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How to set up that desk chair to suit you

So you've been lucky enough to claim an office chair in your co-working space or your AirBnB, but how do you set it up to create an ideal working position for you?

As a Physiotherapist and digital nomad myself, I know the quandary well. This post will help you to set up any office chair for ergonomic success.

Sit in the chair

So first things first, just have a seat in the chair now. Sit nice and far back in it.

If the seat is the right depth for you, there should be a little gap between the front of the seat edge and the back of your knees.

Tilt the backrest

The first thing that I want you to do is find the lever that tilts the backrest. From wherever it is, reset your backrest to bolt up right, at a right angle with the seat.

From there, I actually want you to tilt the backrest back a bit.

We used to think that we wanted a 90 degree angle between the backrest and the seat, and therefore in your hips as well.

That may work in an ideal world where we maintain good posture all day every day. The reality is, however, that at some point fatigue will kick in and your muscles will relax. When you're seated bolt upright, the only way to go is forward. You end up slumping forward over your keyboard with your head and shoulders drifting forward. This is when we develop pain and issues in our neck.

So instead, the updated theory is that if you can tilt your backrest slightly back it actually puts you in a position where you're lying back into the chair a little. Now when fatigue sets in, gravity will pull you back towards the chair, rather than drifting you forwards if you seat was more upright.

Can you feel the difference?

So really what we're looking for is about a 100 to 110 degree angle between the seat and the backrest of the chair.

In short, from bolt upright just lean it back a little bit, to the point where when you feel you slump you don't really go anywhere.

Adjust the height of the backrest

From here we also want to adjust the height of the backrest.

While sitting upright, put your hands into the small of your back, that is where your lumbar support should be sitting.

So slide your whole backrest up or down accordingly so that you feel that the sticky out bit of your backrest is nestling into that spot where your hands want to go when you put them in the small of your back.

Set the seat pan tilt

Now that you've got the backrest and the lumbar roll height correct, just have a look at the seat pan tilt. This will tilt the actual whole chair forward or back.

Because you have adjusted the backrest, perhaps you might find a different whole seat tilt is more comfortable.

Again, don't be shy to tip your whole seat back slightly so that your fatigue point is to nestle into the chair in the same position, rather than crumple forwards.

Get the height right

Then it's all about the height. Adjust the height to the point where your elbows are the same level as, or slightly higher than your wrists when typing.

If your feet don't touch the ground, you will need to place a step or tub under your feet to support them.

When you are location independent with your work it can be difficult to get your ergonomic set up correct. I hope these desk chair set up tips will help.


About Karen Finnin

Hi, my name is Karen Finnin. I am a Physiotherapist, and the Director of Online Physio. We specialise in providing long distance Physiotherapy consultations to people who have trouble accessing traditional care.

Millions of people every year will find themselves in a remote location, with a musculoskeletal injury. Traditionally these people have had three main options available to them:

1) They could travel long distances to seek health care - but this is time consuming and costly.

2) They could google generic health information online - but this has been proven to be inaccurate and unsafe.

3) They could leave their injury, do nothing about it - but we know that this results in poorer outcomes and more frequent recurrences.

With Online Physio, there is a better way. In the comfort of their home or workplace, injured individuals can get a tailored online assessment by a qualified Physiotherapist. This leads to a clear diagnosis and a tailored rehabilitation plan.