Are you working from home or using your laptop more to keep in touch? The chances are you won’t have the perfect set up and are competing for space with the rest of your household. Perhaps you’re sitting with your laptop at the kitchen table, or maybe you’re comfortable in bed with your laptop propped up on your knees and a cup of tea in your hand.
Chances are that unless your set-up is ergonomically sound, you’ll eventually end up with backache, a sore neck, a headache and even eyestrain. To avoid these problems, we need to make sure your environment is set up in a way that relieves strain on the body if you are spending more time on your laptop.
Let’s start with the base
If you’re in bed, get up and find a flat surface to rest your laptop on – a table, desk or a kitchen worktop – you could even use garden furniture. Ideally, you’ll have all the equipment you need: keyboard, mouse, mouse mat and that important cup of tea (out of knocking over reach!). You should be able to get your chair and knees comfortably under the table.
Your mouse and keyboard should be positioned closely together with your keyboard centered on your desk. Your keyboard and mouse should be arranged at a height where your elbows are bent at around 90 degrees, therefore relieving pressure on your wrists when you type.
Get the screen right
Setting up your monitor or screen at the right height and angle can prevent a very sore neck. Everyone naturally assumes a downward gaze, so if you look directly forward without bending your neck your line of sight should fall in the top third of your screen. If you are using a laptop, raise it up when you are reading.
Looking at objects at too close a distance can cause eyestrain, so a viewing range of 40-70cm or 15-27 inches suits most people. It is better to increase font size rather than get too close to the screen. If your screen is too low, those old catalogues or directories make a useful stand.
Find a supportive chair
So, what should you be looking for in a comfy chair? It should be well cushioned: sitting on a hard kitchen chair is ok for a while but will inevitably give you a sore behind after not too long. An office chair will give you adjustability in seat height, back rest and arm rest. If you have one, that’s great, if you don’t you could use cushions and folded up towels to improve your comfort and posture.
What you’re aiming for:
A seat height to suit your height or the height of your desk or table.
It should be set at a height whereby your thighs are parallel to the floor and your feet flat. Create a footrest if your feet do not touch the floor.
Arms at a healthy resting place and allowing your shoulders to relax and elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Roll up a small towel to make a makeshift arm rest if you need to.
A supported lumbar spine to reduce your likelihood of slouching.
Wherever you are using your laptop or PC, remember to get up and move around. Basic stretching and wrist and shoulder rotations can really help reduce the build-up of muscular tension.
Now Skype that friend with a nice cup of tea to hand!