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A desk setup with a monitor arm and a Nintendo Switch. An ergonomic chair is next to it.

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Your desk is probably too tall for you — here’s how to fix it

No more squeezing your shoulders up to your ears

Photo: Nicole Clark/Polygon

Your desk isn’t made for you: it’s for “everybody.” With a standard height of 28 to 30 inches, your desk works best out of the box for everyone taller than 5’8’’. As anyone outside that range knows, working with a “wrong” desk isn’t fun. You either end up straining your arms to reach the keyboard, or you raise your chair so high that your feet can’t touch the floor.

Keeping a posture this bad for hours on end can cause headaches and back pain, but it can get even worse.

“Many esports professionals suffer from repetitive strain injury or RSI, a condition that can develop as a result of repetitive movements in flawed ergonomic setups,” says Pete Wilkins from GamingCareers.com. Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a condition that can stop you from performing even simple activities on the computer. If left unchecked, it can even deteriorate into worse injuries.

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But switching to a new desk can be a hassle, or simply too expensive. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can make your tall, tall desk work for you with just a normal office chair and one or two cheap gadgets.

Tall Chairs and Footrests

If you think your desk isn’t the right height for you, a chair with adjustable height is the next-best solution. Or maybe you already have one, but you aren’t sure how to use it effectively. “A good rule of thumb is to adjust your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle,” Wilkins said, adding that your elbows should be parallel to your desk.

But people shorter than 5’8’’ may not be able to do both of these things at the same time, even with an adjustable chair and a regular desk. If that’s you, the cheapest solution is to adjust your chair so that your elbows are at the right height and to find something to rest your feet on, to create that 90-degree knee bend and prevent your legs from dangling. An under-desk footrest is a great, inexpensive option.

Footrests come in a variety of forms, from cheap foam to complex wooden contraptions. In the end, they all serve the same purpose as an old box or a couple of paper reams, so there’s no need to overthink this. As long as your knees are at the right angle and your feet can rest on a flat surface, anything goes.

Finally, remember to change your monitor or laptop height after adjusting your chair and footrest. As a rule of thumb, the screen should be an arm’s length away from you and the top edge of it should be just a few inches above eye level.

Armrests Troubles and Keyboard Trays

“To maintain good ergonomics, the keyboard and mouse should be positioned so that your wrists are in a neutral, straight position,” Wilkins said. But everyone is built differently and has different needs, so there is no one-stop solution to finding a neutral wrist posture. One trick for heavy PC users is to keep your keyboard and mouse close to your belly button. You should also avoid raising your shoulders to compensate for sitting too far below your desk. While that might get your elbows at desk height, it will put a lot of stress on your back and neck. Likewise, desk chair armrests that are above your elbows’ natural position can encourage bad posture.

But what if your desk is so damn tall that not even maxing out your chair gets your shoulders to a comfortable height? Don’t worry. There is a simple, inexpensive way to lower your keyboard the handful of inches you need: A keyboard tray. Keyboard trays aren’t as popular as they used to be, but they work just as well as they did in the ’90s, if not better. Those retractable boards attach to the bottom of your desk to lower your keyboard while bringing everything closer to your torso.

Keyboard trays are great both for ergonomics and for keeping your house in order, leaving lots of free space on the desk. They also look super slick. If you’re upset about the idea of drilling a hole into your desk (or, vitally, not your desk), there’s another option. Clamp-on keyboard trays are just as good as any screwed-in solutions; just look for a tray with two clamps instead of one, for extra stability. You also need to make sure that you have enough space under your desk for a tray. If your desk has a protruding frame, you might have to break out a ruler and take measurements for yourself.

More than anything, you should experiment and find what works for you. “Everyone is different, and different games require different amounts of mouse movement,” Wilkins said. “It is important to experiment with different positions to find the one that is most comfortable and allows you to maintain good posture while gaming.”

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