How to configure your desk size and shape to improve posture, comfort and productivity.

In general, the greater the number of work tools and documents required to perform the task, the greater the need for the work surface area to be configured close-in. This is accomplished by increasing work surface size, by shaping the work surface to surround your body (i.e., body pocket or cockpit desktop shape), and by placing supplies and organizing accessories within easy reach. Conversely, for jobs involving fewer physical tasks, linear work surfaces are adequate.

A computer work surface should be large enough to store and use all the tools, equipment, supplies and papers required for the task. The surface should also allow for items to be easily repositioned as required by changes in the task or in your posture. For example, you should variably be able to place your keyboard, screen, or source documents directly in front of you.

Mixed computer and writing tasks are best performed on a worksurface that surrounds you. A cockpit desk configuration wrapped around your body can keep all your supplies and equipment within reach. L-shaped work surfaces are also good for mixed computer and paperwork tasks, with the computer placed to one side and the paperwork placed perpendicularly on the other side.

Contrary to popular belief, corner desk configurations with the computer screen placed in the corner are often problematic for mixed computer and writing tasks, as the paperwork and supplies are out of reach to the sides. For many years, computers were positioned in the center of a corner workstation because that was the only spot in a cubicle workstation that could accommodate the large size of a CRT computer monitor. Today's thin flat-panel monitors provide many more options for screen placement on a desktop. See Monitor height and position.

If you use a bi-level desktop (e.g., keyboard-tray-equipped table or dual-surface table), the keyboard platform must be large enough to hold all frequently used work-materials and equipment (e.g., including computer, phone, papers, and calculator). Small keyboard platforms which are only large enough to hold a keyboard and mouse, rarely offer the same adjustment flexibility found in a single adjustable-height worksurface with a monitor arm attached. Keyboard trays and bi-level work surfaces work well for computer-centered activities, but are often inadequate for paperwork and other office tasks.

  • For keyboard and mouse use only: 48”.
  • For keyboard, mouse, and other tasks: 60”.
  • Corner work surface width should be greater than 48”.
Your work surface depth should allow you to place the face of your monitor an arm's distance away from you, or more. The further away from your eyes, the less stress on your eye -- assuming, of course, that your eyes can accommodate the distance and that the display is clear at that distance. This distant positioning is rarely possible on shallow cubicle worksurfaces unless you are using a flat-panel monitor, unless you place your computer screen in a corner, or unless you add a keyboard tray (which, by the way, we try to avoid). See Monitor height and position guidelines.

Common systems furniture work surface depths of 24" are often inadequate for today's CRT monitor sizes. Even a 30" work surface depth may be inadequate for old-style graphics and CAD monitors. In such cases, free-standing work surfaces provide greater alternatives in work surface depth.