SEPTEMBER 2001

A comfortable worplace and a bit of Feng Shui! (Part I)

Although this is not strictly language-related, after the summer break and to get off on the right foot I thought now would be a good time to discuss ergonomics in the workplace. In addition to learning a few office-related terms, we can also take a closer look at the applied science that seeks to adapt work or working conditions to suit the worker (ergonomics) and that age-old Chinese practice of directing invisible energy, or "chi" through your environment for maximum physical, mental, and spiritual health and balance, feng shui, (pronounced "fung shway").

Ergonomic guidelines for arranging a computer workstation.

Posture, posture, posture! Good posture is the basis of good workstation ergonomics. Good posture is the best way to avoid a computer-related injury. To ensure good user posture:

. Make sure you can reach the keyboard keys with your wrists as flat and as straight as possible.
Avoid overreaching.

. Your elbow angle (the angle between the upper arm and the forearm) should be at or greater than 90 degrees to avoid nerve compression at the elbow.

. Sit back in your chair with a good back support. Also check that your feet can be placed flat on the floor or on a footrest.

Keep it close!

Make sure that the things you use most frequently are placed closest so that they can be conveniently and comfortably reached (e.g., phone).

Make sure you are centred on the alphanumeric keyboard. Most modern keyboards are asymmetrical in design (the alphanumeric keyboard is to the left and a numeric keypad to the right). If the outer edges of the keyboard are used as landmarks for centring the keyboard and monitor, your hands will be deviated because the alphanumeric keys will be to the left of your midline. Move the keyboard so that the centre of the alphanumeric keys (the B-key), is on your mid-line.

The computer monitor

centre the monitor on you so that your body and/or neck isn't twisted when looking at the screen. Put the monitor at a comfortable height that doesn't make you tilt your head up or bend your neck down to see it. When you are seated comfortably, your eyes should be in line with a point on the screen about 5-7.5cm below the top of the monitor casing. We actually see more visual field below the horizon than above it (look down a corridor and you'll see more of the floor than the ceiling), so at this position you should comfortably be able to see more of the screen. If the monitor is too low, you will crane your neck forwards, if it's too high youÕll tilt your head backwards and end up with neck/shoulder pain. Books, reams of paper, or monitor risers can be used to raise the monitor.

viewing distance - the monitor should be at a comfortable horizontal distance for viewing, which usually is around an arm's length (sit back in your chair, raise your arm and your fingers should touch the screen). At this distance you should be able to see the viewing area of the monitor without making head movements. If text looks too small then either use a larger font or magnify the screen image rather than sitting closer to the monitor.

lighting - Glare on the computer screen and overall light levels can contribute to eyestrain. Please review the following if you are experiencing eye strain.

It is best to position the monitor perpendicular to the window.
If you are unable to do so, control excessive light at the source, e.g., for window light, use blinds or drapes.

Your screen should also be vertical to reduce glare from fluorescent overhead lights. When the monitor is tipped up, light from the overhead light fixtures reflects onto the computer screen, resulting in glare. Instead of tipping the monitor up to raise it, raise the monitor from the base.

Is lighting level comfortable when working at the computer?
Lighting preferences vary between individuals. In general employees prefer less light when using the computer than when doing deskwork. In many cases, a good solution is to lower overall office light and purchase task lighting so individuals can control their own light levels.

ABILITY TO SEE WHO ENTERS WORKSTATION (Feng Shui concept)
Seeing who enters your office adds a level of comfort by keeping you from being surprised or startled. If you cannot view your workstation entrance while on the computer, consider moving your computer work station or consider mounting a mirror on the wall so you can see who is entering your workstation even when your back is toward the entrance.

Jackie Walters

(to be continued)