What Happens if the Desk is Too High?

Standing Vs Sitting desk
Standing vs. Sitting desk Height (Source: Unsplash)

I use a laptop on a computer desk, and my shoulder is sore by the end of the day. I realized that most desks are built too high for an average height, which is far too tall for shorter people like me.

My feets dangled when I raised my chair height to match the desk height.

While I struggled to reach the keyboard if I rested my feet parallel on the ground. So, what happens if the desk is too high?

Generally, sitting on a high desk causes musculoskeletal problems like neck pain, shoulder pain, wrist flexion, postural issues, etc. The standard desk is too high for ordinary people, with a height of  72 to 75 cm or 28 to 30 inches is too tall for ordinary people.

desk too high
Ideal desk height (Source: inchcalculator.com)

Read on to find out the impacts of tall desks on your health and work. This article will also guide you on the ways to fix tall desks for a comfortable work environment.

What Happens When the Desk is too High?

Desk height is associated with working ergonomics and musculoskeletal health.

You can easily find the complex terms if the desks are too tall for you. If you experience discomfort while reaching the desk or pain in the arms or shoulder blades.

A desk that does not match your height, i.e., too low or tall, is terrible for your health. It can cause problems like neck and shoulder pain, blood flow restriction, increased tension, etc.

Your elbows are less than 90 degrees while working at a desk too tall. You will start feeling pain and tension in your shoulder blades as they are continuously raised.

This also messes with your posture, as working with your upper limbs extended is far from the ideal neutral stance.

According to the research, using a taller desk also causes neck pains.

Moreover, you will also start feeling numb in your arms due to blood flow restriction. While working from a tall desk, the screen is higher than your eye level.

If the monitor is too high, tension will build up in your neck muscles, and it will be very painful to work long hours. So, you compensate for the height by extending your neck back in an awkward position.

According to research, position with the neck stretched can cause muscle pain in the neck due to tension and also neck cricks.

Strain in the neck
Neck strain (Source: iStock)

When using a high desk, your arms stretch to reach the desk, which can cause arm abduction or wrist flexion.

So, using a desk too high is unsuitable for your health, posture, and comfort.

According to the research, the wrist flexion increases with an increase in the distance of the keyboard from you.

You should always choose a desk that matches your height.

Why is Most Desk Too High?

The average American height for a woman is 5.9 feet for men and 5.4 feet for women. However, most people are shorter than the average height.

All work desks, except height-adjustable desks, use a standard desk height.

The standard height for a typical work desk is 29.5″ or 74.93 cm. The height is too tall for most people. 

Ergonomic Monitor Setup while standing and sitting
Ergonomic Monitor Setup while standing and sitting (Source: Pixabay)

Ergonomic desks available nowadays are height adjustable and are available in most sizes. However, if you own a traditional desk, the desks are too tall for your height.

Instead of considering all users, companies build the desks using standard height for production convenience.

According to the studies, 95% of the standard desks are too tall for most people.

Also, most older desks equip Computers. So, the desk height is tall to meet eye level, and there is a keyboard tray to fit your elbows comfortably.

However, since many use laptops nowadays, these tall models are uncomfortable to use.

Related article: What is the Right Sized Desk for my Home Office?

How High Should my Desk Be?

The desk height should be suited for your height. So, the ideal height is different for everyone.

Generally, the standard desk is 72 to 75 cm or 28 to 30 inches high. However, the desk height should be perfect for your elbows to rest on at 90 degrees angle.

You can also refer to the table below to find the perfect desk height in seated and standing positions.

User height (feet/cm)Desk height while seated (feet)Desk height while standing (feet)
5 ft or 153 cm24.236.5
5 ft 1 inch or 155.5 cm24.637
5 ft 2 inches or 158 cm2537.5
5 ft 3 inches or 160.5 cm25.438
5 ft 4 inches or 163 cm25.839
5 ft 5 inches or 165.5 cm26.239.5
5 ft 6 inches or 168 cm26.640.5
5 ft 7 inches or 170.5 cm2741
5 ft 8 inches or 173 cm27.441.5
5 ft 9 inches or 175.5 cm27.842.5
5 ft 10 inches or 178 cm28.243
5 ft 11 inches or 180.5 cm28.643.5
6 ft or 183 cm2944
6 ft 1 inch or 185.5 cm29.444.5
6 ft 2 inches or 188 cm29.845.5
6 ft 3 inches or 190.5 cm30.246
6 ft 4 inches or 193 cm30.647
6 ft 5 inches or 195.5 cm3147.5
6 ft 6 inches or 198 cm31.548
6 ft 7 inches or 200.5 cm31.949
6 ft 8 inches or 203 cm32.349.5
6 ft 9 inches or 205.5 cm32.750
6 ft 10 inches or 208 cm33.150.5
6 ft 11 inches or 210.5 cm33.551

You can check the perfect desk height for you using the desk height calculator.

