When your job entails sitting down in front of a computer every day, it’s really easy to get lost in the screen for hours and not consider how you’re sitting, we know, we’ve been there! Although we usually write about the technology you’re looking at and working with, we thought we’d take a step back and have a look at the best practices for desk work, to help you save your back and eyes. This is especially important now when home working is on the rise. You might think sitting at the dining room table is fine, but if you’ve been doing it for a while you might find some aches creeping in and no one wants that!
What are the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992?
Despite a name so long you might consider a short nap while reading it, these regulations are incredibly important. They apply to all workers who use DSE (Display Screen Equipment) for an hour or more a day as part of their job role. DSE includes laptops, PCs, smartphones and tablets.
Move around a bit
Firstly, before we talk about setup. Stand up, stretch, relax your shoulders down and wiggle your head from side to side. There, does that feel a bit better? According to gov.uk “Breaking up long spells of DSE work helps prevent fatigue, eye strain, upper limb problems, and backache.” You might feel grumbly at the prospect of moving, but if you’ve been sat hunched over a screen for a while then a quick stretch and walk around is a great idea.
An adjustable desk
If you’re in front of a screen for your entire workday, whether you’re at home or in the office, have you considered asking about an adjustable desk? This will allow you to vary your work positions over the course of the day, going from sitting to standing whenever you feel the need to. Switching up your positions will help stop pressure being exerted on to the same joints all the time.
These can be expensive, and although they’re worth the investment if they’re used all the time, if you’re working from home and you feel the need to stand you could always raise your laptop up so the screen is at your eye level when standing. Your setup might not look pretty, but your back will absolutely thank you for it!
This isn’t just finger-wagging, either.
A 2014 study of businessmen in Minneapolis set out to work out whether the installation of sit-stand desks could lead to decreased sitting time amongst sedentary office workers. It was a huge success, with the primary outcome being physical activity, with sitting during the workday across participants being reduced by 21%. Participants also reported an increase in mood, energy level, and productivity, while decreases in fatigue, appetite, dietary intake and productivity were also reported and explored. You can’t argue with science!
James Levine, inventor of the treadmill desk (don’t worry, we’re not going to say you should start running on Teams meetings!) conducted a study that involved adding 1000 calories per day to the diets of office workers, and they were asked not to change any other habits. Some of the subjects gained weight, while others didn’t. Using sensors, Levine and his team determined that those who didn’t put on weight sat much less during the day than their colleagues.
In terms of sitting, here are a few pointers from hse.gov.uk. You can see the full list of guidance here.
- Horizontal forearms and the top of screens should be the same height as the users’ eyes
- Equipment should be arranged to avoid bright reflections, and glare – so not facing windows or bright lights
- Space under the desk so legs are able to move freely
- A footrest may be useful for smaller users.
Although this guidance is aimed at employers, it’s also a useful thing to take a look at if you’re evaluating a workstation at home. Including the positioning of your screen, keyboard, and mouse.
While it’s not a service we offer, we see a lot of poorly set up workstations in this line of work, and they can really make a big difference to the health of DSE users – it’s well worth not writing it off as “health and safety gone mad” and instead of taking a few minutes to adjust your workstations to ensure they’re as comfortable as possible. And don’t forget to stretch!