From your sofa to the coffee table or the kitchen worktop, there are numerous places you may have found yourself working since the Covid 19 pandemic- some more ideal than others.
In April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home. Of those 86% did so as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With many companies now having a large proportion of their workforce working from home, employees are having to adapt quickly to this change, raising potential issues of compliance with the DSE regulations. Appropriate DSE training has never been so important for people in employment, or for that matter, anyone who uses a screen anywhere.
So, what can you do?
1. View your computer screen with a straight neck.
Position your screen in front of you at a comfortable viewing height. You shouldn’t be looking down at your screen, such as to a laptop on a table or to your phone. Make sure you don’t angle your screen so that it results in you twisting your neck– many people choose to put their keyboard and mouse in front of them with their screen off to the side but end up dealing with neck pain from the swivelling. If you have a desktop screen or if you are using a laptop, try to balance it on a pile of books or a raiser block to elevate it to a comfortable viewing position straight in front of you. The height and position of the screen should be angled to ensure you’re sitting comfortably, and reflection is minimised.
2. Don’t look down to read documents
Don’t read from an iPad or paper that is flat on your table, or your head will constantly have to move up and down. If you need to go back and forth between a laptop or computer screen and separate reading material, use a vertical document holder or put iPad on a stand.
3. Limit the time you work on your bed.
We get it. Working from home is draining, and sometimes the desk doesn’t quite cut it. A bed is even worse for you than a chair, because your legs will be crossed or extended vertically, acting as support for your laptop. The laptop will therefore be positioned too low for optimal screen viewing, resulting in your back hunching over. If a bed is your only option, put a pillow behind your back to rest against the headboard and put your laptop on a cushion in your lap. Bed tray tables could also be used for the laptop to go over your legs, allowing you to type at a comfortable height without straining your neck.
4. Position your monitor 90 degrees to a bright window.
To minimize the chances of visual eye strain from glare or partial retinal adaptation, don’t work with your back to a window, as the light coming in will cause a glare on your screen, and don’t work facing a window, as you’ll be staring into the light. Unless the window has shades or drapes that can be closed, your screen should be perpendicular to the window. If you are working at a glass table, cover it to prevent reflected glare.
- Ensure characters on the screen are sharp, in focus and don’t flicker or move. If they do, the DSE may need servicing or adjusting.
- Tailor the brightness and contrast controls on the screen to suit lighting conditions in the room.
- Ensure the screen surface is clean.
- During software set up, select text that is large enough to read comfortably.
- Choose colours that are easy to read (avoid red text on a blue background, or vice versa).
5. Avoid prolonged standing whilst working.
The existence of standing desks makes people think that standing is a better option for their bodies. Yes, it’s true that it’s not healthy to remain sedentary all day, but it has now been recognized that standing to work requires more energy than sitting- placing increased strain on the circulatory system and on the legs and feet. For men with ischemic heart disease, it’s been linked to the progression of carotid atherosclerosis. Standing for extended periods of time also increases the risks of varicose veins. Every 20 to 30 minutes stand, you should stretch and move around for a minute or two to promote circulation and relax muscles. Walk to make a phone call or make tea or coffee, but don’t try to work for hours on end standing up.
5. Put your keyboard and mouse or touchpad at a comfortable height in front of you.
If your laptop has been raised to get your screen to the right level, then you should use a separate keyboard and mouse. Use your desk to support the forearm, keeping hands level and straight. Whilst your arm is positioned comfortably at your side, the nerves aren’t being compressed. The more you stretch it out to the side, but greater chance you have of straining your neck or shoulder. Whilst typing, place fingers lightly on the keyboard buttons. Try not to hold the mouse too tightly
6. Give yourself a break from typing by using voice input.
Voice recognition is good for most text and emails. This gives your arms, wrists and hands time to rest.
7. Sit back in your chair.
Even if you set up your desk correctly though, you may still find yourself slouching or sitting in positions that are not beneficial for your posture. Maybe you like to lean on one of your elbows, or you lean forward to see your computer screen. Sometimes we do these things without realizing it, and it isn’t until much later when our arms, back, neck or legs stiffen up. You want your hips towards the back of the chair with your feet flat on the ground. The chair should also be high enough so that your knees are lower, or at least as high as, your hips. Make sure that you can sit back in your chair so some of your body weight is being supported by the back of the chair. Finally, if you can, recline the angle of your chair to about 110 degrees, and make sure all sections of your back are fully supported.
Start leaving a note on your desk to focus on your posture. The more you work on it, the quicker it will become second nature!
Remember, You can’t be productive when you’re in pain – Susan Hallbeck
8. Adopt the 20-20-20 rule
After 20 minutes of working, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
It takes about 20 seconds for your eyes to relax. Research has proved that taking common breaks to look at faraway objects during screen time significantly reduced their eye strain symptoms. In other words, the 20-20-20 rule works.
Symptoms of eye strain typically include:
- dry eyes
- watery eyes
- blurred vision
- doubled vision
- soreness in the neck, shoulders, or back
- sensitivity to light
- trouble concentrating
- difficulty keeping eyes open
There are also free apps like Eye Care 20 20 20 that can help.
Some of the things you’ll learn with Shout Out Safety are quite straightforward; sitting at your desk correctly, resting your eyes and making sure you position your monitor so you’re not under any strain. There’s plenty of advice on other good habits that you’ll need to consider too.
This course is in 4 sections which cover the following topics:
- What is Display Screen Equipment?
- Injuries associated with poor use of DSE
- Best practice in using DSE
- Eye problems associated with DSE and how to avoid them
- Using mobile and handheld DSE
There are 4 banks of questions which you will need to answer. Achieve the pass mark and you’ll be able to move onto the next section. There’s a certificate to download or print off at the end.