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What is the Standard Desk Height in the UK?

Desk height UK

The standard desk height in the UK is 730mm according to guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This means the desktop surface should be positioned 730 millimetres off the floor, which the HSE states is the optimum height for general computer work and paperwork.

If you’re an employer or manager in the UK, knowing the recommended desk height is crucial for ensuring your employees work safely and productively. Choosing the right desk height in the UK to ensure you’re following health & safety and ergonomic best practices for your office furniture can make all the difference in avoiding health issues and maximising efficiency.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know as a UK business owner or manager about standard desk heights. We’ll look at:

  • Why desk height matters for health and safety
  • The standard measurements for UK desk height
  • Regulations from HSE
  • Adjustable options for different needs
  • How to choose the right desk height
  • FAQs on desk height regulations

 

Standard Desk Height Guidelines

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidelines on standard desk heights for UK workplaces.

The recommended height for a standard sitting desk is 730 mm

This means the desktop surface should be 730 millimetres off the floor and the HSE describes this as the optimum height for general computer work and paperwork. There is flexibility though as the HSE also states that desk heights can range between 700-800mm and still be suitable meaning you can apply different heights for employees with different needs. People are not all the same size and what suits one may not suit another. 

It’s worth noting that the minimum legal knee clearance space under the desk is 150mm high x 500mm deep x 800mm wide.

 

Why Proper Desk Height Matters

 

Providing employees with desks at the proper height is not just a nice thing to do, it’s a legal requirement under UK health and safety laws.

Sitting at the wrong desk height can lead to:

  • Ergonomic Injuries, such as: Neck, back and shoulder pain
  • Wrist and hand issues like carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Poor posture and circulation problems
  • Lower productivity and concentration

When employees use desks at the recommended height, it reduces strain and allows them to work more comfortably. This is especially important if they spend long periods using computers and keyboards.

The right desk height also helps prevent future health problems. Issues like back pain often start gradually and get worse over time.

As a business owner or facilities manager, you have a duty of care to provide a suitable workstation. Failing to do so exposes you to the risk of claims and lawsuits. It makes legal and financial sense to get desk heights right.

 

When Would Adjustable Height Desks Be Used?

 

When Would Adjustable Height Desks Be Used

 

While 730mm is the standard, adjustable sit-stand desks are becoming more popular. These allow the desk height to be changed easily, so employees can alternate between sitting and standing.

Adjustable options may be needed or preferred in certain situations, including:

  • Taller or shorter employees – those over 190cm or under 150cm may need a higher or lower setting.
  • Employees with back problems – they may find a different height reduces pain.
  • Variety – Alternating between sitting & standing helps minimise aches and pains.
  • Productivity – Some find standing keeps them more focused and alert.

Adjustable desks allow a range from 650mm to 1200mm. So they can accommodate most people’s ergonomic needs. They provide flexibility as the workforce and tasks change over time.

 

Factors in Choosing the Right Desk Height

When selecting desks, there are a few factors to consider beyond the standard measurements:

  • Employee height – Ask staff for their heights and check if they need higher or lower settings.
  • Type of work – Precision work like drafting may require a slightly higher desk than computer workstations.
  • Chair height – Make sure the desk and chair are compatible in height. Chairs often range from 380-530mm.
  • Keyboard position – Keyboard trays if used may require a lower desk height.
  • Monitor position – Desktop screens should be at eye level when sitting up straight.
  • Fatigue – Monitor energy levels and provide sit-stand options if tiredness sets in.
  • Individual needs – Address any employees with specific medical or ergonomic requirements.
  • Trial periods – Test different desk heights and make adjustments based on feedback.

Taking these factors into account will help provide an optimal desk setup tailored to your employees.

 

Workplace Regulations and Tailoring Individual needs

 

All employees are different sizes and shapes and will have their own personal health considerations. Under the Health and safety Work Regulations 1999, employers are required to assess all risks – This includes those that arise from seating at work. 

In practice, whilst it is right to start with standardly safe and approved height desks (and chairs), staff should be shown how to make simple adjustments for maximum safety and their own comfort. 

If employees have specific needs or health issues it would often be deemed reasonable for an employer to arrange for a personal workstation assessment and arrange reasonable modifications to ensure the comfort of an individual whose job required a significant period of time there. Once this has been done, it should also be reviewed after an agreed period of time and the results documented. Another important regulation consideration is the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This clearly places a responsibility on employers to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace or employment arrangements so that a disabled person is not at any substantial disadvantage.

 

Examples of Suitable Desks

 

To give you a better idea, here are some examples of suitable desk options:

  • Standard fixed desks – Well-designed fixed desks tend to range from 720-740 mm in height which suits most people.
  • Electric adjustable desks – Let people switch between sitting and standing with models that can adjust from 650mm to 1300mm or more.
  • Office desk frames – Compatible with desktops to suit a range of heights.
  • Custom-built desks – Made to your specifications if you need specific dimensions. An option if you have unique requirements.

Choosing desks around 730mm high will suit most UK office setups. But do consider individual needs too.

 

How Desk Height Standards Are Developing

 

Office work and desk requirements have evolved. Here are some of the key developments around desk heights:

  • Rise of computers – More computer-based office work led to ergonomics being evaluated from the 1960s.
  • Adjustability – Mechanisms to alter desk and chair height became more common in the 1980s and 90s.
  • Research – Increased studies on posture and muscle use informed improved guidance.
  • Standing desks – First appeared in the 1990s and are now widely available. Offer flexibility.
  • Motorised options – Electric sit-stand desks allow users to preset or save personalised heights.
  • Widespread standards – Most countries now provide official guidelines on optimal measurements.
  • Wellbeing focus – More emphasis on avoiding repetitive strain and long-term health issues.

