Working healthily with computers
Recent studies have found that on average – an average office worker now spends between five and eight hours a day in front of a computer. This ignores any time spent in front of a TV or on a phone. If you do think about – it appears that as much time is spent with a computer on a normal working day (sometime more), as is spent sleeping.
Findings now link computer time with increased health issues that incorporate musculoskeletal problems relating to muscular injury and posture, repetitive strain injury and yes – even mental stress and anxiety. So – how do we ensure we can continue to work happily and healthily in our technology lead world? Here are some simple suggestions that can easily be done to improve your working conditions.
Firstly, do keep a record of how much time you (or your children, for that matter) spend in front of your computer. If you are spending more than an hour on the keyboard without standing up of moving around – recommended guidelines specify between five and fifteen minute breaks each hour.
This means standing up and walking around to allow both your body and mind to normalize. Doing some simple stretches during this time or even getting a breath of fresh air gives you the physical and mental break that you need. If you do feel stiff in certain parts of your body, or have aches or pains in specialized areas – you really need to look seriously at the reason for this, and make a change to your workstation ergonomics. Ergonomics has been defined as the study of a science that deals with designing and arranging things so that people can use them easily and safely.
There are two important areas to consider before anything else. The first is posture. Look objectively at how you sit. You should be sitting in a relaxed upright position with a straight back. Positioning your monitor at eye level – straight in front of you – encourages a healthy posture. Another good hint when placing your monitor is to sit back and extend your arm horizontally.
The tip of your middle finger should just touch the monitor screen. Consider tipping your monitor downwards slightly to reduce reflections. Remember to try and look at something distant at least every twenty minutes, so your eyes can adjust and give your close focus muscles a chance to relax.
If necessary, use a cushion positioned in the small of your back – enabling a slight curve. Upper legs should be at rest parallel to the floor and feet should be flat. As someone who spends too much time on my laptop – I try and remind myself as often as I can to sit up. I do this by visualizing a rope which is attached to the top of my head and connected the ceiling.
I automatically and subconsciously adjust my seating position. It works for me. Net – look at the position of your arms and hands with the keyboard. Your hands should be resting lightly on the keyboard with your elbows higher than your wrists. If not – the risk of repetitive strain injury is increased. If you have to – look to get a higher chair and consider supporting your elbows on your chair arm rests. Other areas that can be easily improved include lighting.
Lighting should be overhead and preferably indirect, via anti-glare filters – most of which come as standard with fluorescent lighting fitments. Never position a screen in front of a bright light – or for example – a window or door. It is preferable to position screen so that they are parallel to lighting and windows or doors.
Finally, look to position your keyboard and mouse so that they are close to each other and within reach. You should not be extending your arms to reach these devices.
Working with laptops is a different matter – not least because the screen is usually attached to the keyboard. This are will covered at a later stage.
Contact us by email to get a free PDF diagram (compliments of the University of Michigan) on the correct way to arrange your workstation.
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