How to Work Comfortably on Your Computer
If you and your computer are inseparable and you spend most of your time being close to it, then you would be all too familiar with the consequent aches and pains that arise from constant computer use. Far too many people get afflicted by carpal tunnel syndrome and other debilitating problems than necessary. One of the reasons for it is that people don't bother much about what kind of computer desk they use or the kind of keyboard, chair or mouse they use. They just make do with what is available. So, if a table has been lying around unused, that is thought of as good enough to serve as a computer desk. We don't bother to think about the long-term effects and consequences of that decision. Another reason for making such compromises is the cost factor. However, such compromises can prove costly and you may end up paying much more in terms of health-related expenses, arising from computer usage ailments, than you thought you had saved.
Ideally, you should be in a situation where you are working on an ergonomic workstation that has been customized to your requirements. In addition to that, you should look at getting ergonomic keyboards, mouse, chair, mouse pad, etc. On the face of it, all of this might seem like unnecessary spending, but ask any user of these items and they'd tell you how much it has helped them reduce the constant pain and stress they've had to endure prior to going ergonomic. So, what are the things you can do to make your computer sessions comfortable and healthy for your body?
Steps Towards Ergonomic & Healthy Computer Usage
The Computer Desk or Workstation
The first thing to consider is the type of computer desk that you should ideally have. When it comes to computer desks, no one size can fit all. People come in varying sizes and shapes and hence it helps if you have a customizable computer desk that can be adjusted to your best requirements. The height of the desk from the floor is critical. Too high and it can lead to bad shoulder and neck pains and aches. Too low and it could put undue stress on your back and neck. If, however, you don't have such a desk, then you can either buy a new one or make some adjustments to your existing desk. A good way to raise the height of your desk is to place some boards or something durable that can sustain the weight of the desk and be stable. On the other hand, if you want to lower the desk, then you'd probably have to do some trimming by sawing off a few inches from the base of the desk. You know the desk is at the right height for you when you don't have to raise your shoulders too much (when you reach for the keyboard) or rest your forearms on the desk. Also, your knees should have the space to fit in comfortably and shouldn't be brushing against the desk. If that is the case, then probably your desk is too short.
The Chair - An Ergonomic Chair is a Good Idea
The second thing to pay attention to is the chair. A chair that has an adjustable height/angle/arm rest/tilt/seat glide mechanism is best. The ideal sitting position is one where your feet are resting flat on the ground and are at an angle of 90 degrees or greater. Make sure the flat part of the seat is comfortably positioned; if not, you can tilt it to the appropriate settings you feel most comfortable with. Similarly, make sure the back rest is raised or lowered to your desired comfort level. A comfortable chair makes a huge difference and you won't appreciate the difference until you've really experienced it for yourself. Have a look at the chair you are sitting on right now and judge for yourself if that's the ideal chair for you. Chances are if you are having bad back pains and aches, your chair could be the culprit.
The Monitor - Ways To Avoid Glare
The third thing to pay attention to is your monitor. The ideal distance between the monitor and your eyes should be around 2 feet, the farther the better. If the font appears too small, you can always magnify the font to 150%. One of the frequent complaints of computer users is that of glare and the resultant eye strain. The best way to get rid of the glare is to ensure that there are no light sources behind or in front of the monitor. Many computer users just don't realize this or even if they do, they just chose to ignore it. Try to fix the problem and see how much of a difference this can make to your eye strain. Of course, if this doesn't rectify the problem, you can always get a glare filter for your monitor as well.
The Keyboard & Mouse - Go Ergonomic
Another important thing to note is keyboard positioning. Ideally, the keyboard should be low so that your wrists are straight and not in a position that they have to support the weight of your hands. Consider getting one of those ergonomic keyboards in addition. They really do work! They may require a bit of getting used to, but you'd eventually get the hang of it. Another important thing to watch for is the positioning of your mouse/mouse pad. Keep it in a location where you can reach it easily without having to stretch. It should not be at an elevation or at a distance that requires your arms to have to be stretched. As with the keyboard, while using the mouse, avoid having to rest your wrist on the surface, rather try to use the mouse by touching the top of the mouse and hovering it, rather than rest your wrist on the desk and move the mouse.
Tips for a More Comfortable Computer Experience
Take a 2-minute break every 20 minutes by walking away from your PC.
Stretch and walk a bit during this 2-minute break.
Try playing around with the background colors and/or font and see if there is a color combination that suits your eye the most.
In the midst of a long session, look away from your computer screen and focus on a distant object. Do so every 20-30 minutes.
Reduce the usage of mouse by learning keyboard shortcuts. I've listed some shortcuts that can be used while using Microsoft Word in this article. In addition, you can also learn some of the Windows shortcuts to minimize mouse usage.
Here's hoping that you have a more relaxed and comfortable PC experience. Stay healthy!