Workstation assessment

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If you work at a desk, how you set up your workstation can make a difference.

By following this best practice guidance, you can help to manage your muscle and joint pain and stay well in work. 

If you sit at a desk regularly as part of your job, it is worth checking with your employer what your local policy is. You may be asked to complete a local workstation risk assessment to ensure that your desk is set up well.

Workstation assessment

Desk set up
You can follow the tips below to make sure your desk is set up well:

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  1. Make sure you are sitting facing your desk; your screen should be approximately an arm's length away.
  2. Avoid any clutter under your desk so your legs can be under the desk.
  3. Ensure your eye line is level with the top of your monitor.
  4. You should sit right back in your chair and still have a small gap behind your knee with both feet resting comfortably on the floor.
  5. Your hips should be equal to or slightly higher than your knees.
  6. You should have a backrest on your chair that can be adjusted so it moves up and down. The lower back support should be comfortable on you back.
  7. Arms should feel relaxed and forearms should be approximately horizontal.

Arranging your desk 

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Thinking about rearranging items into areas based on how frequently you use them can be a simple way of reducing your risk of muscle and joint pain.  

  • Regular work area: Try and have items you regularly use in this area, you should be able to reach these items comfortably whilst still sitting back fully in your chair with your elbows relaxed by your side. Your mouse and keyboard should always be in this area. 

  • Occasional work area: Equipment that you use less regularly should be a little further back but in the area of your desk that you can reach with your back still against the chair but your arms extended.  

  • Non- working area: In this area equipment that you seldom use, or may need to refer to only once or twice in your working day should be in this area.
When setting up your work station, it can be useful to experiment and try new positions so you find the one most comfortable for you. 

Hot desking 
Hot desking is becoming more common as it allows a greater flexibility for employees and employers. If you move desks regularly or hot desk, you should follow the tips above each time you sit at a new computer. 

Working with a laptop 
Laptops enable us to change our environment and move us away from our desks, but it is important that you stay comfortable while using them.

If you are working for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, you should set yourself up at a desk.

Additional equipment can be helpful if you are using for long periods, for example you may want to consider attaching a regular keyboard and using a laptop stand.   

Working with mobile devices 
A tablet or phone is a helpful portable device to use for short periods of time. However, where you are required to input information or use for any longer than 20 minutes, a static workstation that is set up correctly is the best option. 

Below are some tips to help understand how best to use mobile devices. 
  • Whenever possible try to place the tablet on a surface rather than holding it. 
  • Use a stand or tilt the tablet to ensure the position of your head and neck are in a comfortable whilst reading.
  • Keep your screen clean so the visibility is good. 
  • Use a light touch when typing on the screen it will be more efficient as well as preventing problems. 
  • Remember movement is really important. If you find yourself using the tablet for more than 20 minutes, have a break and change your position. 
Case study
Read Joe's story to find out more about the importance of setting up your workstation well. 

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Disclaimer: The content on this page is provided for general information purposes only and is not meant to replace a physiotherapy or medical consultation.

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