One of the most frequent questions I hear as an ergonomist is, “What should my office workstation setup look like?” Almost immediately, my response is, “It depends!” There are many jobs we can perform when working at a seated or standing desk. The dimensions should be tailored to two things: the task and the person performing the task. Here are three important dimensions to consider when adjusting your workstation.
1. Visual Display Height: Whether you have a sitting, standing, or height-adjustable desk, position the monitors directly in front of you and align the top of the screen at or below eye level. This dimension dictates the orientation of the neck when performing daily routines. If the neck is not in a neutral position for long periods of time, you might begin to make adjustments to compensate for this design gap. This could cause discomfort, encourage you to take frequent rest periods, and may result in an overall decline in productivity. Here are the recommended display heights at standing and seated workstations:
Seated workstation: top of display screen 41” – 51” (1044 – 1288 mm) above the standing surface
Standing workstation: top of display screen 56” – 70” (1428 – 1774 mm) above the standing surface
2. Lateral workstation clearance. Work area congestion can cause discomfort and mental fatigue (due to stress). A lack of lateral clearance (elbow room) can affect the shoulders, elbows, hands, and wrists. Ideally, you should be able to work without shrugging your shoulders, twisting your back, or maintaining other awkward upper body postures. Lateral workstation clearance should be at least 30” (762 mm) wide.
3. Knee space depth. Limited space for the lower limbs, including the knees, translates to increased horizontal work reaches; sustained and awkward back, shoulder, and elbow postures; and potentially reduced fine motor movement in certain tasks. Although this dimension is often overlooked, not addressing it can lead to discomfort when using a sitting or standing workstation. Here are the design specifications for knee space depth:
Seated workstation: minimum of 18” (457 mm) into the workstation surface
Standing workstation: minimum of 6” (152 mm) into the workstation surface