With so many desks out there, how do you go about selecting one that will work best for your home office? This blog post will provide you with some examples to guide you when selecting a new desk and modifications you may be able to make to your existing desk to ensure the best ergonomic set up. A good ergonomic set up should encourage you to sit with your hips to the back of your seat, your shoulders anchored against your backrest and keep your forearms parallel to the floor when typing and mousing. This will be difficult to achieve when your desk is too high or you can’t adjust your chair high enough.
Most home office desks are chosen for aesthetics, but the most important feature of a home office desk is that it allows you to work with good posture. Most desks are too high and do not adjust lower. When your work surface is too high it leads you to shrug your shoulders and lean forward away from the backrest of your chair. This can lead to discomfort and tension in your neck, upper back and shoulders. Using a keyboard and mouse on a desk that is too high may also lead to unwanted compression on the underside of your wrist as well as awkward wrist and hand postures.
Quick Guide to Match Your Height to a Standard Desk Height (29” to 30”)
If you are under 5’ 8” – a standard height desk will likely be too high even with a height adjustable chair. You have 2 options for modifications:
lower the keyboard and mouse height by shortening the desk legs or installing a keyboard tray or
raise yourself up with a footrest and possibly a taller chair.
If you are between 5’ 8” and 6’ – a standard height desk will likely be just right.
If you are over 6’ – a standard height desk may be too low without modifications. You should increase the height of the desk with blocks under the legs.
Here are some examples of features to consider when selecting a desk for your home office. Be sure to take into consideration your height and how it may fit with the desk you select.
No Go: While a desk like this looks good in your home, it may very well lead to discomfort if used for a work from home desk long term. The height of this desk is fixed and there is no way to modify the legs to lower it. The central drawer limits the space for your legs so you would be unable to raise yourself to an appropriate height. The drawers may also interfere with your chair armrests preventing you from tucking in close to your workstation.
Good: If you require a desk with built in storage, consider choosing a model that has drawers on the side. This still leaves plenty of room for you to raise your chair if required. In the model shown, the drawers extend to the ground and you will not be able to modify the height of this desk if it is too high.
Better: This desk is a fixed height but because the drawers on the side don’t extend to the ground you could remove a small section of the legs to lower the desk to a more suitable height.
Best: A desk that has height adjustable legs is the best choice, as it allows for the desk to be tailored to your individual height. Some desks come with a small selection of preset heights while others include legs that provide you with a large range of heights to choose from to select the perfect height.
Ikea has a build your own desk planner on their website which features some good options at an affordable price. The Gerton legs would be recommended if you are taller in stature as they have a range between 26⅜-42⅛”. If you are shorter in stature the Olov legs would suit you best as they have a range between 23⅝-35⅜”.
If you have already bought a new desk or you previously owned one that isn’t allowing you to sit with proper ergonomic posture – here are some recommendations to modify your desk to suit you better.
Fixed Height Legs: If you have a desk that is still too high for you even with a height adjustable chair you could modify the legs. You could remove a small section of the bottom of the leg to lower the work surface. Or you could replace the fixed height legs with height adjustable ones. You can purchase the same height adjustable legs mentioned earlier from Ikea and mount them onto any work surface. If your desk is a fixed height but it is too low, you can add blocks underneath the legs to raise the desk up.
Desk Drawer or Shelf: If your desk has a central shelf or drawer you may be able to modify it into a keyboard tray. You could remove the front facing of the drawer and place your keyboard and mouse on the drawer creating a pullout keyboard tray.
We shouldn’t make compromises on our posture when working from home as it can have a negative effect on your health. If you are considering a new desk for your home office, follow the guidelines in this post to get a desk that fits your needs. Remember the main goal of ergonomics is to fit the work to the worker instead of fitting the worker to the work!