For those of us working in offices, sitting down at a computer screen all day is usually a necessity.
However, sitting down for multiple uninterrupted hours each day is really not good for us.
The NHS says that sitting for prolonged periods slows down the body’s metabolism, which affects the ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat, all of which can lead to more serious health concerns (NHS, 2019).
Plus staring at a computer screen all day doesn’t help either. According to Prevent Blindness, eye strain can be caused due to eye fatigue and dry eyes from looking at screens for too long (Prevent Blindness, 2016).
While both sitting and looking at computers are necessary parts of a lot of our jobs, there is a lot that we can do to improve office ergonomics and minimise the potential health risks of being in an office all day and improve our health while we are at it.
So what can we do about it I hear you ask??
If we’re going to be sitting all day, we need our seats to be comfortable and good for us. Here are some things to consider:
The back of the chair should be tilted slightly back, to allow for a slightly reclining position. If you need to support your lower back, consider adding a cushion (Vergara & Page, 2000)
How you adjust your chair’s height and whether you need a footrest or not is determined by your desk. Your forearms should be parallel to the desk and your wrists should be below or level with your elbows, so adjust your chair’s height accordingly first (Mayo Clinic, 2019)
Distance. The monitor’s ideal viewing distance is 24-36 inches, which allows you to see the screen comfortably without having to strain your back from leaning in, or your eyes from having the screen too close
Eye-level. Your eyes should be in line with the top of the monitor or slightly below it, but no lower than the address bar on a web browser. If you wear bifocals, consider lowering the monitor by 1-2 inches for a more comfortable viewing
Angle. Your screen should be titled down slightly to minimise reflections and thereby reduce the risk of eye strain
Mouse and keyboard
Position. If you use a mouse with your right hand, have the mouse in line with your right shoulder, and the left edge of the keyboard in line with your left shoulder. Adjust accordingly if you’re a left-hander. Ideally use a keyboard with no number pad, since this allows your keyboard to be central, which is more comfortable and makes typing easier
Height. Most desks are too high for the recommended keyboard height of 2 inches above your thighs. A solution to this is to use an adjustable pull-out keyboard tray under your desk
Wrists. Desks are hard surfaces and hours spent with our wrists pressed against them be hurt. Invest in wrist pads for your keyboard or mouse pad if you feel you need them
Laptops are incredibly practical and portable, but they have bad ergonomics. The screen is too close and low down causing strain on our necks and the keyboard’s position is entirely reliant on the desk’s height.
If you are a laptop user, here are some solutions to these problems:
Laptop stands. These help to lift up the screen to a better height, reducing strain on your neck
External screen, keyboard and mouse. Although it seems counterintuitive, if you use your laptop primarily at a work desk, using it as a desktop computer allows you to use the same ergonomic tips as we mentioned above. If a screen is not possible, try raising your laptop on a pile of books or a laptop stand and using an external keyboard and mouse.
If you take calls at your desk and need to type or write while calling, make sure you use a headset or put your phone on speaker. It is not good for your neck to cradle the phone between your head and shoulder and can lead to health issues further down the line (Mayo Clinic, 2019)
Even if you are an ergonomics master, prolonged periods of sitting isn’t good for us. Here are some habits to start using around the office:
Walk around every hour of sitting
Take lunch breaks away from computer screens
Look outside to reset your eyes
Looking at screens emitting blue light all day can cause our eyes to become tired and strained. By looking outside every now and then, even if only briefly, we can reset our eyes to prevent eye strain. If you don’t have access to a window, try fixing your vision on something in the distance for a similar effect.
Don’t forget to blink
Rest your eyes
Ergonomics are a fundamental part of work-life. If we’re going to be sitting in chairs and looking at screens all day, we need to make sure the time we spend doing that is as healthy as possible and that we look after ourselves. You will find yourself to be far more comfortable and thereby happier and more productive if you have a good set-up at work paired with a healthy attitude towards taking breaks.
Book our complimentary workspace design consultation with us today to ensure the wellness and productivity of your teams.