Monday, August 29, 2016

Screens, posture and eyes

Screen based work has subtle effects on our health.

Firstly, computer-related eye fatigue affects just under 50% of Australian office workers (ComCare 2012 p.5).

Secondly, how we sit or stand while viewing the screen has implications for health.

Here I outline common problems, offer three strategies to try, and provide further sources of help.

Do you have a problem? 

Consider if one of these applies to you:

  • you crane forward as you focus on the work
  • you slump and pull your head back to see the screen
  • you become rigid in your arms, chest, neck and jaw with the effort to focus on the screen.

1. Set up your screen 

Aim to look down towards the centre of the screen. This allows the head to be poised on top of the neck. Worksafe (2011 p.42) recommend that the top of the screen be about level with your eyes, and that you sit about a full arm length away from the screen.

This is difficult with portable devices, but Worksafe (2011 p.42) has a series of very useful suggestions for using a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.

2. Ease back and up 

How has your posture changed as you read this email? Are you subtly drawing back from the screen. Good!

Pivoting back and forth on your sitting bones can help you find length in your torso. Aim for poise and balance rather than a fixed posture.

Can you sit and view the screen as effortlessly as the young people in this image? (note forearms should not slope upwards towards the keyboard).

3. Look beyond the screen 

When you take a break or turn on the computer, sit for a moment. Ask if your hands, arms and shoulders can soften. Ask if your neck is easy.

Now be present in the whole room, just as if you were soaking up the sun and breeze at the beach.

Questions to consider

  • What can you see using your peripheral vision, beyond and alongside the computer?
  • Can you picture the wall, door, window, desk or shelves that are behind you?
  • How high is the ceiling? Think gently about lengthening into the space above you.
It may help to imagine travelling along this road, as though the centre of your computer screen is just above the word 'vision'. Think in 3D - ahead, to the sides and the road behind. 

I can help with deep habits 

The tips above are based on helping other people at their office desk, as well as my own personal experience.

These tips may get you started. They are unlikely alone to help you easily break postural habits that are unhelpful but deeply held.

Alexander Technique lessons can quickly help the 'undoing', get you on the right track, and allow you much more comfort during the hours you face the screen.

Please email me or ring. Price for a package of six lessons is $300. Concessions available. Duration is usually 40-50 minutes.

Even better, talk to me about assisting you and others at your workplace.
I have an evidence-based presentation to show HR and section managers, and health & safety representatives.

More information

My blogposts that may help you:
Comcare (2012) Eye health in the workplace - a guide for PCBUs and workers, Commonwealth of Australia. Includes advice for, and obligations of, both employers and workers (available online).

OHS Reps is a great source of information in Victoria. Scroll down for lots of information including : Screen placement; Lighting for VDUs; and Glare and reflection.

Worksafe (2011) Officewise - A Guide To Health And Safety In The Office provides an important set of guidelines.