With the increase of time in front of a computer now averaging nine hours per day for the average Australian, the impact of posture and desk ergonomics are greatly impacting our comfort and quality of life. This means that most people are spending more time in front of a computer than they are sleeping. When this is coupled with the fact that 1 in 3 Australians are using a mobile device (resulting in over 20 billion texts being sent per year), device-related back pain is a thing of the present... and unfortunately, the future. Now while we can’t prepare for every situation we are in when using a mobile device, we can prepare the computer desk environment as well as possible.
So the real question is…
What do I need - and how should I set it up - to make my work station as effective as possible, in order to decrease its impact on my work, home, and general life?
- Try many chairs and make sure you sit in them as COMFORT is important.
- ARMRESTS must be capable of allowing elbows to rest on them comfortably without causing shoulders to be elevated near ears or low that it causes you to slouch. Armrests need to be small enough that you can reach your keyboard on your desk while still having elbows at your side.
- BACKREST - preferably to shoulder height, and preferably with lumbar adjustment. If no low back adjustment is available then you must test the seat to ensure it gives you enough support.
- HEIGHT ADJUSTABLE. The chair must be height adjustable or specifically suited to your desk/work station. The chair must be capable of being high enough that, with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and at your side, you can reach your keyboard.
- The BASE of the seat needs to be small enough that even when you are as far back in your seat as possible, your knees are not touching the front of the base of the seat. This is due to subconscious slouching that occurs as your body is not used to pressure behind your knees and will cause you to slide forward on the base.
- FOOT REST if the desk is higher than required and feet cannot touch the ground then a foot rest is a good idea as it prevents slouching by ensuring low back is kept in contact with the back of the chair.
- Two thirds of the screen must be situated ABOVE EYE LEVEL with one third below eye level. This prevents you from looking down for extended periods which will increase cervical flexion ( faulty spine movements).
- If possible, have the screen directly in front of the seat. If using more than one screen, then ensure the screens are of EQUAL DISTANCE to either side of the point directly in front and ensure they are as close together as possible
KEYBOARD AND MOUSE:
- The keyboard and mouse need to be EASILY ACCESSIBLE without having to move your elbows away from the side of your body.
- If possible, ensure the keyboard and mouse are on EQUAL LEVEL TO YOUR ARMRESTS and don’t require you to bring your arms above elbow height in order to reach them, as this can cause irritation through the carpal tunnel.
- Document holders greatly help in the prevention of having to constantly look down. If possible, have the document holder so that the document is at the SAME HEIGHT as the screens of the computer. This will prevent fatigue in both the neck and eyes as it decreases the amount of rotation through the neck and changes in visual focus.
- If a lot of phone conversations need to occur in your job, then a HEADSET is of vital importance. This allows you to talk and type at the same time, but also prevents you from extended periods with your neck bent to the side in order to hold the phone in place.
Correct desk set up is one proven method that will decrease the $1 billion cost facing Australians from neck and back pain, and consequently the $8 billion cost as a result of lost productivity and disability that this also causes.
- Medibank. (2014). Is it time to unplug? Community views on the health impact of screen time. Sydney: Medibank.
- The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. (2013). Health effects of using portable electronic devices studied. Hong Kong.
- ACMA. (2013). Communications report 2012–13. Canberra: ACMA.