How to sit easily at your computer
Many of us use a computer nowadays, and some people work at a keyboard for many hours per day. This isn’t what we were designed to do and it isn’t good for us!
You may find it useful to read the government guidelines on working safely with display screen equipment and I’ve placed a link at the end of the article. But let’s take a look at what you can do for yourself, right now.
Stop and think
Do you actually need to be at the computer? Are you simply browsing? Perhaps you could instead call somebody up while you move around. Maybe ‘sitting at the computer’ gives you the feeling you’re doing something useful when you’re not …
Having decided you need to be at your desk, check it’s tidy on top and below and that you have space. A cramped environment encourages you to be more tense and pulled in.
Ensure there’s no glare on the screen and that it’s clean. Computers generate heat, so make sure ventilation is good and you’re drinking enough water. Plants improve the air quality.
Watch your head
Your eyes should be roughly level with the top of the screen and your forearms horizontal with the desk and keyboard. You will deduce from this that laptops are far from ideal and should only be used on the move. When at home/in the office you are better off with a separate keyboard and monitor. This entails extra costs – but so does missing working days due to back pain!
Given that the weight of an average head is around 5 kg, what you do with it is important. It is designed to balance on top of the spine, helped by small muscles of which we remain largely unaware. A course of Alexander Technique lessons is the best way of learning to let these muscles do their job without undue interference.
However, it is clear that if you poke your head forward to peer at the screen you’re making things harder for yourself. If you need to lean forward it’s far more efficient to hinge at the hips.
Remember your feet
Both feet should be planted on the floor to support you. If you’re small you may need a footrest. If you find one foot wrapped around the other it’s a sure sign you’ve become too involved in what’s happening on screen and are forgetting to look after yourself. Allow your toes to release along with your fingers. If you’re not sure how to do that, pay attention to what your feet are noticing; if they’re very tight they won’t notice much!
Keep your touch soft
Computer keyboards are very responsive, so keep your keystrokes light. If your hands and forearms are aligned, there’ll be less tension in the wrists. If you’re getting pain, you need to find out why; an AT teacher will help you find out how well you’re using your hands and arms.
You need a break every half hour. Get up, go and put something away, or go and talk to somebody, and make sure you stay hydrated. If you drink plenty of water you’ll be forced to take bathroom breaks.
You need to inhibit the urge to plough on regardless; taking regular breaks will ensure you work efficiently.
If possible, have your screen next to a window so there is no reflective glare. Look out of the window from time to time; focussing on distant objects refreshes the eyes.
Wriggle and stretch
It’s fine to rock and roll on your chair. I enjoy sitting on a wobble cushion! If you don’t move you’ll most likely find you’ve become engrossed in your work, and have slipped from sitting in a nicely balanced way to being a bit of a banana.
After a session on the computer, take some time out for Active Rest, paying particular attention to releasing the muscles around your eyes. If you want to know more, contact me and I’ll send you an information sheet on Active Rest.
You're in charge
Here’s the link to the government guidelines.
So much of this is common sense. Remaining in the same position for hours on end makes you uncomfortable, a signal that it’s time to move. Most of us have to use computers, but don’t let them take over your life. Ensure you remain in charge of this amazingly useful tool.
Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash