Stay Healthy at Your Desk

Do you have aches and pains from sitting at a desk for hours a day? Read on for some simple ergonomic changes to your desk setup that you can make to prevent neck, back and wrist pain, reducing your risk of long-term health issues.

Your ideal workspace to reduce back and neck pain

Armrests: If you have armrests on your chair, set them at a height that offers support, yet allows your shoulders to remain relaxed.

Chair: Choose an adjustable chair with lumbar support that curves to fit your natural spine alignment and supports your upper and lower back. Sit as far back in the chair as possible so your buttocks touch the back of the chair. Adjust the height so your thighs are parallel with the floor and your feet rest flat. If you must twist to reach something, use your chair’s pivoting function rather than twisting your body.

Desk: Make sure you have plenty of room to move your legs and knees under your desk. If your desk if very low, try raising it up on something sturdy, like blocks or boards, or invest in a new desk. Never store anything beneath your desk.

Document holder: If you must read from a document while typing, keep the document directly between you in and the monitor using a document stand. If you don’t have room, place the copy stand next to the monitor.

Footrest: If your feet dangle once you have adjusted your chair, use a footrest or small stool to keep your lower body in proper alignment.

Frequently used items: Keep your telephone, stapler, planner, pens and other essentials close by so you can reach them while remaining seated, without twisting your body or extending your arm very far. The more frequently you must reach for an object, the more strain you put on your body.

Keyboard: Center your keyboard (or the portion of the keyboard you use most) in front of your body. Keep your wrists straight and your arms close to your sides as you type. Your hands should be in line with or slightly below your elbows. If you find yourself resting your wrists on your desk throughout the day, use a padded wrist rest to take pressure off your joints when you aren’t typing. When you are typing, keep your wrists up and off your desk.

Monitor: Adjust it so your middle fingertip touches the screen when your arm is fully extended. Raise or lower it so your eyes are in line with the top of the screen. If you sit near a window, move the monitor so the sunlight comes in to the side of the monitor. If you use two monitors equally, place them as close together as possible and center them both. If you use one more than the other, put the primary monitor in the center and the other slightly to the side.

Mouse: Your mouse should stay on the same surface as your keyboard, whether it’s your desk or a keyboard tray. When using the mouse, keep your upper arm close to your body and your wrist straight, not bent. Use keyboard shortcuts instead of your mouse whenever possible.

Phone: Avoid propping your phone between your shoulder and ear during calls. Instead, use speakerphone or a headset.

Get moving

After you’ve set up an ergonomic workspace, be sure to do the following to get the results:

Take stretch breaks: Stand up and stretch for a minute or two every 20 to 30 minutes. Set pop-up alerts on your computer or phone to remind you. Even better: Take a few laps around the office or climb some stairs for five minutes every hour to get your blood flowing.

Rest your eyes: Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look away from your monitor and focus on a distant object about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Practice good posture: Keep your back straight, your head and neck in line with your spine, and your shoulder back.


Pardee @Work is a health and wellness partnership that offers occupational health services such as pre-employment screenings, wellness and prevention programs, workplace injury prevention and management, and on-site clinics to regional businesses and corporations.

To learn more about Pardee @Work’s services, visit


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