Think about your daily routine. I bet it involves a lot of staring at a digital screen be it your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. It’s hard to find a workspace nowadays where digital screens aren’t used.
Where these screens are completely harmless to your physical health, prolonged hours of screen time could bring a lot of problems to your back and neck, not to say your eyes.
Have you ever felt, back pain, sore wrists or headaches while working at your office workstation? These are some of the problems that improper adjustment of your workspace could trigger.
If you’re ready to transform your workstation so you never have to put up with ill health, then I’ve got two words for you: computer ergonomics.
What is an ergonomic workstation?
Ergonomics refers to designing workplaces and products so they fit the worker using them.
The goal of computer workstation ergonomics is to make sure that your work environment is suitable for the job you do. It increases productivity at work and reduces long-term employee absences and repetitive strain injuries.
Computer workstation ergonomics deals with optimising the computer workspace to reduce the risk of computer vision syndrome (CVS) along with other problems such as back or neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal problems affecting the joints, muscles and spine.
Computer-related health problems
Body aches at work can happen due to a lot of reasons ranging from repetitive work to incorrect posture to improper screen settings and insufficient breaks.
Computer ergonomics aim to resolve the following health problems that could result from spending a lot of time on computers or digital screens.
Headache / Blurred vision
If your screen is not positioned properly or the settings on your screen are a bit off, your eyes will strain to focus on the screen. This could also result in headaches. If you’re sitting too close to the computer, then you’ll have to deal with blurred vision.
Poor workspace lighting and glare could cause headaches. This happens when your eyes are not able to focus on the screen but you force them to do so.
Computer vision syndrome
Computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain refers to the set of vision problems the occur due to the overuse of digital devices. These symptoms include blurred vision, headaches, eye pain and discomfort.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
It’s a physical condition where the individual feels numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and the arm. It happens when the median nerve in the wrist is squeezed or pressed for too long which is the result of wrong placement of the mouse or keyboard.
Back and neck pain
We always adjust our bodies to get a better view of the screen. But when you hold that unnatural position for too long, it strain your muscles and you suffer from neck or back pain. Instead of looking down the screen, adjust the monitor so it matches your eye level.
The right way to set up an ergonomic workstation
I am going to suggest you some general changes in your regular workstation so that it fits your work and support your body. Everything from the monitor to mouse to keyboard contribute twoards setting up a comfortable workstation.
How to position the monitor?
There’s not one particular placement of the screen that I could recommend. But, when you’re setting up a monitor, take the following things into consideration:
- The neck is not arched backwards or your chin is extended forward
- You are able to see the text on the screen clearly and comfortably
- The screen is clear to see when you’re wearing glasses
Here’s how you should set up a monitor:
- Height of the screen should match your eye level to avoid visual fatigue
- Place the screen one arm length or even further away so you don’t get blurred vision or headaches
- Try different positions to find the perfect distance and height to place the monitor at.
- Adjust the display such as font size to make sure you can see the content clearly
- Make sure you’re using blue light glasses to cut off digital eye strain
Get a comfortable chair
The best chair would support the curve of your spine. You spend hours sitting in your office chair, so it might as well be comfortable. Here’s how a good chair helps your computer workstation ergonomics:
- Easy adjustment of the seat height
- Easy to rotate with 360 degree swivel
- Lumbar back support to promote good posture and support the curve of the lower back
- Adjustable seat depth so you don’t put pressure on the back of your thigh in case you’re small
- Lower armrests so you can reach the keyboard and rest your arms when you’re not typing
You can also use a seat cushion to sit comfortably for hours. And also adjust the height of the chair so your feet are flat on the ground.
Keyboard / mouse
When setting up a keyboard, use the following guidelines:
- Position the keyword right in front of you so you don’t twist your neck or body to use it
- Reduce the width of the keyboard by getting one with no numeric key pad as it will allow room for the mouse
- Adjust the height of the keyboard by using the small legs under it
- Leave room for your forearm by placing the keyboard a little bit further than the edge of the desk
Ergonomic tips for adjusting the mouse are as follows:
- Keep it close to the keyboard so you don’t have to stretch your arms
- Make sure the mouse fits perfectly in your hands to reduce any pressure on the wrist
- Take the hand off it when you’re not working on the device
- Use keyboard shortcuts to give your wrist a break
- Use the non-dominant hand to operate the mouse
How to adjust workspace lighting and reduce glare?
Fixing the lighting around you is a major part of computer workstation ergonomics. Good lighting allows you to view the screenn without straining your eyes or neck. Here’s how you can check the lighting levels to minimise distractions while working:
- Use high lighting level when doing tasks such as reading or any other detail work
- Turn the lights down low when working on a computer or using a digital screen
- Match the level of lighting to the light conditions in your work area
- Make sure the light bulbs clean to maintain optimum lighting levels
When working on computers, it becomes crucial to minimise glare in order to avoid eye fatigue and headaches. If you’re using large screens, then you’re exposed to more reflected glare. Here;s how to avoid it:
- Your line of vision should be parallel to the windows when viewing a screen
- Reduce overhead lights to minimise reflections on your screen
- Use more of the natural light coming from the windows. Use venetian blinds if the light is too bright.
- Use non-reflective office fixtures and flooring so the light doesn’t cause any glare
- Adjust the screen so that it is at 90 degree angle to the surface of the desk
- Adjust contrast and screen brightness to make screen time comfortable for your eyes
- Use a desk lamp or task lighting to position it directly onto the reading material and eliminate glare
Glasses for computer users
Prolonged use of computers and laptops could lead to vision problems. If you already have nearsightedness or farsightedness, you should talk to your eye doctor to get the best glasses for you that are also suitable for compluter use.
Even when you don’t have vision problems, you should consider using protective glasses to prevent digital eye strain.
Use computer glasses that are made with anti-glare filters and effectively block blue light coming off from the digital screens. It is also believed that blue light also suppresses sleep when you consume it in the night. So, make sure you’re wearing computer glasses or blue blockers when staring at screens after dark.
Maintain good posture throughout the day
No matter how carefully you set up your workstation, you can not work on it all day. Thus, it becomes important to change your posture throughout the day or do something that requires the use of different muscles.
Putting stress on only certain parts of your body could lead to sprains and strains. There are other benefits of changing postures throughout the day. Here’s how you can do it:
- Take small breaks in between screen time and make sure you’re not using another screen during those breaks
- Indulge in a variety of tasks so you can shift to different postures and don’t strain your muscles
- Switch between sitting and standing positions
- Take micro pauses from the workstation
If you’re working from home, make sure you don’t work in your bed or sofa as it can take away the motivation and you won’t be able to maintain the right posture. Have a proper desk so you can position the screen properly and don’t strain your eyes or muscles.