In this era of digitalisation, everyone is spending a big chunk of time in front of computer without acknowledging its effects on our body.
Before we begin to work for right workstation ergonomics and right human mechanics, it's important to understand how our tasks expose us to these risk factors. For computer users, simultaneous tasks are those tasks that are performed while keying.
When these simultaneous or non-simultaneous tasks are performed for long in an awkward position like slouching, sitting with poor posture, sitting without proper footrest and by working on poorly placed monitor, we increase our chances of developing pain, muscle soreness or injury.
This is listed as “office syndrome” with common symptoms such as headaches, soreness around eyes, back pain, shoulder tightness and numbness in wrists or feet.
What is computer ergonomics?
It is the practice of fitting the set up of computer and the workspace to fit the user and user’s work needs in order to minimise physical stress on the computer users.
How do I prevent this “office syndrome”?
Take the following steps:
- Chair should be adjustable with a dynamic back and a lumbar support for your low back curve
- Monitor: Top of screen is level with horizontal line of sight, or lower if wearing bifocals
- Remove glare: Avoid overhead and behind lighting from windows and fixtures. Use a glare screen
- Sit at about arm's length from the monitor or slightly farther with larger screens
- Feet flat on floor or supported by footrest if chair is raised
- Incline text by using a document holder, preferably one that is in-line with the monitor
- Keyboard should be at elbow height and in a slight negative tilt to keep wrists flat
- Change your position and stretch after every 30 minutes
- Use a stable work surface
Once you have correctly set up your computer workstation use good work habits. No matter how perfect the environment, prolonged, static postures will inhibit blood circulation and take a toll on your body.
Take short 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes. After each hour of work, take a break or change tasks for at least 5-10 minutes.
Movement has many benefits: it relaxes tissues, lubricates joints and prevents stiffness, improves circulation, reduces fatigue, and builds stamina. One study showed that heavy computer users who successfully avoided computer-related pain moved every 7 minutes.
The writer is physiotherapist, AktivHealth