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Many office workers struggle with neck discomfort throughout the day. This can often stem from improper monitor setup, which can cause frequent or prolonged awkward neck postures.  

For example, if a monitor is too high it can cause prolonged neck extension, if a monitor is too low or too far away it can cause prolonged neck flexion, and if a primary monitor is off-center, it can cause frequent neck twisting. These awkward postures may not seem like much, but over time they can lead to discomfort and possibly a musculoskeletal disorder.  

The good news is that this can be easily avoided by changing up your monitor set up.  Below are some guidelines to set up your monitor(s) to allow for more neutral neck postures (and more comfort!):  

1. Adjust the monitor’s height to reduce prolonged neck flexion and extension.  

  • Our natural line-of-sight falls approximately 15o below eye level. Therefore, you should adjust your monitor(s) so the top of the viewing screen is at, or slightly below, eye level. 
  • If you wear bifocals, the top of the viewing screen should be below eye level. If you catch yourself extending your neck backwards when viewing the screen, the monitor may not be low enough.  

2. Adjust the monitor’s distance to reduce prolonged neck flexion.  

  • The general rule of thumb is to position your monitor(s) approximately one arm’s length away. Alternatively, you can use the monitor size equation to calculate your monitor’s ideal distance.  
  • This equation states that the distance of your monitor should be greater than or equal to the monitor’s diagonal dimension. For example, a diagonal monitor dimension of 20″ should never be closer than 20″ to your eyes. This can also help reduce eye strain if your monitor is positioned too close to the front edge of your desk.  

If you wear bifocals, your monitor may need to be closer if you find yourself leaning in to view what’s on the screen. For proper monitor placement, consult with your eyecare professional to identify the best focal distance for your prescription.  

3. Adjust the monitor’s position on the desk to reduce frequent neck twisting.  

The ideal position of your monitor depends on the number of screens and how frequently you use them. For example:  

  • If you have one monitor, it should be centered and directly in front of you. Focus on keeping yourself, the monitor and keyboard in line to reduce neck twisting.
  • If you have two or more monitors, but one monitor is used more frequently than the others, prioritize the position of that monitor. Once the primary monitor is centered with yourself and the keyboard, place the secondary monitor(s) next to the main screen on either side. Work as much as possible on the primary monitor to reduce the frequency of neck twisting.
  • If you have two or more monitors that are equally used, they should be positioned close to each other and centered – where the distance to the far-right monitor’s edge is equal to the distance of the far-left monitor’s edge. This will help reduce the degree of neck twisting. If neck discomfort persists with this setup, consider reducing the number of monitors you’re using or selecting a primary monitor.

Positioning a monitor properly helps minimize the frequency and duration of awkward neck postures throughout the day, adding up to much more comfort at your desk. If your desk set up isn’t able to work with these guidelines, consider purchasing a monitor/laptop stand to raise your monitor’s height or installing a monitor arm to allow for full adjustability.