Is your home office as comfortable as it should be?

picture of someone holding their hand in pain above a laptop mouse.

You may work from home, have children playing video games, or have a workstation in a spare corner. It is unusual to find a desk and chair that will suit everyone in the family and often laptops or gaming consoles are used while sitting on the sofa.

We all need to be comfortable. I know that if I sit for too long in one position that I get very stiff. If I slouch around on the sofa, I get neck and back ache.

It is obvious that poor posture can cause back problems, but there could be other issues with neck, arms, hands and eyes. For example, just sitting with pressure on the back of your knees and thighs can restrict blood flow – think about how this affects small children sitting on your office chair with their legs swinging clear of any support. Sore eyes or headaches can also result from poor positioning of a screen or bad lighting. When a computer is set up in your work environment it is normally subject to health and safety regulations related to working with Display Screen Equipment (DSE). But how many of us think of this when we buy a PC or laptop for use at home?

Does your home office desk and workstation suit the whole family?

We are not suggesting that the regulations apply to you at home (unless you are employed as a home worker, in which case refer to your own employer’s health and safety policy). But it makes sense to make sure that your family is not at risk when using a PC, laptop or gaming console in the home. Making the computer comfortable for a 5 year old to use as well as an adult takes some planning.

Here are some suggestions.....

Adjust your chair height so that your feet are flat on the floor. This will keep 90° angles at your ankle, knees, hips and elbows. The arms should hang from the shoulder in a relatively relaxed position allowing the forearm to be nearly horizontal and your wrists in a neutral position. Try and keep your lower back supported, but also shift your position regularly or stand up and move around so you don’t become stiff.


Alter the height of your chair or desk to get this right. If you don’t have this adjustability, consider using a height adjustable keyboard tray and footrest. Don’t let your children’s feet dangle in mid-air – use a box or low stool as a footrest.

Place mouse near keyboard. Place it nearby and easy to reach to keep your shoulder and arm relaxed. You may also want to have the option of using the mouse on the either side of the keyboard. Keep your screen about 600mm away from your face. When seated correctly and looking straight forward you should be looking at the top edge of the monitor surround. (A telephone directory makes a very good screen stand or footrest.) If your desk is too narrow you can use a keyboard arm or tray to move you away from the screen. Try to reduce any unwanted glare in the screen by re-positioning the lighting.


You’ve spent all day at work sitting at a computer then you come home and get the laptop out on your lap or on the coffee table. Or possibly you’re on a business trip and using the laptop in your hotel room.


I bet that wherever you are using a laptop that you are stooping over it with your shoulders hunched and hands cramped together on the keyboard. Consider investing in a desk and chair. Put your laptop on a stand and use a separate keyboard and mouse. This will help to get the screen to the correct height and place all the components in a much better position for you to use.

If you’re relaxing on a sofa you may find that a laptop table or tray will make you more comfortable.

Video games

Often people play video games with their head pushed forward and shoulders rounded. If you or your children are spending time playing computer games then it is probably worth while investing in a better chair or lumber or arm supports. There’s plenty of advice around on the web and the cost of these items is nothing compared to the gaming equipment or your family’s health. Finally, remember that even an ‘ideal’ posture will become uncomfortable if held without variety for long periods. There’s lots of good advice on the internet about good posture and ergonomic products. You may also wish to refer to the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work for more information. Images courtesy of Sixninepixels and Stuart Miles at

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