If you work in front of the computer, it is vital that you take care of tailoring the workstation to your needs. Your comfort is largely affected by e.g. you chair, which should provide comfortable support and freedom of movement, screen adjustment and desk size.

As a rule of thumb you should make a 5-minute break after each hour of work to stand up and do some simple exercises to relax your muscles.

Office work can be harmful

Even though working in front of the computer is not about lifting weights, it can cause some discomfort on the part of your muscosceletal system.

With dynamic exercise, such as weight-lifting, muscle fibres are stretching and contracting in an alternate manner, specialists say. This makes their blood supply efficient and ensures a sufficient amount of oxygen and nutrients, while also removing toxic metabolic waste. Consequently, the types of jobs where dynamic work is dominant can be performed for relatively long periods of time without causing any injuries or fatigue, provided however that safety standards and rules are observed.

The situation is different with static work, which accounts for the majority of time spent in front of the computer. This makes muscles contracted and continuously unable to relax. This, in turn, causes them to put pressure on blood vessels and peripheral nerves. As a consequence, the volume of blood flowing to such contracted muscles is reduced and the accumulating toxins are not removed. This is an unnatural situation and runs contrary to the human physiology, causing quicker muscle fatigue.

Health risks

People working in front of the computer should remember that, although it is not a physical work, it can cause a lot of pain, especially if it is performed at a poorly-designed workstation, the National Labour Inspectorate (PIP) warns.

Among other things, it can put static load on the muscles responsible for stabilising your spine in the sitting position, shoulder and hand muscles involved in typing, and neck muscles keeping your head straight when looking at the screen, the documents and the keyboard.

All this can cause muscosceletal-system disorders, such as nape, neck, shoulder, loin and hand pain.

If, in spite of pain, such work continues, with time it can cause inflammatory or degenerative lesions, such as arthritis or spine osteoarthritis.

How to adjust your workplace

THE CHAIR should provide comfortable support and freedom of movement. It should have adjustable seat height (preferably at 40-50cm above the floor), as well as the back height and tilt, and have armrests. The seat should be designed to support the upper legs, and the back should facilitate a natural spine curve.

THE DESK should be as wide and deep as to provide enough space to allow workplace equipment to be arranged in such a way so as not to force you to work in an uncomfortable position.

HAND POSITIONING. The height of your desk, chair and armrests should facilitate a natural hand position when typing, while ensuring at least 90-degree angle between your arm and forearm. This will reduce the muscle load.

THE SCREEN should stand on the desk about 40-75cm from your eyes to provide for a viewing angle of 20-50 degrees down from a horizontal line level with your eyes. This will minimise the strain on your eyes and neck.

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