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Tech Talk: Are you sitting comfortably?

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All but essential workers are in self-isolation at home where another danger lurks.

New Zealand is currently at COVID-19 Alert Level 4. Only businesses that are essential may remain open during the Level 4 Alert period. Non-essential businesses may still work, as long as this is from home. Most, but not all, businesses can start to open under Alert Level 3. They must take health measures to keep their workers safe. Workers must work from home if they can.

Physical discomfort, pain, or injury can result from incorrect workstation setups, warns the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) in Guidelines for using computers. Other risks include visual discomfort, stress and fatigue.

Good workstation set up is the key to avoiding these dangers.

Good lighting is crucial. Ensure that the monitor is not placed in front of a window or a bright background. Also, look out for glare from behind you reflected in your monitor. This can cause fatigue and headaches.

The top of your computer’s screen should be level with your eyes and at arm’s length away from you. If you have a laptop this means either placing it on a stand or plugging it into an external monitor. Otherwise, a TV screen could work too, providing you have the right cables.

If you have a laptop you may need an external keyboard and mouse so that you can move the screen far enough away to avoid overreaching with your fingers, hands and arms. Your arms should be relaxed by your sides. Your elbows should be at or just above your keyboard. Wrists should be in a neutral position. While sitting at a desk, a person’s knees, hips and elbows should each be resting at 90 degrees.

Keyboards should be directly in front of you with the centre of the keyboard aligned to the middle of your body so that you don’t need to frequently turn your head and neck.

Mice must be placed either to the left or right depending on whether you are left or right-handed and as close to the keyboard as possible.

Have your chair as close as possible to your work desk. This will help you avoid leaning and reaching.

Good office chairs have lumbar support. If you don’t have access to one of these at home try adding a cushion or pillow to support your lower back. Try not to slouch. Avoid sitting in a way that places body weight more on one side than the other.

You might also like to stand and work. Adjustable desks are the order of the day here, but if you don’t have one perhaps your breakfast bar will do.

It’s easy to get engrossed in your work, but remember to take regular breaks from your desk and screen. This might mean taking a phone call in the garden.

If you’re caring for children while you work you might be tempted to take the afternoon off and work later when the kids are in bed. Avoid working into the wee hours, if you can, as the blue light from the computer and television screen keeps the brain pumping up to an hour after you switch it off. This makes it difficult to sleep. Most computers and smartphones these days have settings that dial-back the blue light.

Assess your workstation on a regular basis as bad habits can easily sneak in.

Look after yourself and stay safe.

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About Author

David Hallett

David Hallett is a co-founder and director of Hamilton software specialist Company-X.