the one secret to setting up your perfect ergonomic workstation

The No. 1 Secret To Setting Up the Perfect Ergonomic Workstation

by | Work from Home Ergonomics

the one secret to setting up the perfect ergonomic workstation
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You probably know how to set up an ergonomic workstation.

For a start, you get a desk and an ‘ergonomic’ office chair.

Then you buy a monitor, separate keyboard and mouse.

Finally, you place your workstation near the window.

Setting up your ergonomic workstation at home is that simple, right?

Yeah, pretty much.

Truthfully, it still feels like something is missing. Because you keep having niggles and pain. It’s been ongoing for a while. In the beginning, your back throbbed when you sat. Then your wrist started tingling and going numb. Recently, your left elbow swelled up by the end of the day.

In reality, you are making adjustments to your ergonomic workstation. You’re moving your seat forwards and backward, raising your armrest up and down, leaning forward, sitting on the edge of your chair. Anything to ease the pain. But to no avail.


Have you ever thought about the ‘ergonomic’ office chair you sit on? Or the desk you place your computer on? Have you ever considered whether they are the right fit for you?

There might be other reasons why you are experiencing work-related pain. For example, you sit for hours without intermittent breaks or you have a ‘bad habit’ of crossing your legs.

However, in most cases, it begins with your ergonomic workstation.

The number one secret to setting up a perfect ergonomic workstation is for your desk and chair to firstly, fit you and secondly, for both to work in tandem.

Ergonomic Workstation Furniture Fitting You

Many times, ergonomic workstation furniture are bought based on aesthetics. You may buy it because it was labeled ‘ergonomic’.

Consider this, Health and Safety Executive defined ergonomics as:

“The science concerned with the ‘fit’ between people and their work. It continues by saying, “ It puts people first, taking account of their capabilities and limitations. It aims to make sure that tasks, equipment, information, and the environment fit each worker”.

“In summary, buying furniture that ‘fit’ you is the secret of setting up a perfect ergonomic workstation”.

Workstation Furniture Mistakes That Would Lead to Injury

  • If your chair’s armrests are too high to rest on, you would fan out your elbows to fit into it, giving you shoulder pain.
  • If your desk is too low, you would crane your neck to see your computer at that level, causing you neck pain.
  • If the seat pan of the chair is too hard for your buttocks, you’d keep fidgeting, shifting from one bum to the other, causing pelvic or hip pain.
  • If the chair has no good lumbar support, you would lean forward keeping your back unsupported, eventually leading to back pain.
  • If the armrest is restricting the chair from being close to the desk, you would sit at the edge of your chair causing back pain.
  • If the desk is too high, your wrist would perch on the edge of the desk causing pressure injury.
  • If the armrest is too high to be tucked under the desk. You would have to sit further away from your desk making you lean forward. Subsequently, you would not be able to use the back rest leading to back pain.
  • If the desk depth is too shallow, your desktop (monitor) would be too close to you, giving you eye ache.

man in brown dress shirt sitting at the table with macbook pro
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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

What you’re doing is trying to accommodate the chair or work around the chair. You are trying to fit into the chair and so, you adopt awkward postures, to fit into your ‘ergonomic’ workstation.

Do you get the gist?

To put it briefly, these awkward postures and excessive force would eventually give you pain and injury.

Ergonomic Workstation Furniture Working in Tandem

As you can see, not only do you have to buy a good ergonomic chair but also the desk and chair have to work in tandem. The adjustments you make to the chair would invariably affect how you use your desk and the posture you adopt.

Things to Consider When ‘Fitting’ Your Ergonomic Workstation

  • Your height – important for the height of backrest and maximum height the chair can be raised.
  • Your weight – can the chair accommodate your weight (found in the description)
  • Your sight – can you see from afar or do you need to be close to the monitor? Can the chair moves as close as you expect
  • Room Temperature – the temperature may determine the material of the chair you use. If you live in the colder or hotter regions of the world, would you like leather chairs all year long? Would a mesh chair be preferred?
  • Adjustable – Is the office chair you are purchasing adjustable? The rule of thumb is the more adjustable levers it has the better.
  • Location of the other equipment – how would you place your monitor, for example? Can it be placed in front of you (ideal) or do you have to sit at an angle (not ideal).
  • Workstation space – Can you arrange a desk and chair in the space you have? Are you just about squeezing everything in?
  • Legroom – Do you have legroom under the desk and even beyond to stretch out if you wanted?

Your desk and chair work in tandem to give you the best sitting posture that eliminates injury. If you just grab any chair lying about your home or buy a chair because of its aesthetics you are signing up for injury.


1.       Invest in an Ergonomic Chair and Desk that Fits You

First, a  random chair lying about in the house is not ideal. For example. a dining chair, plastic chair, wicker chair, aluminum chair, bar stool, garden chair, foldable chair, chaise longue, or sofa. Avoid using them as ergonomic workstation furniture.

I know you work from home now and you might be tempted to work from anywhere and use what you already have. But now you work for longer and using those chairs would give you musculoskeletal injuries.

For more on the must-have home office items, check out this post: 11 Important Items Your Home Office Need to Prevent Injury.

2.      Learn how Best to Sit When Working from Your Computer

Learn the right posture that keeps you in your body’s neutral position. The body’s neutral position is the position closest to your centre that exerts the least strain.

I’m sure you have seen many infographics talking about the right posture to sit in.

Sit upright, sit close to the table, sit looking ahead, sit with your feet flat on the floor or footstool, sit with your elbows by the side. That is the neutral sitting position and if you notice, they make you compact and centered. But best of all, less strenuous.

3.     Take Frequent Breaks

You were never designed to sit for too long in one position.

Have you heard this slogan,

‘Sitting the new smoking’?

Well, many studies have shown the harmful effect of prolonged sitting on our health. It can cause heart disease, lung disease, liver disease, urinary infection, weakness in your muscles and bones, back pain, neck pain, headache even.

Here is one of my favourite TED talk on this prolonged sitting issue:

It advises you to get up and move because movements reduce the build-up of stress and pressure in your body, from the spine to the heart.

4.      Be aware of the posture your body gets into when it gets tired.

The posture you started with, albeit, the right one would later alter as you keep working. Your body would naturally begin to tire and when it does, it would give off tell-tale signs that it needs a break. You might start fidgeting, feeling tired, slight ache here or a twitch there.

For example:

You might begin to lean forward, bend your neck closer to your laptop or place your hand under your chin. You make these changes to get a bit more comfortable. So, be aware of these changes and either correct them or take a break.

Get the Perfect Ergonomic Workstation Furniture that Fits You

Although it’s good to read other people’s reviews about workstation furniture. Look closer at the description, the height and size would they fit you. Look at your workspace and make sure it is ideal for working. And finally when you put them all together, make sure they are working hand-in-hand, allowing you to maintain the right posture, to keep you away from injury.

Ugo is a Workplace Musculoskeletal Health Expert. She is a Chartered Physiotherapist with a master's degree in Ergonomics. 20 years of experience. Treated thousands of patients and workers. Conducted numerous work assessments across many industries. Worked with companies including BP, and UKPN. On a mission to help you work from home pain-free and reduce your risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD).

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