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How should I set my desk up?

How should I set my desk up?

Follow these steps to correct the most common causes of pain at work:

1. Move your chair close to the desk and sit back into the seat. Adjust your chair back so that your upper body is relaxed and supported. Raise your seat height. You should have your elbows level or just above the surface of the desk.

2. Use a foot rest if your feet do not rest flat on the floor once you have adjusted your chair as above.

3. Adjust your monitor. The top of the screen should be just below eye level. Bring the monitor to a comfortable distance from your chair. For most people, it should be directly in front of the chair at about an arm's length distance.

4. Position your keyboard and mouse towards the front of the desk.

5. Place documents sensibly, and preferably using a document holder. For most of us, this should be between the keyboard and the monitor, to minimise head twisting and tilting. For copy typists, this may mean moving the monitor to one side and placing the document holder further back from the keyboard and centrally to the chair.

6. Position the phone sensibly. Move it so that you can pick up the receiver with your non-dominant hand, without over-reaching. Better still, use a headset.

7. Clear the clutter from under and on the desk.

8. Raise your laptop screen. Laptops are best used with a separate mouse and keyboard. Ideally, use a laptop stand to tilt and raise the screen and position it at a comfortable viewing distance.

9. Don't just sit there - move! If possible, stand up when you can. Our bodies are not designed to sit in a static position for long periods. Even getting up to retrieve documents from the printer, or to get a glass of water, or when talking on the phone will help enormously.
You can download our A4 poster to remind you of this advice. You'll find it here.

What causes pain at work?

OK, so if your boss is not a good one, you may end up with a pain in the neck! But that's not what we mean.
A large proportion of the population spend a lot of time sitting at desks in front of computers and telephones. Frequently the desk, chair and phone and computer will be standard issue, and typically the person will not have been shown how to set up their workstation to suit their own needs. As humans are not all a standard size and shape, these factors can lead to bad posture and bad backs. There are many bad habits people will adopt in these circumstances; here are some of the common ones.

1. Sitting with the chair too low and too far from the desk. This leads to a slouched posture and hunched shoulders with no support from the chair back. The head is tilted forward. All these can cause pain in the arms and torso. Feet are often hooked round the chair base restricting blood circulation in the legs
2. Sitting with the chair too low. Shorter people often experience this if they set their chair so that their feet remain flat on the floor. If the chair is too low for the desk then the arms will be stretched forward (or sideways), and/or the shoulders will be raised. Muscles will then be tensed unduly leading to stiffness and fatigue.

3. Setting the computer monitor too low. The head will be tilted downwards. This causes the whole body to lean forwards, moving away from the support of the chair and leading to slouching.

4. Multi-tasking. This can often lead to 'necking' the phone, to free up the hands for typing or looking through files. This places undue strain on the neck muscles.

5. Having clutter under the desk. This can mean that the person has to twist.

6. Using a laptop. Laptop use is a major cause of problems, causing poor posture which in turn leads to back, head and neck pain.

7. Having the desk too low. Taller people can often be hunched by the desk and all the equipment being too low. Legs are over-bent causing strain and stiffness.

8. Having equipment too far away for comfort. If the monitor is too far away, either the person leans forward, or they squint. Having phones, keyboards and mice too far away causes over-stretching and over-reaching.

9. Sitting too long. The human body was not built for long periods of relative inactivity and not constructed to conduct repetitive tasks!