How to have a good posture when sitting at a desk

This page is one of a series on understanding and improving your posture.

We can sit at our desks for hours on end, so it's worth making sure they are optimally set-up to help us maintain good posture and remain comfortable. The goal should be to avoid muscle and joint strain and fatigue. This page includes information about how best to set-up your workspace.

Give your workspace a health check

When working on a laptop or tablet for any length of time, always use a table or desk. It is very hard to sit in a good posture if you're sitting on the sofa or in an easy chair with your laptop or tablet. 

Here's how to give your workspace a 'health check'.

  • Do you have a chair you can adjust so that your lower back is  supported? If there is a gap between your lower back and the chair, place a small rolled up towel or cushion in the small of your back to support this area
  • Height is important to avoid slouching and straining. Your knees should be level with your hips and your feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest. The top of the computer screen should be roughly at eye level. You can use a booster or pile of books or files to raise it

Consider using desk aids to help your posture

There are lots of different aids available to help you achieve a good posture when sitting at a desk. If you're working on a laptop or tablet, you can get a stand and separate keyboard to prevent you getting neck strain from looking down.

If you use a keyboard, your wrists and forearms should be straight and level with the floor. Adjust your seat height and use wrist supports for your keyboard and mouse to help with this.

If co-ordination is an issue, consider the type of mouse or keyboard you're using as this can affect your posture. There are lots of different keyboards and mice available that can help. A therapist or occupational health assessor at work can look at this with you.   

Whatever mouse you use, don't position it where you need to stretch to use it. Keep it close. The same goes for other frequently used objects, such as the telephone. Keep them all within easy reach.

Take breaks and adjust your workspace

When at your computer, you may need to adjust the font size so you can see it more readily. Remember to take regular breaks to prevent eye strain and fatigue.

Consider the lighting and ventilation as this can have an impact on fatigue. Flaring or dim light and poor eyesight may cause you to lean forward to see the computer screen. This causes your shoulders to hunch and head jut forward.

If poor seating at work is causing you fatigue or pain, speak to your line manager about having a work station assessment or contact your occupational health department. It may also be possible to be assessed by a scheme called 'Access to Work'. They can work with employers to help make adaptations to work places to help keep people in work.

For a visual representation of the information covered in the text, please view the video at the top of the page.

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