Overview of Ergonomic Workplace Practices

Musculoskeletal Symptoms:

  • Weakness of the hands; loss of grip strength; reduced motor control.
  • Muscle fatigue; burning; aching.
  • Muscle stiffness, pain, tenderness, numbness.
  • Stiff neck; shoulder tension; headaches.
  • Eye fatigue; blurred vision; impaired vision.

These symptoms may become more pronounced the longer the incorrect work practices continue.

Review the following Work Place Practices to identify and eliminate symptoms

1.  The Workstation

Ergonomic Workstation Practices
  • The ideal workstation should be large enough to accommodate the worker, allow the full range of motions involved in performing tasks, and provide for necessary equipment and materials.
  • A taller person may need an additional adjustment to raise the workstation; a shorter person may need a footrest.

2.  The Desk

Ergonomic Desk Design:

  • Desktop should be high enough to comfortably accommodate one's legs under the desk.
  • Desk surface should have a matte finish to minimize glare and reflections.
Ergonomic Desk Design
Ergonomic Desk Organization

Ergonomic Desk Organization:

  • Keep space under the desk uncluttered to accommodate one's legs and allow for stretching.
  • Organize desktop so that more frequently-used objects are placed closer at hand to minimize reaching.
  • Position desk lamps to cast illumination of source materials without creating glare on the monitor or direct illumination on the eyes.
  • Place the phone on the side of the non-dominant hand.

Ergonomic Work Habits/Practices:

  • If using a document holder, place on either side of the monitor when working with printed source materials.
  • Feet should rest flat on the floor.
  • A footrest may be used if, after adjusting the height of the chair to fit the desk, the feet do not rest flat on the floor.
  • A headset may be used when a phone is used frequently throughout the day.
Ergonomic Work Habits and Practices

3.  The Chair

Ergonomic Chairs
  • The specific chair itself is less important than how it is adjusted to suit the user, how the chair is used, and the work habits of the user.
  • Many chairs are designed for adjustable height. For individuals with medical conditions, it is recommended to check if chair has adjustable back, armrests, and lumbar support.

Chair Adjustment Procedure:

  • Adjust seat height so that feet rest flat on the floor.
  • Sit upright in the chair with the low back and shoulders touching the backrest.
  • Thighs should be parallel to the floor and knees at approximately the same level as the hips.
  • There should be 2-4 inches between the edge of the seat and the backs of the knees.
  • Adjust the backrest to support the natural inward curve of the lower back; it may be useful to use a rolled towel, lumbar roll or cushion to support the lower back.
Ergonomic Chair Adjustment Procedure
Ergonomic Work Habits and Practices

Ergonomic Work Habits/Practices:

  • Don't remain in one static position for extended periods of time.
  • Do alternate between sitting tasks (e.g. computer input), standing tasks (e.g. filing, telephone use), and walking tasks (e.g. faxing, retrieving items from printer).
  • Do take small walking breaks during the day, as permitted by your supervisor>

4.  The Computer Monitor/Screen:

Proper placement/positioning of the monitor:

  • Position monitor so that the top edge of the screen is at or just below eye level.
  • Position the monitor so that it is directly in front of the user to avoid excessive twisting/stretching of the neck.
  • Place the monitor so that it is a comfortable viewing distance (18-30 inches) from the user.
  • Position the monitor at a 90° angle from windows to reduce glare.
  • Tilt monitor so that overhead lights do not create glare on the screen.
Ergonomic Computer Monitor

Work habits/practices to prevent eyestrain and neck strain:

  • Keep the surface of the monitor clean to prevent blurriness; adjust the color/brightness for maximum eye comfort.
  • If using a document holder, it should be placed at approximately the same height as the monitor to prevent abrupt shifts in focus in moving from the source materials to the screen.
  • Periodically exercise the eyes by focusing eyes on distant objects.
  • Larger screens may require the user to sit further away from the screen and use a larger font size in order to take full advantage of the larger screen.

