The summer months are flying by. Hours of outdoor fun in the sun will quickly be replaced by hours in front of the computer. As you head back to the classroom, review these tips on creating a healthy, ergonomic workspace to keep you and your students comfortable and injury free. Take time to review your own desk as well as the student desks. Not all of these adjustments can apply to the “one size fits all” workstations found in most schools, but a few quick and easy changes can help ensure that students are comfortable as they type.
Ergonomically Optimize Your Workstation
Chair: Adjust the height of your seat so that your feet are resting comfortably on the floor. Your knees should be bent at a ninety-degree angle and your thighs should be parallel to the floor. If the seat is not adjustable add a footrest or booster. The seat back should provide support for your lower back by matching the natural curve of your spine. If yours is directly vertical, consider adding a lumbar pillow.
Monitor: The top of your monitor should be at eye level (or slightly below). It should be 16 to 28 inches away from the tip of your nose. Make sure you maintain an upright head posture with your chin tucked in. Keep your eyes focused on the copy you are typing from. Avoid looking down at the keyboard.
Keyboard & Mouse: You want your mouse and keyboard to be as close together as possible, with the alphanumeric part of the keyboard centered on your desk. Your hands should be level with your elbows (or slightly lower) and your hands and forearms should form a straight line. Avoid bending your wrist sharply upwards or downwards to type.
Posture: Don’t slouch. Keep your shoulders and back relaxed with your elbows hanging close to your sides and your wrists straight. Change your posture regularly. Regardless of how healthy your posture is, sitting in any one position for an extended period is not healthy. Be mindful of your body when you type or you’ll never reap the benefits of your properly set up workspace.
Eyes: Close your eyes tightly and then open them widely and repeat several times. You’ll also want to take some time every 20 minutes or so for the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look away from your screen at something 20 feet away from you.
Hands: Spread your fingers as far apart as you can for ten seconds and then make a tight fist and hold it and repeat.
Neck: Slowly turn your head to the side and hold for ten seconds, then turn to the other side and hold. Slowly tilt your head to the side and hold it for ten seconds, then slowly tilt to the other side and hold. Repeat.
Shoulders: Slowly shrug shoulders in a circular forward motion, then reverse the motion in a backwards motion and repeat. Spread your arms apart and make slow circles forward and then backwards.
Demonstrating good computer habits and sharing these tips with parents, who can apply them at home, will prevent computer-related problems in the future. What changes have you made in your classroom? Share your own tips on ergonomics with us in the comments.