I spend most of my day working at a desk. I’ve always found myself simply adjusting to the height my desk was, without thinking about the height that would work best for me.
I began noticing pain after sitting at the desk all day, and I began to wonder. Is my desk height a problem? How tall should a desk be? Does it vary from person to person?
It turns out that there is a standard height for desks. However, which height is best will vary based on your height and body type.
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Standard Desk Height
First, let’s take a look at the standard height for desks. Most desks are 28″ to 30″ for a sitting desk, with 29″ being the most common. To measure the height of a desk, you’ll measure from the floor to the top of the desk tabletop.
The problem is that this desk height is perfect for people around 5′ 10″ tall. The average man in America is 5′ 9″ tall. The average female is 5′ 4″. So, an average desk is not the right height for many Americans.
The Gender Gap
The goal of the standard desk height is to fit 90% of the population. If you haven’t noticed already, I’ll point it out. The standard desk size works well for most men. In fact, 95% of men are the correct height for the standard desk.
However, only 5% of women are in this height range. In fact, 90% of women are between 5′ and 5′ 7″. That’s right ladies, the desk you are sitting at was designed for a man.
Despite all the advancements society has made in terms of equality, the desk has been left in the past. This isn’t intentional oppression. It’s just that no one has bothered to take a look at the average desk height and whether or not it fits the majority of workers.
Child’s Desk Sizes
Children may also use desks at home. They are typically shorter than adults, so they will need an appropriately sized desk.
The common size for a child’s desk varies based on their age and height. Preschoolers who are 2-4 years old should have a desk height of 14-17 inches. Kindergartners who are 4-6 years old should sit at a desk that is 17-19 inches tall.
The average desk for 6-10 year olds in elementary school is 20-22 inches tall. Middle schoolers aged 10-13 can expect a desk that is 23-29 inches in height, and middle or high schoolers who are 13 or older have a desk height of 26-30 inches.
These are the industry standards, but are they the correct sizes? Just like adult desks, they may be too short or too tall, based on the child’s size.
When purchasing a desk for a child, focus on the height of the child and desk, not their age. You can also choose an adjustable desk, which allows you to adjust the height to fit your child.
Standing Desk Height
Standing desks have become popular in recent years. They don’t have a standard height, but most are around 47″. Standing desks are more likely to be adjustable than sitting desks.
Why Desk Height Matters
You may be wondering if the height of your desk really matters. The short answer is, yes. It matters a lot.
If your desk isn’t the correct height, you’ll contort your body to accommodate the desk, instead of the desk accommodating you.
The most common problems this causes are back and neck pain. It can also lead to elbow or wrist pain, and headaches. However, it can lead to more serious problems, including permanent damage to your back or spinal disks.
It can also have a major impact on your posture, and not just when you are at your desk. If you are sitting at your desk incorrectly, it will affect the curve of your spine over time. This leads to poor posture when you are sitting and standing.
Determining Correct Desk Height
There are three factors that can let you know if your desk is the wrong height. These are your feet, elbows, knees, and eyes.
However, your desk isn’t the only consideration. Your chair also matters. It’s common to adjust the height of your chair to fit the desk. However, this can still leave you in a wrong position.
Your feet should be flat on the floor. If your desk is too tall, you may simply adjust the height of your chair. However, this won’t solve the problem if your chair is now too tall.
If your feet aren’t flat on the floor, your desk or chair aren’t the correct height. In most cases, neither is the correct height, because the chair is adjusted to fit the desk.
Elbows and Arms
You should be able to rest your arms comfortably on your desk. Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle. If your elbows are above 90 degrees, your desk is too low. If they are below 90 degrees, your desk is too tall.
Your knees should also be at a 90 degree angle. They should have a few inches of clearance from the desk as well. If your knees are hitting the top of the desk, it’s too low.
Your eyes are the final thing you should consider. If you are working at a computer, your eyes should be level with the screen. If you need to look down at the screen, the desk is too low. If you are looking up, it’s too high.
Keep in mind that your neck should be straight when looking at the screen. It’s often easier to notice the position of your neck than your eyes. If you are craning your neck up or down, your desk is not the correct height.
Desk Height Problem Solving
If you are buying a desk, you can purchase one that is the correct height. However, this isn’t always an option. What if your existing desk isn’t the right height? Do you have to live with it, or buy a new one?
The good news is, there are some ways you can adjust the desk to work for you.
Using a Foot Rest
Office chairs offer an adjustable height. Most people will naturally adjust the chair to fit the height of the desk. This puts your elbows, arms, and eyes in the correct position. However, now your feet are in the wrong position, because they aren’t flat on the floor. They may not even reach the floor, depending on the height of your desk and body.
A foot rest can correct this issue. They also offer a soft place to rest your feet. Most are adjustable. In addition to adjusting the height, you can sit them at different angles, or even rock your feet.
Some offer massage functions, but this may not be very effective. Purchase a foot rest as a foot rest, and you’ll be pleased with the result.
Another option if your desk is too tall is a keyboard tray. If your desk doesn’t have one, you can purchase and mount one yourself. The tray goes on the underside of your desk, and slides out towards your lap. Because it’s installed under the desk, it is a few inches lower than the top of the desk.
Before purchasing a keyboard tray, you’ll need to make sure it’s not too low. Measure the height from the floor to the underside of the desk for an idea of the height.
Raising a Desk
If your desk is too short, the easiest solution is to raise the desk. If your elbows are pointing up when working, the desk is too short. If your knees touch the desk, it’s too short.
You can raise a desk with heavy duty furniture risers. You can also use blocks of wood in a pinch.
If you sit comfortably at the desk, but your keyboard or monitor are too low, you can purchase a desk riser. These are adjustable, and often give you the option of working sitting or standing.
Desk Height FAQs
How do I determine the correct desk height for me?
In addition to following the guidelines mentioned above, you can use a desk height calculator. This will give you the correct height for your desk, chair, and computer monitor.
What should a desk have?
In addition to being the proper height, a desk should have enough room to perform necessary tasks. This will vary based on what you do, and how you prefer to set up your work space. Rounded edges are also beneficial, because they make the desk more comfortable when working.
What’s the best desk?
The best desk is the one that fits you and your needs. A computer desk is preferable for most people, particularly if you have a standard computer. If you use your desk for writing or drawing, choose a desk designed for that purpose.
Should you choose an adjustable desk?
Adjustable desks do offer a few benefits. You’ll be able to adjust the desk to the correct height. Most even allow you to go between sitting and standing by adjusting the desk. However, they aren’t as attractive as a traditional desk.