July 29, 2020

Since mid to late March 2020 most office workers around Melbourne have called their home their ‘new office’ and we bet you originally envisaged this time would be over by now. Instead, the reality is dawning upon many office workers is their ‘home office’ may be becoming more permanent for the foreseeable months, so our OHL Physiotherapy and Myotherapy team wanted to help you maximise your desk set up with this practical checklist.


This checklist hopes to maximise your productivity at this new workspace, as well as concurrently minimising injury risk to your elbows, wrists, back and neck. Let us begin… and yes you are correct in assuming we want you creating this workspace outside of your ‘home living space’ to physically separate your worlds where possible!

  • Seat Height:Seat height should be set so that your elbow angle is 90° when operating keyboard. You can use a stool under your feet if you feel your feet dangling without support, but please keep in mind that sitting with your hips higher than your knees is less ideal (so keep the stool small). 
  • Chair Seat:To ensure you have an appropriate seat size simply measure how far your knees is from the front of the chair; it is recommended for a 3-finger gap between back of knee and front of chair. A chair that is too big or too small often causes us to sit less ergonomically. We also hope for people to sit on a padded chair, rather than a timber dining room chair, to give padding to your pelvis and lower back. The tilt of the chair is a very individual specification, but for most people its best if it is left parallel (with no forward or back tilt). 
  • Chair Backrest:The backrest of your chair should be set so that lumbar support matches curve of your lower back and if the chair does not give said lumbar support we recommend you use a pillow to support this normal curvature.
  • Chair Arm Rest: Arm rests should not prevent close access to the desk, so it is generally recommended to remove arm rests from desk chairs.
  • Screen:The toolbar on the monitor should be at or slightly below the line of sight whilst looking directly ahead and the screen should be about arms-length distance when seated. This clearly depends on screen size, number of screens and person’s vision, but ideally you are not looking down to the working components of your screen/s all day, nor are you leaning forward to read something off your screen often. If you are using a laptop, we highly recommend propping it up using books/ shoe box to help minimise the line of sight issue.
  • Keyboard: The keyboard should be positioned flat and close to the edge of the desk and aligned with the computer screen. We highly encourage you to centre the keyboard to your chest using the ‘G, H’ keys for letter-key work and reposition keyboard for number-key work or other desktop work. If you are continuing to work on a laptop, we recommend you buy wireless keyboard to address this issue. Lastly, we also recommend you view what angle your elbows/wrists rest in as you are typing. We have seen many people present to OHL in recent months with shoulder/ elbow/ wrist complaints because there are typing in a strained or easily fatigable positions all day, and this can be minimised with good placement of keyboard verse desk verse arms.
  • Mouse:Position the mouse so that it is as close to the keyboard as possible and aligned with your keyboard, and we recommend you use a separate mouse if you are on a laptop. An ergonomic mouse should be considered if you have previously suffered from elbow/ wrist complaints and/or if you perform lots of mouse-dominant work in a day. Ask you trusty OHL Physio or Myotherapy about the best ergonomic mouse for you.
  • Lighting and noise: Avoid glare and reflections help you sustain better posture when you are working, but they also reduce strain on your eyes. Minimise distracting and loud noises will also help your productivity.
  • Positioning items:Keep any items that you use regularly close by so they can be reached without stretching. Use document holder if frequently referring to paperwork when typing and ideally side desk drawers should be positioned on the dominant side of your desk (i.e., right-handed people should have drawers on the right side of their desk).
  • Landline telephones and mobile phones: Landline telephones should be positioned within arm reach on dominant side next to monitor. Please try to avoid cradling the landline telephone or your mobile phone between neck and shoulder as this is not kind on your neck or shoulder joints. Consider use of a headset to reduce neck and shoulder tension if frequent telephone use is required or, alternatively, employ the loudspeaker function on your phones.
  • Breaks:Ideally our OHL Physio and Myotherapy team recommend everyone rotating tasks frequently to minimise repetitive movement patterns, take micro pauses to reset your posture, sit to stand often to move the rest of your body and move completely away from your desk to rest eyes from looking at the monitor screen every 30-40minutes.
  • Exercises: Our team have collected our set of favourite desk-based mobility and stretching exercises and they are accessible via the PDF below. You can book an appointment with either our Physiotherapy and Myotherapy teams if you would like an individualised program created best fitted to your needed and certain areas of pain/ stiffness. We also recommend the use of bakballs, spikey balls, foam rollers and other pieces of exercise equipment, which you can purchase from our OHL reception team anytime.  

With working from home becoming a more permanent reality in the lives of many around Melbourne please do yourself a favour and get your desk reviewing by an OHL Physiotherapist if you are worried. Desk modifications do not need to be overly expensive or complex, but they are most effective if they are individualised to your set up, the nature of your work and whether you have any pains (current or previous). Reach out to our team and we can help you review your set up via pictures in a face-to-face appointment or a video-linking telehealth consult. Contact us if you feel you would benefit from this (or any of our other OHL services like Podiatry or Dietetics) on 9431 5955 or admin@optimalhealthlab.com.au

Download exercises by clicking on this link! 

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