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A properly designed workspace is an important component of well-being at work; some simple things can make a big difference.

If you are like many people who spend hours each day hunched over a keyboard and in front of a computer screen, then office ergonomics is an important issue for you. Sitting at a desk all day puts pressure on your back, neck and shoulders. A properly designed work space is the key to preventing many musculoskeletal disorders. Here is some simple advice on how to improve the ergonomics of your work station:

Chair set-up

A chair that is adjusted properly helps you maintain good posture, which helps reduce the amount of strain on your back. Take a moment to adjust your seat to suit your height:

  • Lower back (lumbar) support and cushioning - adjust to your comfort level.
  • Backrest angle - approximately 90o.
  • Seat height and angle – relative to the desk height and your leg length – the desk should be at waist/navel height, your knees should be parallel with your hips, and your feet should rest comfortable on the floor.

Work Station set-up

  • For the optimal set-up of your work station, frequently used items should be easily visible and within a 45o radius to minimize any twisting movements of your back; they should be within arms-reach, so there is no need for your back to leave the chair.
  • Position your monitor directly in front of you approximately arms length from your eyes.
  • Keep the top of your screen at eye level or slightly below, so that you look down slightly at your work.
  • Position your keyboard directly in front of your monitor; if you place it at an angle or the side, your eyes have to focus at different distances, which is tiring.
  • Place documents on a document holder beside your monitor at the same level, angle and distance as the monitor to prevent your eyes from constantly having to readjust focus.

Computer Screen set-up

Making some minor changes to your monitor can greatly reduce eyestrain:

  • Adjust the brightness of your screen and keep it clean and free of dust.
  • Enlarge the image or documents on your screen to make them easier to read.
  • Where possible position your monitor on your workstation to reduce reflections from lights or windows.
  • To test for glare, sit at your desk with the monitor turned off; this allows you to see the reflected light and images you don't normally see when the monitor is on. Adjust the source of glare if possible, or move the monitor accordingly. Tilting the screen down slightly often helps.

Reducing Eyestrain

Eyestrain is a common sign of prolonged computer use, which may manifest itself in many ways:

  • sore, tired, dry and itchy eyes,
  • blurred or double vision,
  • headache and sore neck,
  • difficulty shifting focus between monitor and paper documents,
  • increased sensitivity to light.

To give the eyes a much-needed rest, follow this simple advice:

  • Rest your eyes frequently during the day by closing them for 5 seconds.
  • Throughout the day, force your eyes to focus on something other than your screen for a few seconds.
  • Give the eyes a five-minute break from the screen at least once every hour – stand up, move around, or do non-computer work during this period.
  • Make a conscious effort to blink more - many people blink less than normal when working at a computer, resulting in dry eyes. Blinking helps moisten and lubricate the eyes.

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