Search other articles
Is your workstation healthy?
Is your workstation healthy?
Computers make us more productive and efficient, but sitting in front of a screen all day long has a negative side, too. BeWell discusses this issue with Jeff Melton, Information Systems Manager for the Stanford Prevention Research Center.
Q: Jeff, what is the downside of spending more and more time in front of our computers?
A: The list of potential negatives is quite long: eye strain, repetitive injuries (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome), other body aches from sitting with poor posture, bad eating habits (grabbing “munchies” at our desk instead of leaving the computer station for a proper meal), and overall fatigue.
Q: What if a job demands a high level of computer use?
A: Try to prioritize what you do on the computer to allow for breaks, such as when the computer is performing an automated task. Batch some of the automated jobs so you can take a longer break from time to time.
As Jane Rothstein (Coordinator of HIP Environmental Behavior Change) has pointed out (see the BeWell article, “Less is More”), the computer screen is hypnotic, and it is easy to almost enter a trance while sitting there. Hours may go by before you realize your body needs a break. This is especially true if you are surfing the web, and clicking on links. Much of this can be helped by regular breaks away from the screen. Ideally, these breaks would include some physical movement (like walking or stretching) or time outdoors. Listening to music or meditating briefly (even for 10 minutes) also helps.
Q: Are there common mistakes I can avoid?
A: In addition to the aforementioned tendency to stay in front of the computer screen for too long of a stretch without a break (“trying to pound out the work just to get it done”), reconsider the chair you’re sitting in: does it give you the lumbar support you need, and is it the right height? Could you work better with a different keyboard tray, keyboard, mouse, and monitor/LCD size? Lastly, take a look at the bigger picture of where you’re working; is the area as conducive to the work you need to do as it could be? What might you change about the lighting, or your eyewear, to reduce eye strain?
Q: What is the most surprising thing you have learned over your career?
A: There is no one solution, you need to find what works for you and apply it. For individuals who work on a help desk, it’s extremely hard to get away from the desk because you are required to be there during certain hours. However, consider:
- wireless headsets
- a more comfortable chair
- a keyboard, mouse, and monitor that specifically work for you and your body type
- an atmosphere around you that allows you to work at your full potential.
Think your workstation could be improved? Free ergonomic workstation assistance is available through Environmental Health & Safety. Learn more.
Interview conducted by Julie Croteau and edited by Lane McKenna.