Skip to main content

How often do you catch yourself hunched over your keyboard? You may think it’s just a sign you’ve been working hard – but the medical term is postural kyphosis and it’s as bad for you as it sounds! Research reveals that office workers with a defective posture are more likely to suffer from neck pain, for example1 – and who wants that? Adequate ergonomics is the key to keeping your body happy while you go about your daily work-from-home (WFH) grind.

From a scientific point of view, ergonomics is the study of humans in a working environment2. If, like many of us, you’ve been working from home during the ongoing pandemic, you’ve probably noticed increased aches and pains in your shoulders, neck, and spine. This is most likely because you don’t have an ergonomic office chair and desk setup – a significant contributor to poor posture and tension in the body3. Using ergonomic principles to arrange your workstation helps you remain healthy4.

Computer use has been linked to both musculoskeletal and visual symptoms4. That’s why it’s vital to enhance your WFH experience by limiting the pain and tension that comes from working and sitting too long in a bad position. In other words, your goal is to both to reduce discomfort, and over time, the risk of getting injured while you work2. Check these basic elements of your workstation, as well as your posture and work habits:

Your chair3,5

Your work chair often comes first in checking whether the design of your workstation may be contributing to any musculoskeletal symptoms. You’ll want a chair that helps you keep your feet on the ground, your thighs running parallel to the floor and your arms level with your work surface. A height-adjustable seat is crucial to ensure this.  In addition, a tilting mechanism is good, as it allows you to vary your posture throughout the day. Once that’s sorted, the next thing to look for is a backrest with support, particularly for your lower back, which often tires with prolonged sitting.

Your posture and work habits2,3,4,5

If you use a desk and chair rather than a standing desk, try not to sit with your legs crossed and make sure to take regular breaks, and frequently change your sitting position. Aim for a 3-5cm space between where your chair ends and your thighs begin. Keep your head upright, looking straight ahead. This lessens the impact of its weight on your neck and the rest of your spine. Studies have found improved posture in the workplace is linked to a reduction in musculoskeletal discomfort.

Position of your keyboard, screen and mouse3,4,5

Position your keyboard so your forearms are horizontal to the desk. Wrists should be straight. Visually, this means your elbows are at the same height as your desk. If your chair setup is correct, you’d be in this position already, but if not, this is the way to get it right. Beyond that, make sure your laptop or desktop screen is just below eye level so you can read the bottom of the screen without craning your neck forward. If you use a mouse, avoid putting too much pressure on your wrist and forearm. Keep your wrist straight and release your hand from the mouse frequently. Also position your mouse close to your keyboard. Your elbow should be bent and held close to your body. Tension caused by poor ergonomics often leads to discomfort or pain. But if your your back, neck, or head hurts, first speak to your healthcare provider to rule out other causes. Apart from any clinically recommended treatment, it’s always a good idea to adjust your WFH area using sound ergonomic principles. You’ll then be safe, comfortable, relaxed – and most likely more productive.


  1. Nejati, P., et al. The study of correlation between forward head posture and neck pain in Iranian office workers. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 28(2). 2015
  2. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Staff overview: What is Ergonomics? Available here:
  3. Van Niekerk, S-M., Louw, Q.A. and Hillier, S. The effectiveness of a chair intervention in the workplace to reduce musculoskeletal symptoms. A systematic review. BMC Musculoskeletal Disord. (13)(145). 2012
  4. Robertson, M., Wang, H-S. and Lee, J. Improvements in musculoskeletal health and computing behaviors: Effects of a macroergonomics office workplace and training intervention. Applied Ergonomics. (62)(182). 2017
  5. The University of Western Australia. Staff overview: Safety, Health and Injury Management and Wellbeing: Computer workstation ergonomics. Available here: