Finding your ideal desk and work height can improve your posture and help prevent painful back, neck and arm problems.

If your desk doesn't fit, you will find yourself hunching over, craning your neck forward, and straining your eyes and arms to find comfort. A poorly designed work area can be especially stressful to your neck and upper-back regions.

First fit your chair, then your desk

Consider your chair and desk as a unit: both must fit you. Determine your chair height first, then determine your work surface height.

A chair alone rarely controls how you sit. Your line of vision, the activity of your arms, and the physical demands of your particular task will influence your posture. Poor organization and configuration of the work area can ruin your posture even in the best chair.

Your ideal desk height

Ideal work surface height is dependent upon your height, the tasks you perform, and the equipment and tools you use. You should be able to maintain a forearm-to-upper arm angle between 70 degrees and 135 degrees.

If your work surface or materials are too low, raise the desk on blocks or use commercial leg raisers.

If your desk or materials are too high, you should cut it down or get a better fitting desk. For work that involves no reaching (e.g., dedicated keyboard tasks without paperwork), your can use the chair with a footrest seat cushion.

Most people prefer a slightly higher surface for handwriting and a slightly lower surface for keying. Computer touch-typists doing intensive data entry prefer lower desks, often below elbow height. Hunt-and-peck typists (those who have to see the keyboard to use it) and those working with computer graphics prefer higher desks.M/p>

If your task requires some upper arm force, your work surface should be below elbow height (e.g., stapling, stamping, packing). For fine motor tasks involving hands and eyes (e.g., hunt-and-peck typing styles, handwriting, small parts assembly, jewelry repair) the surface should be higher.

Most work surfaces are a standard 28" to 30", which is a good sitting height for most people between 5'8" and 5'10" tall who use conventional task chair. If you are taller or shorter, be prepared to change your work surface height. If you use a saddle seat or perch, the work surface must be quite a bit higher.

Task requirements for work surface height

Use the following guidelines to determine which activities are best performed seated, which are best performed standing.

Postural variety is important for maintaining good health. Whenever possible, vary your work postures between sitting and standing. An adjustable sit-stand desk can provide instant height accommodation for different task demands and in shared workstation environments. If you have enough space, you can set up both sitting and standing work surfaces within your work area.


Use a conventional ergonomic chair or a saddle seat when ...

  • Your work is light.
  • Your work is within a comfortable arm reach envelope (within 38 cm or 15” of your body’s center).
  • Your work is within a comfortable field of view (less than 36” from the eyes).
  • Your work is prolonged and offers little postural variation


Work in a standing posture or in a saddle chair when ...

  • Your work is performed over distances that exceed your comfortable arm reach envelope (reaches more than 38 cm or 15” from the body’s center
  • Your work requires that you move your body along with your arms
  • Your work is spread out over several areas
  • Your work height above the floor is variable
  • Your work involves weighted objects or large forces
  • Visual demands make a seated posture inappropriate because of difficulty in seeing something or because you have to move around to get the best angle to view something
  • You need to relieve the fatigue of sitting for long periods of times. Periodically performing some tasks from a standing position can give give you a break from the usual sitting position.


A desk that you can adjust up or down a few inches is good when...

  • You need to relieve the fatigue of sitting for long periods of times during prolonged, repetitive tasks.
  • For shared workstations.


Use a sit-stand adjustable desk when ...

  • Your tasks constrain your movements for a prolonged period of time (for example, tasks requiring a high degree of fine-motor hand-eye coordination in a small, fixed area).
  • Your job is highly sedentary or is prolonged for long periods
  • Your task demands change from those ideally done in sitting postures to those ideally done standing.

Recommendated desk heights

When purchasing desks for groups of workers of varying heights, we recommend the following desk height adjustment ranges:

    Height for Sitting Adjustable Work Surfaces
    • Minimum: 25” - 30”; Range = 5”
    • Optimal: 22” - 33”; Range = 11”
    Height for Standing Adjustable Work Surfaces
    • Minimum: 38” - 42”; Range = 4”
    • Optimal: 35” - 47”; Range = 12”
    Height for Sit-to-stand Adjustable Work Surfaces
    • Minimum: 26” - 40”; Range = 15"
    • Optimal: 22” - 47”; Range = 25"