The Amazing Difference 10 Simple No-Cost Steps Can Make A Big Difference
- Evaluate how the computer will be used. If the computer is your own, you can customize your workstation to fit your size and shape alone. If the computer will be shared, the workstation will need to be adjustable — with customizable chairs, for instance — to fit a wide variety of people.
- Also, think about how long the computer will be used for at one time. If the computer will only be used to check e-mail for 10 minutes a day, then ergonomics may not be a critical issue for you. If, however, the computer will be used for more than one hour per day, it’s recommended that you create an ergonomic arrangement. For those who use a computer for four hours or more each day, an ergonomic arrangement is critical.
- What kind of computer will be used? Most ergonomic guidelines assume that a desktop computer, in which the screen and keyboard are separate, will be used. This makes the station easier to customize to fit different heights, etc. Laptop computers are more difficult to work with, primarily because when the screen is at the right height the keyboard may not be, and vice versa. For this reason, those who use laptop computers for lengthy periods of time should consider purchasing an external keyboard or monitor.
- What furniture will you use? It’s important to work on a stable surface with adequate room to write (if necessary). Your work surface should allow you to use the keyboard and mouse with your arms in a relaxed, neutral position, so a height-adjustable system may be necessary.
- Don’t overlook the chair. Contrary to common belief, the ideal seated posture is a reclined 100 to 110 degrees — not the 90-degree posture you may have been taught to use in grade school. This reclined posture causes decreases in pressure in the lumbar spine and postural muscle activity, making it a more comfortable, sustainable way to sit while working.
- What kind of work will you be doing? If your computer will be used primarily for typing, the arrangement of the keyboard/mouse is most important. If you’ll be surfing the Net or playing games, the mouse position will take priority.
- Make sure you can see the screen and documents. The computer monitor should be directly in front of you (not angled as many people like to have it) and centered on the user so you don’t have to twist your body or neck. Things to take into consideration include the height of the monitor, viewing distance, screen quality and even having an eye checkup if you suspect glasses may help you see the screen. Paper documents should be placed close to the monitor and at a similar angle to it.
- Good posture is the best way to avoid computer-related injury. A ergonomically correct workstation will help you to have good posture automatically, which includes keeping the wrists as flat as possible when typing, keeping the upper arm and elbow close to the body when using the mouse, sitting back in your chair, placing the feet flat on the floor or on a footrest, keeping the head and neck as straight as possible.
- Keep things you’ll need close at hand. Think about those things you use frequently — the phone, the keyboard, the mouse, papers or a calculator — and keep them within comfortable reach.
- Notice where the computer will be used. It’s not only the computer station itself that’s important. The environment you’re in also plays a major role in your comfort. Things to think about include lighting, ventilation and noise.
- Take plenty of brief rest breaks. Ergonomists agree that frequent, short breaks are essential to your health while working at a computer. They recommend eye breaks (looking away from the screen every 15 minutes), two-minute or less micro-breaks (stand, stretch or make a phone call every so often), rest breaks (walking or moving around every 30 to 60 minutes) and exercise breaks (stretching and gentle exercises to relieve muscle fatigue every one to two hours).
The guidelines also include plenty of tips for finding useful “ergonomic gizmos” and software that can enhance your workstation, and tell you how to avoid those that could actually make things worse. Since arranging your workstation in an ergonomic way is unique to each person, you may want to seek professional advice if your arrangement doesn’t feel right to you.