From: Virginia Tech Environmental Health and Safety

Setting up a home office? Those working remotely can implement the following easy ergonomic principles that will help deliver a boost to wellbeing, comfort, and productivity. Make individual adjustments, based on personal preference and comfort.

Step 1: Adjusting the chair

  • Begin by facing the chair away from your workstation.
  • Adjust the chair height so feet are flat on the floor, knees slightly below hips (angle between torso and thighs at 90 degrees or more).
  • Seat pan tilt is level or slopes slightly downward. 
  • Adjust the seat pan depth to allow two fingers widths between the seat cushion and back of knees while sitting. 
  • Backrest angle is slightly reclined and supports the lumbar region (at or slightly above belt line). If necessary, place pillows or a small rolled-up towel in the curve of the lower back. Avoid using bulky items, as too much lumbar support may decrease upper back support.
  • Armrests should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and fully support arms without being pushed upward. Unsupported arms will cause shoulders to droop.

Step 2: Adjusting the desk, keyboard, and mouse

  • Leaving the chair at its new set position, turn the chair toward the keyboard and mouse.
  • With arms in a relaxed position and resting in your lap, your elbows will be near the recommended height of your keyboard. Adjust the height of your keyboard tray or desk accordingly. If your desk is fixed-height, raise your chair and add a footrest.
  • Adjust keyboard and mouse height and angle so upper arms are nearly vertical and forearms are parallel to the floor. The home row keys should be at the fingertips with wrists straight in the natural position.
  • Adjust the keyboard slope slightly up or down to straighten wrists. Keyboard should have a positive tilt if your forearms are angled up, or negative tilt if angled down, respectively.
  • Position mouse as close to the keyboard as possible and at the same height. Some desks have an adjustable keyboard/mouse tray.

Step 3: Adjusting the monitor

  • Position monitor to minimize glare and reflections from overhead and exterior light.
  • Place the monitor directly in front of you, with the top of the screen at eye level. Use a monitor pedestal or other stable materials to raise a monitor.
  • Place the monitor as far away from you as possible while still being able to easily read the screen—longer distances relax the eyes. Start at an arms distance.
  • Keep the screen clean by wiping it lightly with an anti-static cloth or other recommended cleaner.

Step 4: Adjusting the lighting

  • Computer work areas should have moderate, indirect lighting, about half the level of non-computer work areas.
  • Reduce overhead lighting by turning off lights or switching to computer compatible lamps.
  • To minimize glare, turn the monitor perpendicular to light sources.
  • Draw window shades or curtains to reduce the level of outside lighting.

Step 5: Adjusting Work Practices

  • Minimize fatigue and discomfort by alternating tasks and changing body posture often.
  • When typing, use a light touch to minimize strain on muscles and tendons. A wrist rest, if used, should support the palms of the hands.
  • Avoid awkward body positions (extended reaches and using a shoulder as a telephone rest).
  • Take short breaks frequently and longer breaks hourly.
  • Blink often and periodically refocus on distant objects to reduce vision fatigue. Use the “20/20” rule—every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Recommendations for Laptops

  • Use on a desk. Avoid use on a couch or chair for long periods.
  • Place on a riser (or boxes/books). Put the top of the screen at eye height.
  • Connect a separate keyboard and mouse.
  •  Use a separate monitor. Their higher resolutions can reduce eye strain and typically have a height adjustment.

Have additional questions? Contact Environmental Health and Safety at 540-231-3600.