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Five things you should know about healthy computing: Ergonomics

February 20th, 2008 by Carol L. Smith

edited by Courtney Hime, ITAP Communication Consultant
and Angie Smock, LIS Communication Specialist/Assistant Coordinator of ITAP

With everyone returning to campus, the hustle and bustle of DePauw is once again at full swing. Everyone is on the go and most likely glued to their computers. This means there are more chances they could be adding unnecessary physical stress to an already hectic life. Here are some suggestions that can help you lessen the strain on all areas of the body.

  1. Eyes. Position your monitor or laptop screen to avoid glare or reflections from overhead lighting, outside sources of light or even reflections off your own clothing. Consider turning off some overhead lights. Keep your display screen clean and set the contrast and brightness to levels that allow you to see it clearly.
  2. Arms. Keep your forearms, wrists and hands in a relaxed, neutral position. Keep your elbows close to your body as you type. Try an adjustable chair to help with height of the work surface. Though it’s not always possible, using an external mouse and keyboard will allow your arms to sit comfortably.
  3. Neck. Do your best to avoid straining your neck. Angle the screen so that it may be viewed without having to bend or rotate the neck. Maintain a comfortable viewing distance from the screen. Ideally, try to be 20 to 30 inches away from the screen. If you are using a desktop computer or external monitor with your laptop, adjust your chair or the monitor so the screen is at or slightly below eye level.
  4. Back. Use a chair that provides good lower back support. Use a pillow, rolled-up towel or other soft object against the back of your chair to assist in the support of the lower back. Not only will sitting up straight keep your posture in check, but it can also help keep you awake.
  5. Legs. As tempting as it is to curl up in a chair and work, it’s much healthier to keep your thighs parallel to the floor. Make this easier, by putting your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. It’s also important to get up and and move around periodically. A short walk around or stretch can help keep you awake and comfortable.

There are also other ways to reduce the amount of strain put on your body during a typical work week. If carrying your laptop across campus, try to minimize the weight. Do not carry extra peripheral devices; think about how you intend to use the laptop before you leave and then only carry the necessary items. And, if you take your laptop around often, consider investing in a backpack rather than a large purse or briefcase, to put an equal amount of weight on both shoulders. Being aware of your physical comfort and safety will help keep you healthier, happier and more productive.