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Office Ergonomics Guide

Many of us rely heavily on computers to help us perform our work - for some, dedicated computer work is necessary, while others multi-task throughout the day. No two people are the same, and ergonomics strives to fit the task to the person doing it.

The Office Ergonomics Guide is intended to guide you in a self-assessment of the ergonomic design of your computer workstation. These helpful tips can show you how to identify and correct ergonomic problems to prevent repetitive strain injury, eyestrain, fatigue and discomfort. If you have any further questions or need an assessment, please contact Andrew Scheifele x36359 in the Safety Office.

Along with the information contained in the following pages, the Safety Office has office ergonomics information available in an attractive poster format. These posters are produced in general office or student computer lab versions and are available from Sheila Hurley in the Safety Office x33587. Also, for preventive office exercise tips, see the Workstation Exercises.

To get started, move through the components of your workstation - evaluate and adjust each one in order, according to the guidelines.

Task Chair

An ergonomic chair will not function as designed unless you know how to operate the adjustable features correctly. To adjust your task chair, follow the steps:

1) Sitting in the chair, raise or lower the seat so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips.

2) Sit as far back in the chair as possible, and adjust the backrest height or lumbar support so that it fits into the curve in your lower back.

3) If you have a seat slider, adjust the seat pan depth so that a closed fist fits between your knee and the edge of the seat.

4) Adjust the backrest angle to achieve a torso-to-thigh angle of 93-113 degrees (have someone else look at you from the side).

5) Adjust the seatpan tilt angle to a comfortable position.

6) Adjust the armrest so that it is at your elbow height. If the armrests swivel, place the armrests in line with your forearm when you are using the mouse.

7) Once you have adjusted the rest of your workstation, if your feet do not reach the floor, use a footrest.
8) Remember to adjust your chair throughout the day to help relieve muscle tension in specific muscle groups.  


Before purchasing an ergonomic chair, click here.

Keyboard & Mouse

There are numerous keyboard and mouse configurations and models available, however it is important to correctly position these tools to prevent overuse injuries.

To properly position your keyboard and mouse, follow these steps:

Sit close to the keyboard and mouse so that your upper arms hang in a relaxed position.

Center yourself so that you are aligned with both the keyboard and mouse, depending on what is most frequently used. Position the mouse as close as possible to the keyboard to avoid rotating the shoulder.

Adjust the height of the keyboard platform (or chair if there is not an adjustable platform), so that your shoulders are relaxed and elbow angle is 90 degrees or slightly greater.

Adjust the angle of the keyboard platform slightly downward in a negative tilt, if able. This will help to keep your wrists straight.




Do not put the mouse where you must stretch to the desk or out to the side of a keyboard to reach it.



Your wrist should be straight while mousing, not angled toward your thumb or little finger.

Some other important tips to limit overuse and awkward postures:


Proper monitor positioning is important in avoiding vision and neck problems. Follow these steps:

1. The monitor should be positioned so that your natural gaze falls about one-third down the length of the screen.

2. The distance should be about arm's length (45 to 60 cm). Font size, specific applications and personal visual acuity and sensitivity will also determine the correct distance, however placing the monitor too far away can cause the user to lean forward and can lead to eyestrain.
3. Bifocal users should lower the monitor so that text can be viewed through the proper prescription. Increasing the distance away from you also increases the field of vision available without moving the head. Tilting the screen upward slightly can also help.
4. The monitor should be directly in front you, aligned with the area of the keyboard that you use most.
5. Adjust contrast and brightness to your personal needs to reduce eyestrain.
6. Look away from your screen periodically - focus on a distant object to exercise eye muscles.


Reference documents, especially when used frequently, should not be placed flat on the worksurface. Instead, use a document holder. Traditional holders position the document adjacent to the monitor, however there are models that allow the user to place several items directly between your keyboard and monitor, avoiding awkward neck postures and maximizing productivity.



The telephone needs special attention if you use it often. Cradling the phone between the shoulder and ear causing awkward neck and shoulder postures, and can lead to injury if used for prolonged periods or frequently throughout the day.
If you use the telephone frequently, a headset should be used to allow for hands-free operation. This will eliminate cradling of the phone between shoulder and ear while writing, handling documents or using the computer.




In a general office environment, the CSA recommended lighting level for computer work is 500 lux. These lighting levels can be adjusted for personal preference, and paper work may be augmented by task lighting.

Glare is the main lighting concern when working with computers. To help minimize glare:

"Ergo Breaks"

One of the best ways to prevent injury, discomfort and fatigue is to take an Ergo Break - a pause or change in activity that allows muscles, joints and tissues that have been working to recover and rest. Muscles that remain in a static posture will fatigue, circulation will decrease, and you will notice discomfort. This may mean taking a short pause in activity to focus on a different task, rest your eyes, and most of all, change position. Prolonged sitting is one of the major risk factors for low back pain, so give your back a break and stand, walk and stretch. It may also mean switching to another task that requires the use of different muscle groups and postures.

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