Today I want to discuss a little bit about ergonomics in relationship to tech neck. More specifically, how to avoid tech neck through proper ergonomics. Ergonomics is the way that we set up our workspace for optimal efficiency, to reduce stress and to increase productivity. Optimizing ergonomics reduces the chances of any kind of musculoskeletal issues such as tech neck.
The term ergonomics was coined by British Air Force aircraft designers during World War II. They referred to their cockpit design as “ergonomics” for a more efficient design for the pilots. Although the word “ergonomics” was only coined in World War II, the concept is ancient. As a matter of fact, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, actually designed the workspace for a surgeon in such a way that he detailed the specific layout of where medical instruments should be placed and how far away they should be, and how from the operating table the surgeon should be positioned. So, the concept of workspace efficiency and decreased stress has been around for a long time.
Let’s look at how we can set up our home spaces or any workspace for optimal ergonomics. There are three aspects of this that I’m going to touch on today: monitor height and distance from your face, chair height and comfort, and the distance that you might have things from you in your workspace. And a little bit about how to hold a phone, so that you’re not causing tech neck with how you position your phone. These are three tweaks that you can make immediately to improve the ergonomics of your workspace and decrease the chances of workplace injury, fatigue and musculoskeletal issues like tech neck.
The first one is monitor height. Your monitor distance should be about 24 to 30 inches away from you, depending on how you feel most comfortable. You want to have the monitor height such that you are looking straight ahead without looking down or up, putting strain on your neck. You want to be looking at the top third of the screen – so your eyes fall on the top third of the screen, as you’re sitting in your chair comfortably gazing straight ahead at your monitor.
Second is your chair height and chair setting. Your chair height should be such that your knees are at or below hip level, which will allow your spine to remain neutral. We’re mostly concerned with the lumbar spine, because as the lumbar goes, the cervical will go. So if your lumbar spine is neutral, and you have a nice upright position with your knees at or slightly below hip level, that will naturally create a neutral spinal position, therefore taking stress off the entire spine, including your neck. So you want to adjust your chair so that your knees are at or below just slightly below hip level.
Another note on the chair design. You want a comfortable chair with a good lumbar support and a good back support. A headrest is helpful, but not always available. It can be helpful and armrests as well. That’ll take the stress off your shoulders by allowing your arms to rest on the chair, taking the weight of your arms off of your shoulders.
The next and last thing I want to point out is where you place things like your work, tools and implements. You should have anything that you are using consistently or reaching for close enough that you don’t have to overreach. If there’s anything that needs to be further away, like a document that you’re typing from or something like a book that you’re reading, you should have it standing up in a pedestal, so that you’re not looking down at a table top. A document holder is a very good idea.
So those are three simple things you can do to improve the ergonomics of your workspace. One is the monitor. The monitor should be about two feet away. You should be gazing straight at that monitor, and your eyes should fall on the upper third of the screen. Next is chair setting. Your chair height should be set to what your knees are at or just below hip level with a comfortable support for the spine. And lastly, materials should be within reach, including your phone. And it does help to have a headset if you’re going to use your phone.
For those of you who use laptops, it’s really important to raise the screen. It’s very common and understandable to have your laptop on your desk which usually is going to mean that you’ll be looking down at the monitor. So, you will want a riser for your laptop. You might also get a Bluetooth keyboard, so you don’t have to reach up to use the keyboard on the laptop. I hope this has been very helpful, and leads to some improved workspace ergonomics.