Judy Nollet
White Plume Communications

writer, instructional designer, eLearning developer

Comfort Factors for the Desk Set

If you're asked to name a physically taxing job, what comes to mind? Does working at a computer make your list? It should.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that "the fingers of a typist may exert up to 25 tons of force each day." And what happens to the rest of you while you're sitting at your desk? According to the University of Virginia's Ergonomics Program, your muscles actually fatigue more easily when you don't move, and your "circulation will decrease, you will become uncomfortable and the task will become more difficult."

Obviously, comfort isn't just about being comfortable. It's also about being able to do your job. With that in mind, here are some tips for the desk set.

The Seat of Control

The seat position, chair height, and the armrest affect your posture, which, in turn, affects your comfort. Each of those factors should be set to accommodate your body; one size does not fit all. Here's what you should notice when sitting in a correctly adjusted chair:

  • Your trunk is perpendicular to the floor.
  • Your forearms are parallel to the floor.
  • Your knees are slightly higher than the seat of the chair.
  • Your feet can rest on the floor or on a footrest.

A Real Desktop for Your Virtual One

Your chair supports you, but you also need something to support your monitor and keyboard. Desk height should keep your arms parallel to the floor as you type. Also, the top line of your monitor should be no higher than eye level.

The preferred monitor distance is 18 to 24 inches from your eyes. If necessary (and possible), consider pulling your desk away from the wall so you can push the monitor farther back on the desk.

The Keys to Comfort

Properly positioning your mouse and keyboard can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, according to OSHA.

Your computer probably came with an extended keyboard. Consider adding a platform that can rotate over the numeric keypad so you don't have to extend your arm when mousing with your right hand.

Ergonomic keyboards are available to help keep your wrists in comfortable positions. These keyboards can take a while to get used to, but if you type a lot and are prone to wrist and/or arm pain, that could be time well spent.

Minor Adjustments

Here are some items for fine-tuning your comfort level.

  • A document holder can keep papers at the same distance as your monitor.
  • A phone headset lets you comfortably type while talking on the phone.
  • Proper lighting illuminates your work space without reflecting off your monitor.
  • A screen filter helps reduce glare on your monitor.
  • If you use bifocals, single-prescription glasses optimized for 18 to 24 inches let you focus on your monitor without tilting your neck.

The Comfortable Bottom Line

Remember: a comfortable office protects your bottom—and it also protects your bottom line!

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Copyright Judy Nollet, White Plume Communications. 
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