How High Should Your Seat and Desk Be? (And Why it Matters)

Take a moment to think about how you sit when you work at a desk.

You’ll likely use an office chair, with your computer monitor or laptop on the desk in front of you. It’s very easy to get into bad posture habits when we’re focused on work. Many of us have the tendency to slouch, lean, or sit in some other way that puts pressure on certain parts of our bodies.

This quickly causes discomfort. Over time, it can also lead to bigger health issues. However, there are set recommended measurements for desk, seat and keyboard height.

Sticking to these recommendations can make your working day so much more comfortable! It can also help you avoid pain – or even illness – down the road.

Desk Height

The average height of a desk is 73.5 centimeters, or 29 inches. Reaching up or leaning down toward a desk may quickly cause pain. Now, you’ve probably already spotted a problem. An average height simply won’t work for everyone. For tall or short people, a desk of this size is going to be uncomfortable. It’s going to place your limbs or body at less-than-ideal angles.

For a person who is 6’4”, the height of their desk should be approximately 28 – 30 inches.

Someone 5’0” would only need a desk of 22 – 23 inches.

From here, we can roughly work out the proper height desk for a person in between 5’0” and 6’4”.

But we may not have the option of customizing how tall our desk will be. If that’s the case, focus instead on seat height.

Seat Height

A person of 5’0” needs a seat at 14 – 16 inches, whereas a person of 6’4” should have a seat of around 19.5 inches.

Any good office chair will have an adjustable height. Ideally, you will be able to sit up straight and look directly at your laptop or computer monitor without any bending or leaning required.

Here’s a breakdown of chair and desk height measurements for different heights. Keep in mind that these are just general measurements to use as a starting point. Also, to customize your set-up so the chair and desk height work best, you’ll need to adjust the tilt of your monitor (between 10 – 20° to maintain a level viewing angle).

Desk and Seat Height Measurement Guidelines

User HeightChair Height (Floor to Seat)Desk/Elbow Height
5′14-16″23″
5’1″16″23″
5’2″16″24″
5’3″16″24″
5’4″16″25″
5’5″17″25″
5’6″17″26″
5’7″17″26″
5’8″18″26″
5’9″18″27″
5’10”18″27″
5’11”18″28″
6′18″28″
6’1″18″29″
6’2″19″29″
6’3″20″29″
6’4″20″30″

If you have a standing desk, take a look this adjustable desk height calculator to find the right measurements for both sitting and standing.

Keyboard Placement

We tend to focus mostly on our desks and chairs, forgetting about our keyboards. The keyboard is part of the desk setup. For instance, the top of your computer screen should be at eye level. This reduces the chance of pain from stooping or craning your neck.

The top of your desk should be level with the arm of your desk chair. This allows you to rest your arms comfortably.

Further, make sure you’re not stretching out your arms too far to reach your keyboard, nor having to squeeze your elbows into your sides. This will add stress to your arms, shoulders, and wrists. In turn, it can increase the chances of strain, cramp, and wrist pain. Your elbows should rest at approximately 90 degrees from your body.

If you have a keyboard tray, it will probably be a little lower than the desk itself. A good rule of thumb is for your keyboard tray to be approximately half an inch to one inch below your ideal desk height.

The Dangers of Improper Ergonomics

Setting up your desk like this might seem to be overkill. You might even think that you’re perfectly happy with the standard desk, chair, and keyboard combo that your office provides.

Yet, taking the time to properly adjust your setup is essential. Unfortunately, the health risks from extended sessions of sitting with poor posture are no joke. Cramping and discomfort are only the tip of the iceberg.

Poor posture can result in:

  1. Back pain, neck pain, and long-term back problems

Extended periods of incorrect posture put stress on specific areas of the body. The back and neck are classic examples. Working hunched over at a too-small desk for a few hours will cause back pain. But if this becomes part of your regular routine, the issues become more serious. You can risk herniated discs, ruptured discs, and more — which are aches and pains you definitely don’t want to be dealing with down the road.

  1. Blood flow issues

Sitting for too long is bad for circulation, but this can be exacerbated even further by poor posture. The way you sit can also block circulation to certain body parts. For instance, if you sit with your legs crossed, you might notice that your leg falls asleep and becomes numb. You aren’t only hindering blood flow in this scenario but also potentially pinching a few nerves.

  1. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or other chronic injuries

Stretching, reaching, or slouching can quickly become our norm. But the stress of these positions can cause extremely painful conditions which are not easily treated. You could spend months or years combating these issues, which you could’ve prevented from happening in the first place.

The Benefits of Proper Ergonomics

A properly adapted desk, chair, and keyboard can change the way you work. You might be surprised at the difference it makes! Some benefits include:

  • Better health and comfort
  • Quicker and more efficient movements
  • Less fatigue, increased alertness, and improved productivity
  • Fewer headaches and painful twinges (if these problems are caused by poor ergonomics)

Maintaining good “desk health” is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Even with perfect ergonomic measurements, there’s no getting around the fact that sitting all day is bad for our health.

Take frequent breaks from sitting, from staring at a computer screen, and from typing.

If your current desk or chair is unsuitable for your needs, why not look at some of our recommendations? You may find that a standing desk or an ergonomic chair better suits your needs. As the norms of the day-to-day office worker evolve, it’s important to stay up to date. Protect your own health and comfort, starting right here and right now!

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