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Visual Ergonomics – Setting Up Your Computer Workstation For Maximum Visual Comfort

The older we get and/or the more time we spend at the computer the more important it is to set up your work environment for the maximum visual comfort.  Generally, from a visual standpoint, laptops, placed on a desk, are set up rather  well for the maximum visual comfort.  Laptops have us looking down, allowing a user that wears bifocals to see the screen through their bifocal and because the screen is directly in front of the keyboard it is close enough the bifocal, whether it is a progressive lens or a flat top lens, the distance is correct.

A desktop is another matter.  Placement of the monitor is very important.  The new LCD monitors make it much easier to place them in a positions allowing for easy, comfortable viewing.  The monitor should be placed in a position that is typically 20 inches or more away and positioned low enough that when you are looking straight ahead you are looking over the top of the monitor.  This last point is especially important for bifocal wearers, especially those 50 or older that rely on the intermediate portion of their progressive or trifocal lenses.

Why is Monitor Height Important?

If the monitor is too high  you have to tilt your chin up to focus with the intermediate portion of your progressive lens.  If you are only at the computer for a few minutes this may be tolerable, however if you sit at the computer for an extended period moving your chin up like this spells a neck ache.  If you don’t tilt your chin up to use your bifocal to focus the monitor you are looking though the top part of your glasses instead of the intermediate zone and thus straining your eyes.  Neither option is acceptable for any reasonable length of time.

So how should we set up our workstation?

First, if your monitor is sitting on top of the CPU, place the CPU under the desk and the monitor directly on the desk.  Having a chair with an adjustable seat will allow you to raise your seat thus further improving your position.

Second, never place your monitor where there is a bright light behind it such as in front of a window.  Also having a window directly behind you may cause bothersome reflections unless you have an antireflective screen on your monitor.

Third, place the monitor 20 to 30 inches from you.  If neither of these options is sufficient or simply not possible computer glasses are an option.  Progressive or bifocal computer glasses are generally not necessary for those under 50, however anyone over 50 that spends more than a couple hours a day at the computer will benefit from computer glasses.  Most patients simply leave their computer glasses at their desk.  Computer glasses are progressive lenses prescribed so that the top part is set to focus at computer distance, roughly arms length, and the bottom will focus at near, usually 16-18 inches.  An antireflective coating will eliminate reflections and as a result make for better visual comfort.

Lastly, a good, adjustable chair with some kind of foot stool is great.

 

Updated 6/12/09