Computer Workstation Ergonomics – What’s the ideal setup?
Many of us have felt the aches and pains that often come from sitting at a computer all day. The situation can be improved by following some simple guidelines to set your workstation up correctly and make your workstation is as ergonomic as possible.
Your keyboard position should allow your forearms to be close to horizontal with your wrists straight. If this means you have to spread your elbows out a long way from your body then you might need to adjust the height of your work surface. Some people like to support their wrists using a rest or the edge of the desk, but be careful your wrist is not extended or bent upwards.
Most office chairs are adjustable in a number of ways. You can often adjust the seat tilt to make yourself comfortable for keyboard work. This usually means the seat is close to horizontal but some people prefer to tilt the seat forwards slightly. The height of the seat should allow you to bend your knees at a comfortable angle of at least 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor and certainly not bent back under your chair. If you feel strain in your legs or your feet don’t reach the floor, you might need a footrest. You can also adjust the height of the backrest to support your lower back when sitting upright.
Set the height of the monitor so that your eye line is a little below the top of the screen and ideally you can read the bottom of the screen without tilting your head too much. Usually this means that the centre of the screen will need to be near shoulder height. The height of the monitor can also be adjusted using a monitor riser. If you’re using a laptop at a desk, it’s advisable to make use of a riser along with a separate external keyboard and mouse in order to ensure you can maintain a healthy working position. The eye-to-screen distance should allow you to easily focus on the screen without craning forward.
You can adjust the height of your desk and/or the height of your chair to allow your elbows to be bent at 90 degrees with your forearms parallel to the floor, wrists straight and shoulders relaxed. All the tools and materials you will need should be within easy reach to avoid too much twisting and bending. If you use a document holder, for instance, many people prefer to place it between the keyboard and the monitor to avoid twisting to the side.
Using the mouse
A well-designed mouse such as slim-line and low-profile models, shouldn’t cause undue pressure on the wrist and forearm muscles. If your mouse is too bulky you might find your wrist is bent at an uncomfortable angle. The mouse should be gripped lightly to reduce muscle strain and released when possible. Place your mouse close to the keyboard to avoid over-stretching, while keeping your elbow bent and close to the body.
Good posture is essential for computer users but we often slip into bad habits. In addition to the tips above around positioning your equipment in relation to your body, you should check-in to make sure your shoulders are relaxed rather than hunched up, your back is straight and your head is upright with your ears over your shoulders. Making this optimum position comfortable and relaxed might involve using accessories such as monitor risers and making adjustments to your chair and desk.
With the pressures and stresses of work, it’s easy to forget about the ergonomics of your workstation and maintaining good posture. While this might not seem too concerning when you’re focussed on getting your daily tasks completed, the effect can add up over time and leave you suffering in the long term. It’s worth taking the time to set up your workstation properly and check your equipment and posture from time to time.
Ensure you follow these ergonomic practices to stay comfortable while at your computer desk during the work week and at home.