Self Help Guide

Sonoma State University has a comprehensive ergonomics program. It is strongly recommended that you attend ergonomics training to provide you valuable information to help you avoid discomforts or injuries in this area. The class is also a prerequisite to receiving a one-on-one workstation evaluation. To find out more information about this class and other offerings please visit our training page.

1. Start With The Chair

Initially adjust the chair with your feet on the floor. Take this step even if you need or want to use a footrest.

Adjust the chair so that your feet are firmly planted on the floor; no dangling toes or feet on the casters of the chair. Your hips should be just higher than your knees. If you can adjust the seat pan depth, it should be about one to three inches from the back of your legs when you are pushed against the backrest deep in the seat. Try to keep the seat pan adjusted as flat as possible. A forward tilt is only necessary when doing extensive fine manipulations on a flat surface.

Next, find the most pronounced part of back cushion which should be in bottom third of chair. Adjust the height so the most raised portion of the cushion meets your back approximately at your pant line.

Finally adjust the armrest. If possible, adjust the armrests in close to the sides of your body. Then adjust the height so your arms just float over the armrests when typing.

2. Adjusting The Keyboard

Just remember, keep your upper arms always at your sides and your wrists flat.

The keyboard and mouse or other input device should be at the same height and close enough to your body that your upper arms are able to remain hanging straight down by your sides. If you have to look at the keys when typing the keyboard should be at elbow height. If you are a touch typist it is usually most comfortable if the keyboard is lower, often almost sitting on your lap.

It is very important to keep your wrists as neutral as possible. Do not bend them backward or forward and try to minimize side bends like when you move your pinky fingers away from center. Therefore if your keyboard is lower than your elbows then the keyboard should have a negative tilt. This will put the function key row (F1 through F12) of the keyboard lower than the space bar.

3. Adjust Your Monitor

Determine where you position your body in front of the keyboard. Most touch typists align themselves in front of the "G" and the "H" keys. Once you determine where you sit in front of the monitor, from that location when you look straight ahead you should be perfectly aligned in the vertical center of the monitor. Slightly off to one side or the other can create tremendous neck strain over a short time.

The monitor should be far enough away so that you can comfortably pan around the whole screen with just your eyes while holding your head still. This is usually 18 to 24 inches, but should be farther with some of the bigger monitors.

The monitor height is also very important to reduce neck strain. When you look straight out at the horizon you should be looking at the top menu bar on your computer. This means that the rest of the monitor is lower than your eyes. Have faith, once you adjust to this change it will be much more comfortable.

4. Other Essentials

Never cradle the telephone between your chin and your shoulder. If you need your hands free while on the phone then you need a headset. The receiver supports are not a solution; you must avoid any type of grip or hold using your neck and shoulder.

Keep reading and data transfer paper in a neutral position. When working on the computer and referencing other documents, those documents should be at the same orientation and distance as the monitor. One easy solution is propping the document up against the front of you monitor. Use a rigid folder behind the paper and a stapler to hold the document in place. Use a thick empty binder to keep reading material up off a flat work surface. These little things will keep your neck from being constantly over stretched and overused.

Make sure you have enough legroom. You need enough room to be comfortable and allow you to shift positions throughout the day.

Keep frequently used or referenced items close to you. If you need to get to something in your office more than three or four times per day it should be within arms reach and down on the work surface, not in overhead compartments. This means you can reach it without moving your torso. If this is not the case you need to figure out how to move it closer.


Craig Dawson in the EH&S Department completes one-on-one ergonomic evaluations at the work site upon request from the user, their supervisor or physician. To receive an evaluation notify your supervisor then contact Craig. He will evaluate all aspects of your body position, mechanics, workflow and equipment. He will make the modifications possible on the spot and provide written recommendations for other items. Once you receive an evaluation you will be asked to commit to attending the Office ergonomic Training. It is offered once every three months.

Ergonomic Training

Environmental Health & Safety offers training once per quarter that is packed with information on avoiding injuries, stretching exercises and proper office setup. Many handouts are provided to give you the tools to properly setup that home computer station too.

Ergonomic Reminders

Sonoma State University has a site license for a software program called “ Painless Gains”. This software is available through Media services for installation on any PC computer. Sorry, it's not Apple compatible. If you have a Geo Team, please contact them to have the program installed. This program will remind you to take breaks regularly and can also provide information on specific stretches for tight and strained body parts, plus what to look at in your workstation to help alleviate the discomfort.