Cornell University Ergonomics Web

Ergonomic Guidelines for arranging a Computer Workstation - 10 steps for users

Creating a good ergonomic working arrangement is important to protecting your health. The following 10 steps are a brief summary of those things that most Ergonomists agree are important. If you follow the 10 steps they should help you to improve your working arrangement. You can also use the Computer Workstation Checklist to help to pinpoint any areas of concern and take a look at the 'Computer Workstation summary' diagram' for specific tips. However, every situation is different, and if you can't seem to get your arrangement to feel right or you are confused about some of the following recommendations you should seek professional advice. Also see my book - Ergonomic Workplace Design for Health, Wellness, and Productivity.

 10 steps for a good ergonomic workstation arrangement

Work through the following 10 steps to help you decide on what will be a good ergonomic design for your situation:

  1. How will the computer be used?  
  2. What kind of computer will be used?  
    and then arranging your workspace to create a good workstation layout. See "5 tips for using a Laptop Computer".

  3. What furniture will you use? Make sure that the computer (monitor, CPU system unit, keyboard, mouse) are placed on a stable working surface (nothing that wobbles) with adequate room for proper arrangement. If this work surface is going to be used for writing on paper as well as computer use a flat surface that is between 28"-30" above the floor (suitable for most adults). You should consider attaching a keyboard/mouse tray system to your work surface. Choose a system that is height adjustable, that allows you to tilt the keyboard down away from you slightly for better wrist posture (negative tilt), and that allows you to use the mouse with your upper arms relaxed and as close to the body as possible and with your wrist in a comfortable and neutral position. 

    Thinking about a sit-stand workstation, see below.
    Thinking about a height-adjustable split workstation, see below.

  4. What chair will be used? Choose a comfortable chair for the user to sit in. If only one person is using this the chair can even be at a fixed height providing that it is comfortable to sit on and has a good backrest that provides lumbar support. If more than one person will be using the computer, consider buying and a chair with several ergonomic features. Studies show that the best seated posture is a reclined posture of 100-110 degrees NOT the upright 90 degree posture that is often portrayed. In  the recommended posture the chair starts to work for the body and there are significant decreases in postural muscle activity and in intervertebral disc pressure in the lumbar spine. Erect sitting is NOT relaxed, sustainable sitting, reclined sitting is.

    Chair armrests - Having armrests on a chair can be helpful to aid getting into and getting out of the chair. Also, the armrests can be useful for the occasional resting of the arms (e.g. when on the phone, sitting back relaxing). However, it is not a good idea to permanently wrest the forearms on armrests while you are typing or mousing because this can compress the flexor muscles and some armrest can also compress the ulnar never at the elbow. Ideally, it should be easy to get the armrests out of the way when you need to have free access to the keyboard and mouse. These days most office chairs have armrests and many of them have adjustable height armrests, so look for a chair that is a comfortable fit to you and that has broader, flatter, padded armrests that you can easily move out of the way if needed is the best approach. If you are able to occasionally rest your hands on the keyboard on a palm rest and if you have a comfortable chair that does not have any armrests then this is also quite acceptable.

  5. What kind of work will the computer be used for? Try to anticipate what type of software will be used most often.
  6. What can you see? Make sure that any paper documents that you are reading are placed as close to the computer monitor as possible and that these are at a similar angle - use a document holder where possible. 
    The computer monitor should be placed:
  7. Posture, posture posture! Good posture is the basis of good workstation ergonomics. Good posture is the best way to avoid a computer-related injury. To ensure good user posture:
  8. Keep it close!
  9. A good workstation ergonomic arrangement will allow any computer user to work in a neutral, relaxed, ideal typing posture that will minimize the risk of developing any injury. An ideal keyboard arrangement is to place this on a height adjustable negative-tilt tray. An ideal mouse arrangement is for this to be on a flat surface that's 1-2" above the keyboard and moveable over the numeric keypad. If you want a surface at the level of the keyboard base then make sure that this can also be angled downwards slightly to help to keep your hands in wrist neutral while you are mousing, and keep your elbow is as close to the body as possible while you work. Check out the 10 tips for using a computer mouse.

  10. Where will the computer be used? Think about the following environmental conditions where the computer will be used:

    The above 10 steps give a brief summary of good ergonomic design practice for computer workstations, but there's lots more to consider. You can read about ergonomics in many books, you can browse other materials on this CUErgo web site, you can get information from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. You can use the Computer Workstation Checklist to help to identify problems, and you can ask expert Ergonomists for help and advice.

    Also, see the 'Computer Workstation summary' diagram created by the DEA651 class of 2000.

    If you have any questions or comments about the information on this page or this web site you can send these to Professor Alan Hedge at Cornell University.

    For more detailed information and exercises you can also check out the free '' web site.

    Happy computing!

    This guide is translated into Serbo-Croatian by Jovana Milutinovich from Geeks Education.
    This guide is translated into Polish by Andrey Fomin.
    This guide is translated into Russian by Oleg Segal
    This guide is translated into French by Anna Chekovsky
    This guide is translated into Ukranian by Ivanka Skakun
    This guide is translated into Kazakh by John Vorohovsky
    This guide is translated into Georgian by Irakli Nishnianidze



Note that all materials on this page and web site are copyright and may only be copied or distributed for nonprofit educational purposes without permission.
© Alan Hedge, page content last revised on
June 13, 2015