Ready, Set, Type!
Getting your workstation to work with you, and not against you is the first step in healthy computer use. Here are some ideas to help you make your space work for you:
Find the right height for your keyboard.
Ideally, the keyboard should be centered with your body balanced directly in front of the G and H keys. The best height is only 1-2” above your thighs. This allows your hands to be in a position so that you do not have to extend your wrists to type. (Extension is when the backs of your hands are moved closer to the back of your forearms.) A neutral position—wrists neither extended or flexed—is the best position to avoid wrist injury. A pull-out keyboard tray is a good solution. Also, never use the kickstand that comes with most keyboards. It is best to have your keyboard flat or even in a negative slope, meaning that your keyboard will be higher in front than in the back. This allows your hands to follow the downward slope of your thighs and is a very natural position.
Be sure your mouse is also close by. You don’t want to have to be reaching for it. Reaching over and over will lead to shoulder strain. It is best if the mouse can be at the same level as your keyboard.
Position your monitor properly.
The best height is so that your eyes are level with the top of the screen. It is better to look down at the screen than to look up. To find the right distance, try sitting comfortably. Then put your arm out straight in front of you. The monitor should meet the tip of your longest finger.
Also be aware of sources of glare as you type in order to avoid eye strain. Avoid harsh fluorescent light as much as possible. Lighting is best if it is directed toward either side of the screen rather than coming from behind or in front of it. A trick from labnol.org that will help with eye strain uses the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes find an object that is 20 feet away, and stare at it for 20 seconds. This will exercise your eyes and give them a break from the bright light coming from the screen.
Be sure your mouse is in a convenient location.
The best place for the mouse is in line with your shoulder and arm, right in front of your body. This avoids twisting and reaching. If your computer keyboard has a number pad and all the extras, this will force the mouse to sit further away from you. There are a couple of solutions to this. Either change to a keyboard without a number pad, or get a mouse platform that sits slightly above the number pad. Most platforms will swivel out of the way when you need to use extra keys on your keyboard. If you use the mouse a lot, be sure that the platform does not force your wrist into an unnatural position.
The right chair makes a huge difference.
When choosing a chair, you want to find one where the seat height is about your knee height. The goal is to have your thighs either parallel to the floor or else sloping downward slightly. Test the chair to make sure the seat pan does not cut into the back of your legs. If you are stuck with a chair where the seat slopes backward, the use of a wedge cushion can help
If you cannot get the workstation low enough, then make sure the chair is at the right height in comparison with the keyboard and monitor. (We’ll discuss that in a later issue.)Then use a foot rest if needed to keep your feet flat on the floor. Unsupported legs put a lot of extra pressure on the spine, so allowing them to rest on the floor or a foot rest will go a long way to avoiding stress in your upper body.
How is your workstation? Have you had any issues that you were not able to address? We’d love to hear from you.
Other articles on this topic: What Is Technology Use Doing to Your Body?