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Getting the Most from Your Work Environment to Get the Most from You

Monday, November 22nd, 2004 by | Filed Under: Uncategorized

Getting the Most from Your Work Environment to Get the Most from You

At the end of the day, are you tired? Is your back sore? Eyes strained?

To work effectively and efficiently, you have to control many factors in your work area: the computer (including its peripherals), your chair, lighting, noise, temperature, and yourself. So let’s break them down one at a time.

The Computer:
Your screen (CRT, monitor, etc.) should be at a height that’s level with, or slightly lower than, your face. If you have to tilt your head upward at all, the tension in the neck and upper back region will soon become painful. And the pain could become serious and chronic if you use a computer daily for long periods of time. Also, consider these additional solutions:

  • The distance from eyes to screen should be at least 18 inches; however, this may vary a little depending on the size of your screen’s viewing area.
  • The screen tilt should match your eyes’ sight line.
  • Be sure your screen resolution is right for you. Also, do you really need to squeeze in all 50+ icons on your desktop? Consider changing the resolution (via the Control Panel) and removing program icons you rarely use.
  • A screen filter will help to reduce/eliminate glare, easing the strain on your eyes.
  • The color scheme you use for your system is also important. Experiment with available options in your Control Panel (Display). Make adjustments to the colors as well as font families, font size, scroll bar width, button size, etc.
  • Your screen’s refresh rate should be adjusted to meet the OEM’s recommendations. Make changes only if this is a problem.

Your mouse should be placed in a position so that it’s easy to reach. There should be enough room to maneuver that little rodent without having to lean one way or another.

Your keyboard must be positioned so that your wrists will be straight when typing. Your elbows should be bent at a 90 degree angle. This must be coordinated with the positioning of your chair.

The Chair:
A chair is not a chair is not a chair. Here are some pointers on properly positioning your chair.

  • Seat height should be adjusted so that your feet are flat on the floor and so there is little if any undo pressure on the back of your thighs.
  • The cushion should be firm yet comfortable.
  • The angle of the seat should be parallel to the floor. You shouldn’t have to counter by leaning forward or backward to maintain balance.
  • There should be a sufficient number of legs to maintain balance, preferably 4 (good) or 5 (better).

This can be a bear, as you most often will have to work with what’s available. Fluorescent lighting is best, if available. Lighting should be over your shoulder and above your head, but not directly behind you. And never have a light source originating from behind your screen.

Changing available lighting isn’t always practical whether at work or at home, but there are some solutions. You can change the position of your screen slightly (tilt and/or swivel), filter the light source, add a dimmer switch or add a secondary light source. Indirect lighting is best, where the light is bounced off a reflector and onto your screen. Eclipse (and others, I’m sure) makes such a light that is small, affordable and effective.

For many, this is considered to be a nuisance more than a problem. It includes any type of sound (voices, machinery, music, etc.). Studies have shown that the right type of noise can be helpful, while the wrong type can be distracting and even outright dangerous. Music should not be so low that you have to strain to hear it nor so high that it demands your attention. It’s better to use classical, easy listening or pop rather than heavy metal, punk rock, etc.; however, this is really individual preference and is more closely attuned to what you’re used to hearing.

Although we each have our own comfort zone, you shouldn’t work in a temperature that’s so warm that you perspire with little effort in a short period of time. If anything, you should feel slightly cool, but not cold. Also, there shouldn’t be any direct air currents, particularly around your face, not so much from a health standpoint, but it can be distracting.

This is the most critical, since you usually have more control here than with any other variable. So…

  • Sit up straight, and don’t slouch. (This is your Mother talking, in case you didn’t recognize my voice.) Correct body position will not only increase your efficiency physically (back strain) but also creatively (oxygen supply to the brain).
  • Wear comfortable clothing, including shoes. Shoes that pinch and clothing that binds don’t cut the mustard.
  • Finally, be lazy (if you’re a workaholic). Take frequent breaks to revitalize yourself physically (ease the strain), mentally (redirect your thinking patterns and subject matter) and emotionally (change is almost always good, even with a tight deadline).

If you take the time to adjust your work environment, you’ll gain time by working more efficiently. And you will have a clearer sense of purpose and a focused determination that will cut through all the grind of today’s cluttered life styles.

— Steve Henthorn is a Public Health Administrator, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of SPHERE Publishing House. He publishes Computer Corner(tm) and is the host of a weekly radio show by the same name.

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