9 tips to keep you safe and comfortable at the keyboard
When you’re a kid, your body seems impervious to pain.
I have a niece, who without having intentionally stretched in her life can easily slip into the splits.
As she does it, she smiles up at the adults around her, with no idea how much pain they would be in if they attempted the same feat.
It’s hard not to miss those days. Before I knew about sore feet, neck cricks, and back pain.
For adults, very few don’t know what those pains feel like. According to one survey, 8 in 10 adults report suffering back pain, and for those who work desk jobs more than half report the same.
Though you might expect manual labor to be more trying on your body, in fact for some, extensive sitting and keyboard work can be even more damaging.
That said, spending a significant amount of time behind a computer is not an automatic precursor to back pain. A lot of it comes down to your posture at the computer.
I’ll admit, typing posture might not be the most exciting topic out there, but it’s one that can make a significant difference in your comfort and quality of life. Especially as we spend more and more time behind computers.
If you’re a teacher or parent reading this, know that by teaching your kids the proper posture early on could save them a lifetime of pain.
Safe typing posture
Good keyboarding posture is just a few steps away. Follow these five checkpoints to achieve an efficient and healthy setup:
Feet and Legs
Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Avoid tucking your legs them beneath you or extending them forward.
Adjust your chair and keyboard height so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and your arms are close to your sides. Your arms should be hanging in a relaxed posture. If your shoulders are hunched toward your ears, raise your chair height or lower your keyboard.
Wrists and Hands
Keep wrists straight and fingers curved over the keys, with thumbs hanging near the spacebar. Your wrists should be floating above and parallel to the keyboard. Avoid the temptation to settle your wrists onto the wrist pad; that’s for breaks between typing, not when you’re actually pounding the keys. Even then, rest the palms of your hands on it, not your wrists.
Keep your eyes focused on the copy you are typing. If you find yourself turning your head back and forth from copy to screen, work on improving your touch typing skills. Adjust the position of the copy so you can see it without tilting your head excessively.
If your desk setup is all wrong, you won’t be able to comply with the recommended typing posture. If you spend a lot of time at your desk, it’s worth a little extra time and money to make it as comfortable and efficient as possible.
Start by choosing a chair that has a height adjustment and support for your lower back. If it has armrests, make sure they don’t impede your ability to let your arms hang relaxed at your sides while you’re typing.
Next, consider keyboard height. Placing a keyboard on top of a desk often makes it too high up for proper typing position. Consider a desk with adjustable keyboard tray. If your desk doesn’t have one, you can often purchase and install one as an add-on.
Adjust the keyboard tilt to what feels comfortable for touch typing. Many people prefer a keyboard that’s tilted slightly (by extending the legs on the top, back of the keyboard).
The screen should be at a height so when you’re looking straight ahead, the top of the screen is approximately level with your eyes. If it’s too low, raise it up by propping it on a book or two.
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.
Last, but not least—
Take Regular Breaks
It is also very important to take regular breaks. It is recommended to take a 5-minute break after every 30 minutes of continuous activity. Stand up, stretch. In fact, if you grab a glass of water on your break, you get bonus healthy points for keeping yourself hydrated as well.
We know that not all of these adjustments we’ve recommended can apply to the “one size fits all” workstations found in most schools and offices, but a few quick and easy changes can help ensure that you and/or your students are comfortable as they type.
Your typing speed and accuracy will improve, and your back will thank you.