5.  The Keyboard

If the workstation is not set up properly, continuous computer work can expose soft tissues to repetitive stress, which could result in ergonomic injuries to the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, and shoulder.

Setting up the workstation - keyboard:

  • Adjust your chair and posture for the least-stressful arm/wrist positioning.
  • Adjust your chair so that the arms are bent at the elbow at a 90° angle; the forearms should be parallel to the floor.
  • Adjust keyboard height and distance from the edge of the desk so that the shoulders can relax and allow arms to rest at sides.
  • Adjust the slope of the keyboard so that the wrists are flat (i.e., in a neutral position) and not bent upward/back at all.
  • Place mouse (or trackball) adjacent to the keyboard and at the same height as the keyboard.
Ergonomic Workstation Keyboard
Ergonomic Keyboard Habits and Practices

Ergonomic workplace habits/practices:

  • A padded wrist rest placed before the keyboard is used only for resting the wrists when no data is actually being input.
  • Press keys gently; do not bang on them or hold them down for long periods
  • Keep your shoulders, arms, hands and fingers relaxed.

6.  The Mouse/Trackball/Touchpad:

Proper placement is important. Placing the mouse/trackball too far away, too low, or too far over to one side can cause wrist, forearm, elbow, and shoulder discomfort. Placing the pointing device in your immediate reach zone offers natural comfort and maximum hand-eye coordination. Always "test drive" the different pointing devices and choose the one that feels most naturally comfortable to you.


  • Using a mouse requires stability of the surface upon which it is placed; if used on a keyboard tray, the tray should not wobble or tip.
  • Using a mouse without a mousepad will help prevent the wrist from being tilted upward and causing strain.
Ergonomic Computer Mouse
Ergonomic Computer Trackball


  • A trackball has an exposed ball that is manipulated with the fingers. It requires the use of different muscle and tendon groups than those used when operating a mouse.
  • Some trackball designs may cause discomfort/injury to the area around the thumb, which stretches/reaches to maneuver the trackball.


  • Allow users to move the cursor across the screen by moving the fingers across a small screen.
  • They have no moving parts that can become clogged with dust, but they can lead to increased arm fatigue.
  • A headset may be used when a phone is used frequently throughout the day.
Ergonomic Computer Touchpads

7.  The Neutral Posture:

To understand the best way to set up a computer workstation, it is helpful to understand the concept of neutral body positioning. This is a comfortable working position in which your joints are naturally aligned. Working with the body in a neutral position reduces stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and skeletal system and reduces your risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder.

Ergonomic Neutral Body Posture
  • Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in line and roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Head is level, or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and in line with the torso.
  • Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 - 120°
  • Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar (lower back) support when sitting upright or leaning back slightly.
  • Thighs and hips are supported by an upholstered seat and approximately parallel to the floor.
  • Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.
  • Feet are resting flat on the floor or on a footrest.

8.  The Lighting:

  • Bright lights shining on the display screen can "wash out" images, making it difficult to clearly see your work. Straining to view objects on the screen can lead to eye fatigue.
  • Provide supplemental task/desk lighting to adequately illuminate writing and reading tasks while limiting brightness around monitors.
  • Provide supplemental task/desk lighting to adequately illuminate writing and reading tasks while limiting brightness around monitors.
  • Direct light sources (for example, windows, overhead lights) that cause reflected light to show up on the monitor make images more difficult to see, resulting in eye strain and fatigue.
Ergonomic Lighting in the Workplace

The above are guidelines only to assist with basic Work Station Layout and are based on studies done by UC Irvine. For additional information, please refer to the US Department of Labor's Website at:


Individual Ergonomic Evaluations can be done by special request. Please contact your local CA Office furniture & Design Sales or Service Representative.

The Management of CA Office Furniture & Design are not medical professionals. Opinions are expressed based on our experience and studies done in the industry. Any specific medical issues must be discussed with your Medical Practitioner.

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