What are the health benefits of a document holder?

One of the best ergonomic accessories you can get is a document holder.

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Despite technological advancements in electronic document management, statistics have shown that there has been an increase in paper usage and many office workers still use physical documents throughout their work day. For computer users, these documents are often positioned at unnatural angles either to the side of the computer or even under the keyboard. From an ergonomic perspective, working in these positions poses a credible risk to your health and wellbeing. Working with documents in such a position places strain specifically on your neck and upper back. Shocking statistics on neck pain indicate that office workers are one of the primary groups that suffer from neck pain. A desk document holder or stand that is suitable for A4 paper, will go a long way to alleviate such pain.

If you work with paper documents, one of the best ergonomic accessories you can get is a desk document holder, or stand.

What is a document holder?

microdesk document holder
Microdesk document holder

A document holder is a simple piece of equipment that can save your neck (literally), and at the same time boost your productivity.

Most desk document holders are made from formed plastic and are about the size of A4 paper. Typically they fit either between your keyboard and monitor, or over your keyboard and in front of your monitor. The surface of the document holder is usually slanted at a readable angle and they may be height adjustable. This enables you to keep the papers you need close to yourself, and the monitor. Document holders allow you to:

    • read, write and/or type at a comfortable level.
    • place documents between the keyboard and the monitor.
    • maintain a correct posture at your workstation by keeping your neck straight while you work.

Why is a document holder important?

Working with documents that are placed flat on your desk and to the side can:

    • cause unnecessary bending and twisting of your neck as you constantly look at the document and your computer screen. This may increase the risk of long term neck and spinal injury
    • increase eye strain
    • reduce your effectiveness or productivity at work.

A “poor working posture” results when you work in a awkward position with a curved spine. The constant ‘neck twisting’ and un-natural arm position away from the body, can result in muscle fatigue in your neck, shoulders and arms.

Un-natural working posture with constant ‘neck twisting’ and writing arm positioned away from the body

Using an A4 document holder like the Microdesk, not only makes working easier, it also makes it healthier. Because document holders assist you to work in a correct posture, they can reduce or eliminate risk factors such as:

    • awkward head and neck postures.
    • fatigue.
    • headaches and eye strain.
    • a good document holder ensures that the documents are at the same distance as your computer screen.
    • if your computer screen is already set at the optimal ergonomic distance (at approximately arm’s length); the document holder will ensure that the paper document is also positioned as closely as possible to this ideal position.
Correct (neutral) working position using a desk document holder stand like a Microdesk

A good A4 document holder can also increase your productivity. It keeps your papers closer to eye level and your screen, preventing breaks in your attention by having to look down or to the side. Document holders also add structure to your work and free-up space to create a work area that is clean, neat and organised.

The Pros of a document holder

  • Stops aches and pains due to twisting when writing to the side of the keyboard.
  • Reduces the need to reach, stretch or twist to interact with paperwork.
  • Centers paperwork in-line and behind the keyboard.
  • Creates a stable, adjustable work surface – excellent for writing and reading with computer work.
  • Creates more useable desk space.
  • Allows continuous access to the keyboard.
  • Helps to prioritise work and focus on the task in front of you.
  • Suitable for left and right handed users.
  • Improves working posture and increases comfort at your desk.
  • The perfect place to put your smart phone, tablet or calculator.

The Cons

  • Confined spaces could pose a challenge. You need enough space between your keyboard and monitor to place the document holder.
  • For the correct ergonomic set-up, other accessories might need to be purchased, for example a monitor stand or monitor arm and wireless keyboard.
  • Not useful if majority of your document handing is electronic.


Karo is the exclusive distributor of the Microdesk™ document holder in South Africa. Developed by physiotherapist Sarah Mahoney and endorsed by the Australian Physiotherapy Association, the Microdesk™ is the ultimate ergonomic accessory for keyboard work.

Tips for Microdesk™ users.

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