Last Revised: January 24, 2023

Furniture Guidelines


The purchase of furniture is an important decision for an office because of its cost and impact on employee productivity and health. We offer the following information to guide you in the selection of new furniture for general office work.

EHRS Assistance Available

The Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety is available to assist individuals and departments in new furniture, chair and ergonomic accessory selection. Contact us for more information.


A standard office desk should not be selected as a computer workstation. A typical office desk is 29-30 inches high. This places the keyboard and mouse at a height that is too high for a large number of office workers. We recommend adjustable height furniture for computer workstations because the placement of the keyboard and mouse at the proper height is critical for proper ergonomic positioning.

The proper work surface height* depends on the workers height as shown in the table below:

Worker Height Table Height
5'0"-5'3" 25"- 26"
5'4" - 5'6" 26"-27"
5'7" - 6' 0" 27"-30"
6'1" - 6'5" 30"-32"

*Please note these are approximate heights.

The work surface of adjustable height workstations can be raised or lowered to accommodate the needs of current and future workers.

User-adjustable workstations typically have a crank that changes the height of the work surface (and in some instances the monitor height is also adjustable). The height may be adjusted without the need for disassembly, typically in a few minutes. This type of workstation is ideally suited for locations that will have multiple users or a high rate of employee turnover.

Maintenance-adjustable workstations typically have a pin in the legs to change the height of the work surface. This type of workstation is set at the proper height for the current user, and is usually not changed until there is a change in personnel.

The work surface must be large enough so that the keyboard and monitor can be placed directly in front of the worker. A 30-inch deep typing surface is usually adequate for a 17" monitor and keyboard. Do not purchase 24-inch deep work surfaces for computer workstations. If you currently have a large (>17") monitor, or anticipate upgrading to one, select a deeper work surface.

Keyboard Trays

When height adjustable furniture is not feasible, a keyboard tray may be used to position the keyboard and mouse at the proper height. Keyboard trays should have the following features:

  • Mouse tray that places mouse within an easy reach
  • Soft wrist rests for both the keyboard and mouse
  • Easy adjustments


Chairs for computer work should have the following adjustments:

  • Pneumatic height adjustment
  • Adjustable height arms (small "T" style)
  • Adjustable arm width (preferred)
  • Independently adjustable and lockable seat and back tilt
  • Adjustable lumbar support
  • Adjustable seat pan depth (preferred)

See the attached Penn Chair Guidance Document below.

Other Selection Criteria to Consider

Work surfaces with rounded edges are preferable to those with sharp edges.

The layout of the workstation is important and may impact chair selection. Chair arms may bump into the desk with workstation layouts that are "L" or "U" shaped.

Avoid furniture with storage cabinets or shelves above the typing surface. The shelves may make it impossible to place the monitor at the correct viewing height.

Furniture purchases are important investments for departments. If you plan to buy multiple workstations insist on seeing an actual unit along with the chairs you have selected. Do not order out of a catalog sight unseen.

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