You sit at your computer for eight
hours a day, staring at the monitor and making the same tiny finger motions over
and over. Your files are electronic, so you don’t even get up to go to a
filing cabinet. After a full day of this, you’re tired – and maybe even
work with computers have reported a variety of problems that can be related to
work habits, work station design or job design, according to the U.S. Department
of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These
complaints include fatigue, eyestrain and irritation, blurred vision, headaches
and pains in the neck, back, arm and muscles.
have to happen. Although the way you work in an office can put a strain on your
body, there are things you can do to be more comfortable and to help prevent
Your Work Habits
Here are some basic tips,
adapted from OSHA and other sources:
- Take periodic breaks. The National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends a 10-minute rest after two
hours of continuous computer use, or a 15-minute rest every hour for work
that is repetitive or makes intense demands on your eyes. If possible, get
up from your desk and walk around.
- In between these breaks, give your eyes a chance to
rest by occasionally looking away from the computer screen and focusing on
an object at least 20 feet (about 6 meters) away.
- Whenever you can, alternate tasks that use the
computer with those that do not. For example, after a long session at the
keyboard, make a phone call or go pick up your mail.
- Sit up straight in your chair. Good posture keeps your
body in the proper alignment to reduce muscle strain.
Your Work Environment
The design of your workstation
and the surrounding office can make a difference in your comfort and perhaps
reduce injuries. Here are some suggestions from OSHA on proper design for the
Lighting and glare:
- If possible, lighting for computer use should be
indirect and not too bright. If, direct, overhead lighting is used,
light-diffusing slats or louvers on the fixtures can help to reduce glare.
- Workstations should be arranged to reduce glare.
Ideally, your computer screen should be at right angles to windows or other
light, so you do not have to face the light or see it reflected in the
- Blinds, shades or curtains should be used on windows
located less than 20 feet (6 meters) from a computer terminal.
- Glare filters can be attached to the computer screen.
These should be used as a last resort because they can make it harder to
read text on the screen.
- Chairs, computer monitors and desks or other work
surfaces should be adjustable to ensure maximum comfort.
- The work area should have adequate space for the task
and for the individual, including enough room to stretch out the legs
Simple adjustments to your
chair, your monitor and other equipment also can help. OSHA suggests these
- Adjust the height of the chair so your foot can rest
flat on the floor or a footrest and so the backs of your knees are slightly
higher than the chair seat.
- Adjust the angle of the chair back and chair so your
entire back has firm support and your weight is evenly distributed.
- Make sure the armrests are low and short enough to fit
under work surfaces. This allows you to get close enough to the computer.
- Adjust the height and angle of the monitor and your
computer desk or table so you can look straight ahead or slightly down into
the computer screen. The top of the screen should be no higher than eye
level and you should not have to tilt your head backward.
- Sit so that the distance between your eyes and the
monitor is about 18 to 30 inches.
- Use the brightness and contrast controls to make sure
you can read the screen clearly and with a minimum of glare.
- Adjust the height of the computer table or other
surface where the keyboard sits to make sure you can work with a minimum of
strain. Your forearms should be parallel to the floor, with elbows at your
- Use a keyboard extender or tray, if necessary, to
ensure the proper keyboard height and appropriate distance from the monitor.
- Align your wrists and forearms. The wrists should be
straight, not tilted up or down. A padded wrist rest can help you to
maintain this position.
- Your forearm, wrist and hand should be straight when
using the mouse. Your arm should stay close to the body. You should not have
to extend or elevate your arm to use the mouse.
- Try a padded mouse rest if this helps you to maintain
- If you will be typing or entering data from a
document, use a document holder – either freestanding or attached to the
monitor. It should be set at eye level, the same distance from your eye as
the monitor, to avoid constant changes in focus or neck strain.
- If you often talk on the telephone while typing or
doing other tasks with your hands, use a telephone headset to minimize neck