Week 3 – Space Management: Ergonomics – Using Your Computer Safely (Originally Published on GetConnected.com)


Clare Kumar About Ergonomic Best Practices While At Your Desk – Photo Courtesy of GetConnected.com

Clare Kumar - October 2, 2010

By Clare Kumar

Just as it is critical to have a supportive chair and a work surface at the correct height, it is essential to know how to use a computer correctly to avoid serious repetitive strain injuries.

The following suggestions should be considered no matter what kind of computer you’re using.

1. The Keyboard

Make sure that when using the keyboard your wrists are flat to avoid pinching the nerves in the wrist. Often keyboards are raised at the back to produce an incline similar to typewriters. This is not helpful and can create wrist strain. Support hands while not typing with a gel wrist rest.

Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle to reduce strain.

If you use a mouse on the right-hand side, consider a keyboard with a detachable number pad to allow for closer placement of the mouse. You should never have to reach to use your mouse.

2. The Mouse

Speaking of the mouse, find one that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand and requires gentle pressure to operate. The asymmetrical mouse allows you to interchange hands (a great idea) or shares use of the mouse with others.

Your forearm should be supported by an armrest or support. Wrist rests may be employed to provide a soft resting place for the hand when not mousing. The heel of the hand is best placed on the rest.

A scroll wheel helps avoid repetitive clicking when moving up or down a page.

Mousepads work! They help the mouse move more smoothly and reduce the number of movements. If you do one thing right away, get yourself a mouse pad.

Learn software shortcuts to reduce dependence on the mouse for repeated actions. Consider wireless devices to help reduce visual noise in the workspace.

3. The Monitor

Position your monitor in front of you so the top is at about eye level to reduce neck strain. Keep it at a comfortable distance for reading to avoid eye fatigue. Control light sources to avoid creating glare. Use the bright/dimmer controls when necessary to maximize comfort, and increase the font size rather than leaning forward to read.

4. What About a Laptop?

Laptops are fantastic for short periods however their compact nature has been achieved only by seriously compromising ergonomics. For periods of lengthy use, you must create the healthy ergonomic conditions outlined above.

Add a separate keyboard and mouse. If your screen is an adequate size, prop the laptop up on a desktop stand so that the monitor is at a comfortable height. If not, add a separate monitor. I use both my 15” laptop and a monitor on my desk and benefit from the ability to have two screens open at any time. A monitor arm allows me to swing the monitor out of the way when I’m not using it.

If you’re not sure of your posture while using the computer, have someone take a photo of you. Compare it to an image of correct posture such as the one found in this photo. What adjustments do you need to make?

Coming up next in the series: Space Management: Ergonomics – Best Practices

Disclaimer – For information and reference purposes only and not intended as legal or professional advice. The adoption of the practices described may not meet the needs, requirements or obligations of individual workplaces.

ACCO BRANDS CANADA is proud to sponsor this 10 week series on organizing your workspace leading up to ORGANIZE YOUR DESK DAY on October 21, 2010. Get the tools you need to get organized from world-class brands such as Swingline, Quartet, Day-Timer, GBC, Kensington, and Wilson Jones. Clare Kumar, founder and Chief Organizer at Streamlife, an organizing company, will take you on a practical and inspiring journey from chaos and clutter to productivity and peace of mind.

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