The Importance of Workplace Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the science of fitting jobs to people. The Ergonomic program works to design and promote the use of workstations, tools, and work tasks with a focus on safety, efficiency and comfort.  Effective ergonomic design reduces discomfort and injuries while increasing job satisfaction and productivity.

Included on this page are guidelines for adjusting your own workstation step by step. Adjustments should start with the chair, then move on to desk height. Next, you'll consider your keyboard and mouse, then finally the monitor positioning. At the bottom of this page, you'll find resources within OHSU as well as outside links. 

Thank you for taking the time to adjust for your comfort and efficiency!

ergonomic chair

Chair Adjustment

The least stressful position for your spine is the shape it takes when you're standing upright with your head directly over the neck and shoulders and your lower back slightly arched.

When sitting, your pelvis tilts forward and the lumbar area of your spine flattens. This increases pressure in the vertebral discs. For a less stressful position, try the "forward seat tilt" by tilting the front of the seat pan forward so your knees are slightly lower than your bottom while seated. The seat should be long enough to support your thighs while still allowing you to sit back comfortably. Also, chair height should allow your feet to reach the floor comfortably.

A good chair provides lumbar support with the back of the chair curved to fit your lower back. An adjustable back rest can be raised and lowered, moved forward and backward in order to fit your back. A back rest that goes from the base of your lumbar to the bottom of your shoulder blades should provide adequate support while sitting upright or slightly reclined.

To make adjustments to your chair:

  • Sit down and all the way back in your chair.
  • Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are slightly lower than your hips.
  • Adjust the back of the chair so your upper and lower back are supported. If your chair has an active back mechanism, use it to make frequent position changes.
  • Adjust armrests (if applicable) so that your shoulders are relaxed.
Find links to videos demonstrating chair adjustments here.

Desk Height Adjustment

After adjusting your chair according to instructions above, make adjustments to your desk height as follows:

  • Relax your shoulders and place your arms in your lap.
  • Measure the distance between the ground and your elbow.
  • Match the height of your keyboard tray to the elbow-to-ground measurement.
  • If you use the keyboard on your desk surface, adjust your desk height to within one inch higher than your measured elbow-to-ground height.
Those of us located in the Biomedical Research Building (BRB) or the Center for Health & Healing (CHH) may have height adjustable desks by Watson Furniture. Click here to see instructions for adjusting these desks.
ergonomic keyboard

Keyboard and Mouse Positioning

After adjusting your desk and and matching your keyboard height, as outlined above, position your keyboard as follows:

  • Position the keyboard directly in front of your body.
  • Fine-tune your keyboard height to allow relaxed shoulders and wrists slightly lower than your elbow height.
  • Check wrist position. Wrists should be flat and not bent when your hands are on the keyboard. Wrist rests can help you achieve flat wrist position and help soften hard surfaces.
  • Check the keyboard tilt. Sitting in a forward and upright position, your keyboard should be tilting down away from you, at a negative angle. if your position is reclined, a slight positive tilt, upward on the end further from you will help maintain a straight wrist position.
  • Mouse position should be on the same plane as the keyboard. If you use a keyboard tray, the mouse should also be at that level.
  • Place the mouse so that it is close enough to your body to avoid the need to extend your arm away from your body when using it.

Is Clicking A Pain?

If you work daily with a computer keyboard or mouse for several hours, your hands and forearms are subject to millions of repetitive motions each day.  To avoid injury, use the least force possible: relax your hands, don't pound the keys and avoid awkward postures.  You can also reduce the number of repetitive motions performed by the hand by periodically switching your mouse to the opposite hand. This may sound difficult at first, but most people get used to it in just an hour or two!  Reducing the use of the mouse by employing keyboard shortcuts can relieve pain and prevent mouse related injury. 


Click here for a keyboard shortcut list applicable to Epic, here for Outlook and here for a Microsoft keyboard shortcut chart. You can also take the free keyboard course by Microsoft here.

monitor height

Monitor and Other Workstation Adjustments







Make monitor adjustments as follows:

  • Center the monitor directly in front of you.
  • Position the top of the monitor approximately 2 to 3 inches above seated eye level (if you wear bifocals, lower the monitor to a comfortable reading level).
  • Sit at least an arm's length away from the screen, then adjust the distance for your vision.
  • Position the screen at right angles to windows.
  • Adjust the vertical screen angle and screen controls to minimize glare from overhead lights.


Other workstation adjustments to consider:

  • Use a document holder to position paper reference materials directly in front of you, between the monitor and the keyboard.
  • Place your telephone within easy reach and on the same side as the arm you use to dial and pick up the handset.
  • Use headsets and speaker phone when possible to eliminate cradling the handset between your head and shoulder.
  • Place frequently used items within easy reach.


Guidelines for installing sit/stand work stations:

  • Stand with arms relaxed at the side of your body;
  • Measure from your elbow joint to the floor;
  • Install work surface 1 inch lower than the floor to elbow joint measurement;
  • Purchase a task chair stool to use for sitting at sit/stand work stations.  Please refer to OHSU's Approved Ergonomic Product List for options;
  • Consider purchasing an anti-fatigue mat (from approved vendor) to stand on while standing at sit/stand work stations to help alleviate back, hip, knee and ankle joint pressure.

Ergonomic Assessments

Resources and Outside Links

The purpose of the Ergonomics Council is to establish and maintain a multi-disciplinary group to collaborate on ergonomic strategies at OHSU in order to eliminate or minimize risk for ergonomic related conditions. 

Ergonomics Council Charter

Ergonomics Program Policy

Preferred ergonomic supplies are available through Staples Advantage (formerly Corporate Express) through the "Ergonomics Supply Items" tab in the left navigation menu after logging on.

OHSU Approved Ergonomic Product List  provided by OHSU Ergonomics Council. 

Request for Deviation from the OHSU Approved Ergonomic Product List Form.

Ergonomics Design Guidelines by the OHSU Ergonomics Council should be consulted when a department is remodeling, moving or making use of a new space.


The following links to outside resources may also be of help:

UCLA Ergonomics

Cornell University Ergonomics Web

Welcome to Ergoweb - The Place for Ergonomics

Ohio State University - Institute for Ergonomics

OSHA Ergonomic Solutions: Computer Workstations eTool

Musculoskeletal Systems Exercise and Stretches 

Thank you for considering ergonomics while adjusting your workstation!