If you use a height-adjustable one, it should be adjustable between 24 to 29 inches for a sitting desk and 24 to 48 inches for a standing desk.

You can also find the perfect desk height by determining if you are seated in a correct posture while working from the desk.

Here is how you can find your ideal desk height.

  • Check if your elbows rest at 90 degrees on the desk. Your elbows should rest 90 degrees on the desk surface while sitting and standing.
  • Your feet should rest flat on the ground.
  • The heels of your legs should not be tucked in behind the knee level while sitting, so your desk should also have some foot clearance.
  • Your shoulders and back should remain relaxed.
  • According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the monitors should remain a few inches below eye level, i.e., 15 to 20 degrees below horizontal eye level.
  • When you rest your forearms on the armrests, your shoulders should raise to relieve strain on the neck and shoulders.
Sitting Posture
Optimal Sitting Posture (Source: Wikipedia)

What to do if my Desk is Too high?

You will not have height adjustment issues if you have a height-adjustable desk. However, if you use a fixed desk, your desk height might not match your height or the height of your chair.

Moreover, a good quality desk can cost you a lot, so replacing the desk you already have would not be a wise financial decision.

But, you can change the desk to match your height requirements.

1. Cut the Legs of the Desk

You can permanently change the height of your desk by cutting its legs if you use a fixed one. However, cutting off the desk’s legs is only easier if they are wooden ones.

If you use metal frame desks, you might have difficulties doing the job yourself.

  • Calculate the perfect desk height for you in a seated position.
  • Mark the desk height that you desire on the legs.
  • Saw off the extra inches from the legs.
  • Make sure the cut-off legs are at the same level. You check this by checking if the legs wobble.

Only cut the desk’s legs yourself if you have skills in carpentry. Else, you need to get it done by professionals.

Watch this video if you want to cut the legs off yourself.

2. Use Chair Accessories

Chair accessories like chair cushions and mats can add a few inches to your chair height. So, you can comfortably rest your elbows while typing on a tall desk.

They might be a temporary measure, but they will undoubtedly make your work time more comfortable. Also, it is far cheaper than buying new ones suited for your height.

You should place Chair mats under the chairs to raise the height of your chairs.

They also protect your flooring from the chair wheels, which is a double advantage.

Using a chair mat to adjust the chair height
Using a chair mat to adjust the chair height (Source: Amazon)

Read about; Do Chair Mats Damage Hardwood Floors?

3. Use Desk Accessories

You can use Keyboard trays to rest your elbows comfortably while keeping the screen at an optimum viewing angle.

This is mainly the issue with laptops as you might need to raise your elbows to type if the screen is kept at eye level.

You might also slouch to view the screen if you use a low desk for optimum elbow positioning. So, you should use a keyboard tray even if you use a laptop.

A desk converter is also an excellent idea for height adjustment of your screen.

Rocelco 46 Height Adjustable Desk Converter (Source: Amazon)

You can place the converter on the top and adjust its height to use a sit or stand desk.

4. Use a Height Adjustable Chair with a Footrest

If you can not adjust your desk, you can get a height-adjustable chair for working on tall desks.

Set the chair height to match the desk’s height and if your feet dangle, use a footrest underneath to support your feet.

Adjustable Footrest With Foam Pad (Source: Amazon)

Read about; What should be the Ideal Height of your Office Chair?

Conclusion

Most of the time in our day is spent at our desks. So, the work desks should be comfortable and suited for your height.

Using desks too tall can have adverse effects, as you have read above. However, using desks too low is not ideal either.

So, save your health and money and get a desk with a height suitable for you beforehand.

Read about; What Size Standing Desk Should I get?

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