Monday, August 24, 2020

Ergonomics Home Office Desk Tips


Guest Post

By Shaul Lent, OT/L, MA, CEAS 
Ergonomics Advance and Father of 3 Kids

Readers Note: This guest post is for informational purposes only and it is not intended as a substitute for professional wellness and medical advice.

Keyboard & Mouse Set Up Tips

You've never worked like this before. With COVID-19, many of us have unexpectedly found ourselves working remotely full-time and needing to set-up new, functional workstations at home. This abrupt change in how you and I work can be frustrating, let alone downright physically uncomfortable. 

Mom with Toddler Working at Desk at Home
Creating an Ergonomically-Sound Home Workstation

Used to your familiar desk at the office,  you are likely wondering how you can adapt and recreate that comfortable, ergonomic workspace at home.  If you once worked at the office with a desktop computer with a huge monitor and keyboard, but now you're expected to produce the same work on your home computer desktop -- Or, even more challenging, using a laptop without that mouse you liked using at work -- you know what I am talking about. 

No wonder so many remote workers, including work at home moms and dads, are now experiencing unprecedented wrist pain, back strain and more fatigue lately that's affecting your overall wellness, family dynamics, not to mention seriously impacting your work productivity.

My goal is to help you set yourself up for success by showing you how to properly and comfortably use your mouse and keyboard. So, in this post, I'll focus on how to properly position your upper body relative to the keyboard and mouse as well as how to stretch and work comfortably, even if you cannot achieve perfect ergonomics.

The Problems With Keyboard & Mouse Use

The keyboard and mouse can be your greatest source of pain. Why? Most of the time, these computer input devices are positioned too high. When both are elevated, you need to awkwardly reach up away from your body, placing increased stress on your shoulders. Additionally, when reaching for an improperly positioned keyboard and mouse, it causes you to bend forward at the wrist, placing increased stress on your tendons and nerves.

Man Working at Home Desktop Computer
Poor Computer Keyboard Posture

Limit Awkward Reaching/Bending at Your Computer

To align your body better and lower the position of the keyboard and mouse in relation to your wrists and shoulders, try one of these simple strategies

1) Lower the keyboard and mouse with a keyboard tray or move to a lower desk
2) Leave the keyboard and mouse as is, but raise your seat higher

Raising your chair or lowering your mouse and keyboard will allow you to work in that comfortable neutral posture: shoulders relaxed, elbows at your side at a 90-110 degree angle, with palms, wrists, and forearms aligned.  If you always aim to achieve this neutral posture whenever you are working with a keyboard and mouse you will be amazed at the difference it can make.

Solution 1: Lowering your Keyboard and Mouse 

One of the best ways to work without reaching is to use a sit-stand desk.  Some sit-stand desks like the IMovr Lander Desk allow you to lower the desk precisely to that ideal keyboard and mouse height. 

If you do not have a desk of the proper height or don't want to invest in a good sit-stand desk, consider purchasing a keyboard tray. Though not for everyone, a keyboard tray will allow you to lower your keyboard and mouse so that you do not have to awkwardly reach up. 

Ideally, I would recommend installing a fully adjustable keyboard tray like the Workrite Keyboard Trays to your existing desk. In situations where a full-on keyboard tray cannot be permanently attached -- because you work at the kitchen or dining room table, let's say --the Stand Up Desk Store Large Clamp On Keyboard Tray, which is portable and can be connected onto or removed from your work surface edge, is also an alternative that can work well. 

However, before purchasing a keyboard tray of either type, be sure to check your desk’s shape (straight edges are fine, but circular desks won’t work). Also look for under desk obstacles (such as metal underneath) and measure desk thickness to ensure that the clamps properly attach, resulting in a stable and appropriate fit. Compare your existing desk surface details against the product’s specifications to find the right keyboard tray,  assuring trouble-free installation when you attach your new keyboard tray under your desktop. 

Solution 2: Raising Your Seat Height 

Another solution is to simply to raise your seat. This is easily done if you have an adjustable chair. All you have to do is raise up the seat height so that when you're sitting at your desk, your elbows are at your side and at a 90-110 degree angle when working with the mouse and keyboard. 

If you find that after raising the seat, your feet are dangling at this elevated seat height, try using a ream of paper or a footrest to support your feet in this more elevated position. If you aren't able to get the seat that high or do not have an adjustable chair, try to sit on a pillow or seat cushion to achieve the ergonomically-proper 90-110 degree elbow angle. 

Other Recommendations for Comfort While Working 

  • Keep your elbow at your side (you may need to scoot yourself closer to the desk for this)
  • Work toward always keeping your body properly aligned whether standing or sitting at your desk 
  • Alternate positions throughout the day to limit joint and muscle static postures and stress, standing for no more than 20 minutes every one to two hours 
  • Stand at the kitchen counter every hour for about 20 minutes if using a laptop computer 
  • Try taking phone calls standing up or walking while talking on your cell phone 
  • Stretch Wrists and Shoulders Often You definitely want to stretch your wrist and shoulders often during the day, too

Wrist Exercises

Below are two effective wrist stretches that might help for those who, despite your best efforts, still notice you are awkwardly reaching up for their keyboard and mouse and bending the wrist forward.  Please note that if either of these stretches causes you pain or discomfort, please stop the stretch and seek professional advice. 

Ergonomics Wrist Extension Reduce Pain at Keyboard Mouse

Wrist Extension #1 (for right and left wrist)
  • Keep your wrist aligned with your forearm
  • Look at the palm of your hand and slowly bring the palm back by extending wrist
  • Bring your thumb back with your index finger gently and hold 5 seconds
  • Repeat 3-5 times for the right and left wrist as tolerated and without pain

Wrist Extension #2 (for right and left wrist)
  • Hold your hand out and keep palm up
  • Bring your palm back gently
  • Press back against palm with other hand, gently and mildly, hold for 5 seconds
  • Repeat 3-5 times for the right and left wrist as tolerated and without pain


People often raise their hands and shoulders up to use the keyboard and mouse without realizing it. This often results in unnecessary shoulder and wrist strain caused by the wrist being awkwardly bent forward and the shoulders raised away from your body. In this story, several viable solutions have been provided to help with this problem: stretching, alternating postures, raising the seat height or using a keyboard tray or sit-stand desk.  These suggestions, when practiced consistently, can help maintain that comfortable neutral posture to aim for, keeping your shoulders relaxed and wrist aligned with your palm and forearm.

Father and Toddler Son
Shaul Lent and Son

About the Author

Shaul Lent is Lead Ergonomic Specialist at Ergonomics Advance in Beverly Hills, California and is the father of three children ranging in ages from 1 to 5. Shaul was educated at Occidental College and the University of Southern Calfiornia, School and Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. He also holds certifications in Ergonomics from the Back School and Colorado State University. An occupational therapist with specialization in ergonomics, Shaul takes pride in his attention to detail when recommending ergonomic products, developing injury prevention plans, and designing ergonomically sound workstations. His unique talent to develop individualized health and wellness programs is recognized by clients and colleagues alike.

For more information about ergonomics and to request a consultation, visit; you can also learn more by following the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Important Note: Remember, this guest post is for informational purposes only and it is not intended as a substitute for professional wellness and medical advice. All opinions expressed here are those of the author, who also provided images to illustrate this story.

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