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An Ergonomics Guide for Computer Users

By Physiotherapist, Kathleen Zinck

Before computers, office workers had to move much more than today’s office workers. Even typing a letter required some sort of movement. Loading paper, typing the letters, hitting the cartridge return, removing the paper, and packing the envelope is a much more extensive range of movement than what we are required to do today. While this advance in technology has made office workers more efficient, the lack of movement can have negative effects to your physical and mental health. This article will discuss some basic guidelines of how you can avoid these ill effects. You will learn; how to adjust your office furniture and computer equipment, how to organize your desk, and how to incorporate movement into your daily office routine. Keep in mind that some of these changes may feel uncomfortable at first, but it should start to feel more natural in a week or two.

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Adjusting Your Chair

Your chair is likely the most used piece of furniture in your office. Adjusting your office chair can help circulation in your legs, reduce stress on your back, help minimize fatigue, and help your overall comfort.

If your chair is adjustable, lower your chair so that your feet touch the ground and your knees are bent to at least a 90 degree angle. If you cannot adjust your chair, use a foot rest or something that can prop your feet up. You can also use a phone book, box, or shelf if you do not have a foot rest. You should also make sure that there is space between the back of your knees and the edge of the chair. This can be achieved by adjusting your foot rest and the height of your chair. Another great option is a lumbar supporter, which will help you sit more upright and support your lower back.

Adjusting Your Computer Monitor

Constant tilting and turning of your head in different directions to look at your monitor can contribute to neck strain, neck stiffness, back discomfort, and overall discomfort from poor posture.

Ensure that your monitor is not too low nor too high. Your computer monitor should be at eye level, and you should see the centre of the top of your monitor when looking directly forward. If you can’t tell if your head is completely straight, ask a co-worker to help you check. You can modify your monitor with an adjustable stand, or an extendable arm attachment. If you don’t have access to these, you can also use a phone book or something sturdy enough to support the monitor.

Other Adjustments

Looking up and down from a document to your computer monitor can cause neck strain and stiffness. If your job requires data entry, consider getting a copy holder. This is designed to hold a document at eye level near your monitor. This can also help prevent eye strain from rapidly switching focus points.

The next thing to consider is wrist positioning. Your wrists should not be on a hard or sharp surface, and should not be bent down towards your keyboard. This can stress the tendons and nerves in your hands, wrists, and arms, which could lead to future complications. Consider investing in a wrist rest to cushion and position your wrists and hands into the proper position. Alternatively, you can use a rolled up towel to provide wrist support.

Stretching Your Eyes

To avoid eye strain, try this 45 second eye exercise every few hours or when you feel your eyes beginning to strain.

1) Turn your eyes to the right and hold for 3 seconds.

2) Turn your eyes to the left and hold for 3 seconds.

3) Turn your eyes upwards and hold for 3 seconds.

4) Turn your eyes downwards and hold for 3 seconds.

5) Focus your eyes on something in the distance (10-20 feet away) for 5 seconds.

6) Repeat these steps 3 times.

Tyler Graves