document holder should be positioned between your keyboard and monitor.
Angle (reading) board
An angle board enables you to adjust the angle of a work surface. It is usually placed on top of your desk and used to raise the height and angle of documents so that your neck is in a more upright posture while reading and writing for prolonged periods. The angle board needs to be adjustable and large enough to support several documents.
When making a lot of calls, it may be best to place the telephone on the same side as your dominant hand, so this hand can comfortably operate the numeric and function buttons. When mostly receiving calls, it may be more comfortable to place it on the non-dominant side.
If you have prolonged or frequent phone conversations, or if you simultaneously type or write when speaking on the phone, you should use a headset.
Watch the training module below to learn about the best place to position yourself in relation to your keyboard and mouse.
Setting up your sit stand desk
You should consider the following when adjusting your sit stand desk:
- ensure there is nothing above or below the desk which may be a hazard
- you should not be in discomfort when adjusting the desk height
- where possible use preset heights for easy access.
View the Safety Bulletin: Sit stand workstation published in 2018.