People who use computers for work spend most of their time sitting and staring at the screen, either at the office or doing remote work. During the pandemic, people working from home even tend to extend their work hours. According to the University of Washington’s The Whole U, an office worker sits for an average of 15 hours daily.
Sitting for long hours daily is linked with a higher risk of developing 34 chronic diseases which include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Among inactive women, sitting for more than six hours a day leads to a 94 percent higher risk of death. Among inactive men, sitting for more than six hours a day leads to a 48 percent higher risk of death.
An important fact highlighted by the university is that working out afterward cannot undo the damage done by prolonged sitting. The period spent sitting must be broken up into shorter segments and interspersed with physical activity. For instance, stand up and walk around or do stretches and simple calisthenics for 10 minutes every hour. Alternatively, invest in a desk that can be adjusted to become a standing desk and alternate between sitting and standing every hour. Set an alarm to remind yourself to do these things.
During those times spent seated at the desk, it is crucial to ensure that the body, chair, and desk are ergonomically aligned. Princeton University’s University Health Services (UHS) states that the chair’s height must allow the user’s feet to rest flat on the floor with the thighs parallel to the floor, hips bent at 90 degrees, and the knees at the level of the hips. If the chair is too high and is not adjustable, a footrest can be used.
The back of the chair must support the spine in a neutral upright position. If the chair does not have support for the small of the back, a small tubular pillow or a rolled towel can be placed there. When sitting, ensure that the shoulders are not slouched. If these precautions are not followed, there is a high risk of developing chronic back pain.
When typing on the keyboard, the wrist must be aligned with the back of the hand and the forearm. The arms must move to allow the fingers to tap the keys. This minimizes strain on the wrist that could lead to repetitive strain injuries (RSI) such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. This is characterized by tingling, numbness, or pain in the hand, wrist, forearm, or elbow, and inability to grasp objects. Those who already have RSI will be better off using a trackpad instead of a mouse.
While seated, it is helpful to prevent muscle tension by doing some exercises every few minutes. Shaking the hands like whisking off the water will release tension in the fingers and wrists. Bend and stretch the elbows. Rotate the head. Roll the shoulders. These also help fight off fatigue.
Princeton’s UHS also emphasizes that staring at the computer for three hours or more at a time causes eyestrain. This leads to eye fatigue, dry eyes, a feeling of having grit in the eyes, blurry vision, headaches, and increased nearsightedness or myopia. If a person already has myopia, this must be addressed with the use of the proper eyeglasses or getting innovative LASIK eye surgery. Even after that, though, proper precautions must still be observed during screen time to prevent the deterioration of eyesight.
First, reduce screen time to a maximum of three hours at a time. Have adequate breaks to rest the eyes. It is beneficial to look at a distance during such breaks. Go outside to look at the sky or look out a window.
Ensure that the top of the monitor is at the same level as your eyes and the screen is 18 to 30 inches away and directly facing you. Your eyes will then be in their natural position of looking ahead and slightly downward. The distance will ensure that your eyes are far enough from the particles emitted by the electrostatic field. Treating the screen with anti-static spray daily will also reduce such emissions.
Screen glare must be avoided by ensuring that the area is dim and softly lit. Cover windows with vertical blinds and ensure that tabletops and walls are non-reflective. Set the monitor to the proper brightness and contrast. Choose monitors that have eye safety features.
Another vital element that is often sacrificed during work hours is nutrition. People who sit before the computer all day are prone to forgetting meals or do not get to eat on time. On the other hand, some keep munching on unhealthy snacks while working. All of these are unhealthy habits.
Prepare healthy meals before work hours so that these are well-thought-out, nutritious, and tasty. Set an alarm for meal breaks and eat on time. Prepare healthy snacks such as slices of fruits and vegetables. These will also keep energy up without a sudden crash.
With mindful preparations, work can be set up to be healthy. After all, people are meant to work to live well.