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The term “computer workstation” generally refers to the physical setup where a person works on a computer, consisting of a table or desk to support the monitor, keyboard and drive unit, as well as a chair. A computer workstation may be a worker’s entire work area, or it may be just a portion. For example, some managers and executives maintain computer workstations in their offices separate from the desks where they do much of their work.
Many computer workstations are designed with ergonomic considerations in mind — that is, they’re intended to position the various components in a way that’s most comfortable and convenient for the user. For example, users should be able to sit up straight, feet flat on the ground and knees and waist bent at about a 90-degree angle. Even given ergonomic considerations, there’s no single standard for computer workstations — they can be simple or elaborate, fixed or portable. They can be designed to be freestanding, or grouped with other workstations side-to-side or back-to-back.
Some are designed to be placed in a corner; these can also be clustered in groups of four. Computer workstations are made from a wide variety of materials, including wood, metal or glass. Some have wiring built-in to reduce the need for cable management.
The designers of computer workstations are often expected to create units that occupy as little floor space as possible. This is done to maximize the number of units that can be placed in an office. Meeting the ergonomic guidelines while keeping the unit’s “footprint” to a minimum is relatively easy when only the three basic components are included. Some units are so narrow, however, that even the addition of a multi-button telephone to the desktop crowds the surface.
Some modern computer setups incorporate a second monitor, and many require a printer. Second monitors should be at about the same height as primary monitors, which creates pressure to widen the unit. Those computer workstations built to accommodate printers often place them on a high shelf that’s inconvenient to reach and monitor.
In some cases, traditional office furniture is modified to act as computer workstations. The most common adaptation is the addition of sliding keyboard trays to traditional desks. Such furniture may be acceptable for occasional computer use, but is usually inadequate for constant computer work because of ergonomic considerations.