GOLD MEDAL MOM(ENTS) Celebrate motherhood all month long with an exclusive audio series hosted by Allyson Felix Listen Now

Ask Me Anything: Desk Set Up & Ergonomics

Published on ‎09-06-2021 06:53 PM by

Join physical therapist Dr. Leada Malek to discuss the importance of proper desk set up, workstation ergonomics, or tips on how to get through a day at the desk more comfortably! With many of us returning back to school and/or full swing at work after the summer, sometimes going from moving a lot to being at the desk for a while can feel like a lot on the body.


Posture, posture correctors, standing desk height, and lumbar support are all topics that get a lot of attention. Sometimes it can be hard to know what is the most important after all.


Submit your burning questions on all things desk ergonomics, workday health, posture, or tips on getting through a work day with pain below!


Leave your questions for Dr. Leada below including—


  • Are posture correctors worth the investment?
  • What is the right height for my monitor?
  • What should my elbows be like at the desk?
  • How can I make using a standing desk more comfortable for my body?
  • How can I best work with my sciatic pain?

Leave your questions for Dr. Leada in the comments section below, and she'll be back to answer them all on 9/13 at 12 pm PST.

Will you be attending?

Event has ended
You can no longer attend this event.

Mon, Sep 13, 2021 12:00 PM PDT
Mon, Sep 13, 2021 01:00 PM PDT
Community Manager

Hi @Leada_M, I've been looking into desk chairs and I found the Pipersong Meditation Chair. I tend to move a lot while wfh so I thought this chair would be perfect. My concern is there there is no back or arm rests. Would this type of chair be bad for my posture? Should I get a chair with more back and arm support? Would love to know what you think or if you have any chair recs!

Wow @Vanessa! This chair is awesome! I think that chair is a great tool if you like to sit that way. It honestly depends if you have a lot of typing to do or scrolling and if that mixed with no arm/shoulder support causes you to have any neck tension? If so, maybe add a pillow across your stomach so you can rest your elbows on it as you type. If you feel like your upper back is getting tense, you can also push the chair up against a wall fro some faux back support. In any case, I think using this chair for a tolerable, comfortable time that allows you to stay focused and energized without thinking of your body is safe for you. My only rec would be to switch it up from time to time.. it looks like that chair will allow you to move the foot part and sit normally- so that's perfect! 

Community Manager

Yeah @Leada_M this chair seems great! I'm always going from a leg up, to criss crossed, to leaning forward etc and I like how this chair can move and support all my weird positions. I think the rec of using the wall as support of using pillows for my arms is a really good one. I'm thinking this chair would be the one for me because its so versatile. Thank you for looking over it for me! If I wind up getting it I'll be sure to let you know!

Yes! Absolutely happy I could help. Definitely let me know how you like it!


Hi @Leada_M ! Gosh... so many questions about this topic. But I'll start with one: whether in office or at home, at my desk, on the couch, or at the dining table, I am most comfortable sitting in a chair with my legs/ankles crossed - pretzel style (super formal for the dining table lol). 


Is this problematic for me in the long run? My legs, hips feel much more comfortable this way.


Will add more questions as I notice how I feel throughout this workday at home! 

No problem at all @Margie! I am right there with you! I love sitting that way! It's totally fine. I'd just recommend changing it up every 30 minutes or so to allow your hips some breathing room. I am curious now though if your hips are used to this which makes standing more uncomfortable since your hips aren't externally rotated as they are when you sit? In any case, adding small changes are a good test. The key with any posture is don't sit there for that long. Although honestly, everyone has different thresholds with their body an and different amounts of hours of work at the computer. So there is quite a lot of freedom with this. 


Hi Leada! I notice my upper back rounding and my chin jutting forward when I work at my desk. I think this is because the height of my chair isn’t correct in relation to my desk- any guidelines?

This is incredibly common @aquagal49 ! It may be! It seems like your screen may be a little bit far and low from you if you have to push your head forward to see it... I'll be sharing a video on this soon! Here are my go-to tips: 


  1. Get the screen close enough so you can see everything easily.
  2. Get top of the monitor at or just about eye-level with you. You should be able to see everything by only moving your eyes! So this may means you have to raise it and if its a laptop - invest in a separate keyboard.
  3. You may have raise your chair to allow you to see your monitor better. This is best if you have arm rests so that you can keep your shoulders relaxed as you type.
  4. If you raise your chair and your feet are dangling now (short girls 👋), try placing a footrest so your feet can be flat on something. Easy DIY suggestions: old textbooks, flat-ish boxes, yoga blocks work great!)

Hope this helps! LMK if you have more questions!


I find that I'm most comfortable working on the couch. Maybe because the seat is low so that my feet can stay firmly on the ground and I can pull my coffee table up so the computer isn't on my lap (see pic)? I do slouch a little working but wondering if I should avoid working on the couch or not.IMG_0469.jpeg


I love the photo with this! Great news @Nkpascale - you can work however you feel most comfortable! The thing with how much posture research has changed is we've sort of "demonized" working in anything but a nice, tall posture.. but over the last few years we've actually learned movement that breaks up the postures is what keeps us pain-free. So you can technically work however you want to if it feels GOOD for you. I recommend just switching it up every 20-30 minutes, or maybe an hour tops. That way things don't get too tight and creep up into pain later on. I think you raising your laptop up with the table is what keeps things feeling good - so definitely key there! I might try placing the laptop on a few books to help if that feels low for you like you have to look down. Neck/shoulders are probably the most commonly complained about, so if that's something you relate to, I'd try that 🙂


Also very curious about posture correctors! Are they worth it? If so do you recommend any?

So curious about posture correctors as well! 

GREAT question. Here's the thing with posture... while slouching and being hunched over is correlated with pain, it certainly isn't always the driver. The issue is we spend way too much time in any 1 posture that gets us in trouble. SO, if you DO find yourself crouched away for hours on end and unable to take breaks, posture correctors can be helpful to establish a habit - especially when combined with proper strengthening. Your muscles and their natural resting tone (stronger, the better) is what keeps you in a certain position. But we are creatures of habit! I like to recommend some daily or almost daily postural strengthening exercises and have people set reminders in their phone to sit up straight. I also like to encourage people to cue into their body and see what they feel when they're in different positions. In short, they can be a nice tool to help remind you to check yourself, but try not to rely on them 🙂 


Here's an article by Self I was interviewed for on posture correctors that may be helpful! 


Another Q from me: when I stand instead of sit at my desk, I get a fair amount of lower back pain. Is that because I need to strengthen it? 

Great question @Margie. There are certain ways people tend to favor standing. In some cases, try focusing on where your weight is - balls of feet vs heels. Switching it up can be helpful, but standing evenly through your heel + balls of your feet and cueing into where your pelvis is can help. It may be that your fall into an excessive anterior pelvic tilt and this *over time* standing tends to bother you. It can also he triggered by where your arms are. Try adjusting your standing position to allow you a more "neutral" stance through the entire spine. Core, glute, and hip strengthening can all be beneficial for this. 


I weirdly dislike standing a lot. Is it so terrible that I'm sitting for 8+ hours a day if I go on 1-2 walks per day? Curious to hear your thoughts!

It certainly is not! It's only recommended to break up the sitting if you have pain during that 8+ hours in the day. It's definitely helpful to break up the sitting with a walk here and there, but honestly if you can fit in movement daily - you're already on track with the health benefits 🙂


Is there a login to the event at 12pm PDT? I cannot see it.

No login @nbo ! Just drop questions in the comment section and I answer them during the hour. If I missed it, I'll get to it later today or tomorrow 🙂