Terminal Health: Office Ergonomics Help Computer Workers
Work performed at computers requires us to sit still in the same position for long periods of time. It also involves frequent, repetitive movements of the eyes, head, arms, and fingers. Such movements eventually causes fatigue that leads to problems such as repetitive strain injuries (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome) and eye strain. Ergonomics experts point out that these problems can be avoided by:
Setting up a comfortable work environment. Taking a short break every 20 minutes to shift positions, walk, and stretch. Varying your work so that you use different muscles.
Setting up your Work Environment It is very important to properly arrange your chair and keyboard. Follow these tips for setting up your workplace:
Place your chair so you can easily reach and see your computer screen and keyboard
Place the keyboard just above lap level so you can tilt your arms down and keep them open at a comfortable angle
Tilt the back edge of the keyboard slightly down to keep wrists in a neutral position
If you work from hard-copy documents, you should use a document holder; place this holder within easy reach and close enough to avoid eye strain
In addition, use a light touch when typing. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows at your side. Don't use armrests while typing.
Both your chair and computer monitor should be adjustable. The chair should be the proper height in relation to your desk. This helps support your lower back. When setting up your monitor:
Center it directly in front of you.
Sit an arms' length away.
Position the top of your screen level with your eyes.
Tilt your monitor slightly upward.
Your work environment and desk arrangement also affect your vision. Computer users often complain of eyestrain and irritation. These problems are caused by improper lighting, glare from the screen, and poor positioning of the screen and document holder. These problems can be avoided with relatively simple adjustments. For instance, you can shift your desk to avoid direct or reflected glare. Balance the brightness of your monitor with surroundings. Adjust font size and color if text is hard to read
Also, "vision breaks" can reduce eyestrain. Use eye exercises such as rolling and blinking to relax your eye muscles. Look away from you computer screen to change your focus and give your eyes a break.
Repetitive Strain Injuries
Repetitive strain injuries became more commonplace as computer usage increased. These injuries lead to pain and even disability. Causes include awkward movements and postures while typing. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle inflammation, and nerve compression.
Many people deal with these through schedule changes, improved body alignment, and workstation rearrangement. Others even switch to using laptop computers. If you decide to use a laptop, follow these guidelines:
Set up the keyboard so your elbows are level with or slightly higher than the keyboard.
Use a chair without armrests so that you have room to move your arms.
Avoid using wrist rest areas while typing.
Don't bend your neck and head forward to see the screen. Instead, tuck in your chin to look down, keeping your head and neck balanced over the spine.