Workstation ergonomics for shorter people

WORKSTATION ERGONOMICS FOR SMALLER STATURES

Many workplaces have ‘one size fits all’ office furniture. This means that anyone less than average height will find the chair size and desk height may not suit their body’s proportions. Some of the issues experienced are below:

Office desk height

Standard office desks are about 720mm high. This height is based on the average height of the population. Many shorter than average people find their feet dangle if they sit at the correct and comfortable height for keying (the underside of elbow level up with the top of the desk).

This causes them to: sit with the feet on the base of the chair (poor leg circulation), sitting perched on the front half of the chair (no back support), cross the legs (asymmetrical posture and poor leg circulation).

Office chair size

A shorter person will often find that the seat pan is too deep for their legs. They cannot sit with their hips fully back in the chair – resulting in nil or poor backrest support.

Alternatively, a shorter person will often sit on the front half of the chair because their feet can reach the floor when sitting this way.

Footrests

Shorter people generally need a good quality footrest when working at a standard height desk. This will significantly improve sitting comfort, leg support and prevent a variety of unhealthy sitting habits.

Moving around, into and away from the desk

When a person’s feet don’t reach the floor it is much more difficult to move around the desk. Often the person moves their body by gripping the desk, pulling and pushing themselves using their arms. This is quite difficult, especially on carpeted floors.

Getting on and off the chair

Have you ever climbed up onto a drafting height chair? It is quite difficult because the legs are off the floor and the arms and shoulders do all the work. For a shorter person sitting on a raised chair getting on and off the chair can be quite a challenge.

General office accessories

A shorter height person will generally need their monitor to be lower because their torso is shorter. Shorter arms will mean that office accessories should be closer to avoid overreaching. This includes the keyboard – a standard size keyboard will force a person with shorter arms to extend their arm further from their body to reach the mouse.

Solutions

1. Fit-outs 

When fitting out a workplace, there should be height adjustable desks (manual or electric) and a range of chairs to suit average, tall and shorter stature people.

2. Best ergonomics

For best comfort and safety a less than average height person should sit at a desk which suits their height and use a chair which suits their leg length. This allows them to have the same comfort as someone of average height using a standard height desk.

Choose a suitable chair. A chair with a shorter (less deep), seat pan is likely to be needed. Chairs with a seat slide may become short enough, but this will depend on the make. Chairs which have shorter seats include: Gregory, Henty, Baron, Fineseat, Diablo and Spark.

Ensure the sitting height allows the feet to be on the floor. A shorter gas strut may be needed on the chair. This can be done at any time, before purchase or after.

Provide a desk which is the correct height for comfortable keying and desk work. This is generally the level of the underside of the elbow. Desk heights of 680mm and less are frequently needed by people of shorter stature.

Consider a compact keyboard so that the mouse is a comfortable reach for the arm.

3. If working at a higher-than-ideal desk

Provide the best footrest/s possible, and consider a good quality plastic floor mat to help movement into, away from and around the desk.

Ergonomic Workstation Assessments

If you need assistance with correct ergonomics, Back Centre offers on-site Ergonomic Workstation Assessments to identify issues and tailor solutions to each individual.