Tips for Setting Up a Home Desk / Office – Home Schooling / Online Learning


With the Covid-19 Crisis resulting in a lot of work from home scenario’s, we have been inundated with a lot of patients reporting neck and lower back issues relating to poor ergonomics derived from a home-office set-up. In this post, our very own Occupational Physiotherapist Kathryn Meade, provides some useful tips on how to work from home and maintain optimal spinal integrity…

Where should I set up my desk?

  • in a quiet environment with minimal distractions
  • desk parallel to window to avoid glare
  • where you can adjust natural light with blinds etc
  • where you have adequate and even lighting in order to be able to see documents / text books

What type of chair is best?

  • a chair that is height adjustable (as most desks / working spaces are a set height) is best
  • high backed for back support and with a lumbar support
  • if this is not available then place a rolled up towel or cushion in the small of your back

How should I position myself and my computer?

  • get the height right. Adjust chair height so that your elbows sit comfortably at a right angle (90 degrees)
  • if your feet cannot touch the floor, use a foot stool or something to rest your feet on so they are flat and supported
  • when sitting, hips should sit at approximately at an angle of 100-120 degrees or just greater than a right angle, and this can be achieved by adjusting the seat pan tilt and backrest if your chair is able, and knees should be at approximately a 90 degree angle
  • monitor should sit one arm length away to
    allow for easy viewing / reading
  • top of computer screen should be at eye level
  • with elbows bent comfortably at 90 degrees, place forearms on desk, so that most of your forearms are supported on the desk. This is then the position of your keyboard, making sure it is lined up directly in front of you. Your fingers should rest comfortably on the middle row of
    the keyboard.
  • place mouse close to keyboard, and move mouse by moving your elbow not your shoulder to avoid pain
  • sit with body as close to desk as possible and ensure head and neck are forward facing
  • ensure back is supported by backrest on chair
  • adjust the tilt of the keyboard (achieved by folding or unloading keyboard legs) to a comfortable position for wrist and fingers
  • if able, use a keyboard without a numeric pad, allowing mouse to be in closer reach
  • tilt computer screen to decrease glare

What about laptops?

  • laptops should be used for short periods of time only.
  • it is best that they are placed on a laptop riser or stand, so that the top of the laptop screen is at eye level.
  • an external keyboard and mouse will be required and should be set up the same as for PC.

Other Useful Tips

  • adjust the font size or screen view of your documents to allow for easy reading and to avoid eye fatigue
  • use headphone (+/-) microphone instead of holding or cradling phone
  • use a document holder for documents / books. This should be placed close to screen and at the same height and distance as computer screen
  • use a light coloured background to avoid eye fatigue and glare
  • standing desks can be very useful in order to break up prolonged sitting positions and set up in same position as for PC on standard desk. A small footstool and alternating placement of feet on stool can help prevent back pain.

What exercises can I do to prevent the development of sore neck and shoulders?

It is important to change your position (stand up or perform a few simple exercises) after every school lesson or after approximately one hour.

Here are four simple exercises to perform several times a day:

1.  Chin tuck

  • Sit up straight in a chair and look directly ahead of you
  • Tuck your chin in without tilting your head down
  • Return your head to the original position

2.  Neck Sideways Stretch

  • Lift one arm and bring it up and across your head
  • Sit straight and place the palm of your hand on your head
  • use your hand to pull your head gently down towards your shoulder until a stretch is felt on the opposite side
  • maintain position for 30 seconds

3. Shoulder blade squeezes

  • Clasp your hands in front of you
  • squeeze your shoulder blades back and down towards your spine
  • hold for 10-20 seconds

4.  Active Pelvic Tilt

  • sit on chair with your thighs parallel to the ground, your feet flat on the floor and your back in a neutral position
  • slowly tilt your hips posteriorly by rounding your lower back and pushing the small of your back into the chair’s backrest
  • return pelvis to neutral position

(images by SafeWork QLD and Physiotec)

Online Telehealth appointments are now available for Physiotherapy Services at Pro Health Care!

If you are unable to make it into the clinic, are in isolation or just social distancing we can still help from the comfort of your own home! 

We are able to…

  • Diagnose your concern or problem
  • advise on treatment options for home or advise whether an in clinic appointment would be more suited
  • arrange exercise prescription for you to follow at home and regularly check in on your progress
  • get you moving again pain free

Book online or call your nearest Pro Health Care now to arrange a Telehealth consult today

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