Ergonomics of Custom Computer Desks

Detailed advice on customizing the dimensions of a computer work-station desk. October 1, 2010

I got a commission for an L shaped computer desk and the customer had concerns about a comfortable height for the monitor and leg room. What are the standards? Are they any different than with a regular desk?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor M:
Architectural Graphic Standards. If you can draw it, you can build it.

From contributor W:
You are building a custom desk for an individual. Here is my process.

Sit the person in the chair they will be using at the desk. Position them so their feet are on the floor and at a slight (comfortable) angle forward of vertical. Now measure from the floor up to the bottom of their elbow with their forearm horizontal. That is the height for the keyboard. That is lower than the working height of the writing surface, typically three inches higher than the keyboard. Keyboards are much thinner (an inch thinner than the first ones I used), so 2 inches could be better.

Now measure up to their eyes, and position the monitor center 3 inches below this height. Make sure you give them enough room to position the monitor 24 inches to 36 inches away from their face to allow for the larger monitors. Typically people work at 18 to 24 inches from the monitor but the really big 30 inch ones I have to have at least 30 inches away. There might be some information out there as to sitting distance from a monitor vs. monitor size.

First get them sitting comfortably, then make the desk fit them. I have found that no one is normal or average. Standards are for mass production. We make custom pieces. Work with your customer and they will come back for more furniture.

From contributor S:
If you Google "ergonomic computer setup," you will get all kinds of opinions on how to set up a computer. You will have to decide which one applies to your customer. Contributor W is right - since you are building it custom, you are in a position to actually give them a desk that works. For example, standard keyboard height is 26" from the floor, unless your customer is 6'6" or 5' tall - then you need to modify that. If you have a customer who wears bifocals, the monitor has to be lower than normal, because they have to look through the bottom of their lens when that close. Keyboards should not have adjustable feet at the back, because this bends your wrists back. If anything, they should be higher at the front so your wrists are at a negative angle. Personally I do not like keyboard pullouts - they are not really necessary. If it is a computer desk, you need to have a keyboard in front of it, so why do you need to push it under the desk? They also have too much movement for my liking. You need to build it to your customer's body type.

From contributor G:
OSHA has some very helpful guidelines, a checklist, and specifics on keyboards, mouse, monitor height, etc.