Research by ViewSonic Europe revealed today provides fresh evidence of chronic health issues for UK desk workers.
- 77% of workers suffer eye fatigue
- 71% suffer backaches
- 67% suffer headaches
- 79% of 16-24-year-olds complain of eye fatigue and 80% have backaches
- High workloads prevent 31% of workers taking ‘ergo-breaks’
- 47% of employees haven’t been advised on how to avoid health problems at their workstation
Apparently millions of British office workers are suffering chronic poor ‘desk health’, although freelancers working from home and itinerant consultants are probably just as much at risk. The study reveals that 46% of office workers spend six or more hours in front of their computer screens a day and the majority (51%) of these are not scheduling appropriate breaks according to ergonomic guidelines.
Even if there is an occupational safety department in the workplace many people don't bother to ensure that their workstation is set up to reduce or minimise the health risks mentioned above or get regular eye tests. Once out of the office environment, it is even easier to get into bad habits. So, if you want your desk to stop damaging your health do take note of these pointers.
What can I do to help myself?
- Adjust your chair and screen to find the most comfortable position for your work. As a broad guide, your forearms should be approximately horizontal and your eyes the same height as the top of the screen.
- Make sure you have enough desk space for documents and other equipment.
- Try different arrangements of keyboard, screen, mouse and documents to find the best arrangement for you. A document holder may help you avoid awkward neck and eye movements.
- Arrange your desk and screen to avoid glare, or bright reflections on screen. This will be easiest if neither you nor the screen is directly facing windows or bright lights. Adjust curtains and blinds to prevent unwanted light.
- Make sure there is space under your desk to move your legs freely. Move any obstacles such as boxes or equipment.
- Avoid excess pressure from the edge of your seat on the backs of your legs and knees. A footrest may be helpful.
- Adjust your keyboard to get a good keying position. A space in front of the keyboard is sometimes helpful for resting the hands and wrists when not typing or get gel wrist guards.
- Try to keep your wrists straight when keying. Keep a soft touch on the keys and don't overstretch you fingers. Good keyboard technique is important.
Using a mouse
- Position the mouse within easy reach, so it can be used with the wrist straight. Sit upright and close to the desk, so you don't have to work with your mouse arm stretched. Move the keyboard out of the way if it is not being used.
- Support your forearm on the desk, and don't grip the mouse too tightly.
- Rest your fingers lightly on the buttons and do not press them hard.
Reading the screen
- Adjust the brightness and contrast controls on the screen to suit the lighting conditions in the room.
- Make sure the screen surface is clean.
- In setting up software, choose options giving text that is large enough to read easily on your screen, when you are sitting in a normal, comfortable working position. Select colours that are easy on the eye (avoid red text on a blue background, or vice-versa);
- Individual characters on the screen should be sharply focused and should not flicker or move. If they do, the screen may need servicing or adjustment.
Posture and breaks
- Don't sit in the same position for long periods. Make sure you change your posture as often as practicable. Some movement is desirable, but avoid repeated stretching to reach things you need.
- Most work provides the opportunity to take a break from the screen, e.g. to do some filing or photocopying. Make use of them. Frequent short breaks are better than fewer long ones.
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