So desk height advice has been refined through extensive research and designer’s priorities have expanded beyond just productivity, to also consider employee health.

 

Why Proper Desktop Height Reduces Pain

 

Why Proper Desktop Height Reduces Pain

 

Using a desk at the correct height minimises aches and pains in several ways:

Promotes good posture

A well-adjusted desk keeps your back straight and shoulders relaxed as you work. This avoids hunching and strain.

Relieves neck tension

Your eye line is level with the screen without leaning up or down. This stops constant neck craning.

Prevents wrists bending

With elbows at 90 degrees, you avoid excessive bending of wrists when typing. This reduces the risk of RSI.

Allows you to move

Getting up and down from a properly adjusted chair encourages movement and blood circulation.

Supports shoulders

Open shoulder angle places the least pressure on muscles around the neck and rotator cuff.

Reduces reaching

Items like keyboard and mouse are within easy reach, stopping overstretching.

Minimises repetition

Alternating between sitting and standing varies repetitive motions that cause strain.

Correct desk height alignment is essential for anyone spending hours at a workstation. Minor mismatches can add up to major health problems over time if not addressed.

 

Tips for Finding Your Optimal Desk Height

 

Everyone has slightly different needs when it comes to ideal desk height. Here are some tips to share with your employees to ensure they have the information they need to be comfortable when working.

  • Evaluate your desk setup and make incremental adjustments.
  • Pay attention to any numbness, tingling or discomfort over time.
  • Try using a height-adjustable desk to find your preference.
  • Check your posture regularly and adjust if slouching.
  • Place feet flat on the floor or use a footrest if needed.
  • Position the chair high enough so thighs are supported.
  • Keep head level with the monitor and eyes at the top third of the screen.
  • Have forearms horizontal with elbows at 90-degree angles.
  • Don’t lean forward from the shoulders or hunch over the desk.
  • Keep your wrists straight as you type rather than angled up or down.
  • Avoid straining the neck up or down to view the monitor.
  • Book time with organisational ergonomic specialists – They can assess workstations and identify any improvements needed for individual employees.

Listen to your body and what feels most natural. Make small tweaks until you find your optimum desk working position.

 

Desk Height Regulations in Other Countries

 

The standard desk height does vary somewhat between different countries.

Here are some of the common measurements:

United States

  • The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends desk heights between 23-28 inches or 580-720mm.
  • The most common desk height in office environments is 29-30 inches or 735-760mm.

Canada

  • Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) guidelines state desks should be 725-1100mm high.
  • Office desk heights typically range from 720-760mm.

Australia

  • The standard desk height is 720mm according to Australian government guidance.
  • Standard office desks are often 725-740mm high.

Europe

  • Most desks in Europe follow the recommendations of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) at around 725-760mm.
  • Adjustable desks are increasingly popular across European countries.

So while there are some minor variations, the standard desk height internationally tends to be between 720-and 760mm. This optimum range suits the ergonomic needs of most adult office workers.

The small differences reflect the typical average heights of populations in each region but the fundamentals of ergonomic desk height remain similar worldwide.

 

Frequently Asked Questions on Desk Heights

 

Here are answers to some common questions people have about desk heights:

What is the standard desk height for standing?

For standing desk work, the HSE recommends 110-120cm off the ground which is 1100-1200mm. This allows users to type comfortably at elbow height.

What size should a desk be?

Desks should be at least 800mm deep x 1000mm wide for each user. This provides adequate space for computer monitors, keyboards and paperwork.

How high should desk chairs be?

Chairs should be adjustable from around 380-530mm in height. This supports different desk heights. Add a footrest if your feet don’t touch the floor.

Can you be too short for a standard desk?

Yes, very short users under 150cm may need special small desks around 700mm high or need to use cushions and footrests.

What are the best desks for back pain?

Adjustable or standing desks allow you to vary positions. Chairs with lumbar support help too. Check each user’s ergonomic needs.

Do I have to provide standing desks?

No, the law just says workstations must be suitable however providing standing options is an increasingly common adjustment.

How do I measure desk height?

Measure from the floor to the top of the desk vertically at the front centre. Do so without table legs or hardware obstructing.

 

Summary 

 

Here are the key things UK businesses must provide when it comes to desk height UK regulations:

  • Desks between 700-800mm high – 730mm is optimal for most.
  • Adjustable desks for those who need them.
  • Chairs are height-compatible with desks.
  • At least 150mm knee clearance under the desk.

Ensuring your office desks meet these standards will fulfil your legal duties around health and safety. It will also boost employee comfort and productivity. Investing in suitable desks pays dividends over time in performance and wellbeing.

While standard desk measurements give a useful starting point, also consider specific user needs. Electric adjustable options allow complete personalisation. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make changes until the desk height feels just right.

Getting the perfect desk setup keeps your people pain-free and working comfortably. Allowing staff to alternate between sitting and standing gives them the flexibility to work in ways that minimise fatigue. Correct desk ergonomics improves efficiency while also demonstrating you care about employee health and safety.

Your employees are your greatest asset. Avoid future issues by getting their desk heights right from day one. If you need help selecting suitable office desks or have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact an expert like an ergonomic working consultant.

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