Why do my eyes and back hurt after a day at the office?
Chanie Kirschner reports from her home office (in fuzzy slippers, we're sure) on how to make work less painful.
Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 7:09 AM
Q: These days, I’m spending more and more time at the office, and at the end of a long day, my back is just killing me and my eyes are sore from looking at the computer all day. Got any tips on how to do a little less damage to my body at the office?
A: I guess not everyone is as lucky as I am to be working from home. (Sorry, didn’t mean to rub it in.)
I have one word for you: ergonomics. It's defined in my new Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary as "an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely."
Ergonomics is the key to your troubles, my friend. There are whole books dedicated to the optimization of the worker in his environment, and I’m going to pass some of these nuggets along to you, thanks to the advice of professionally licensed architect Steve Zmuda, who specializes in corporate office environments in Manhattan.
First of all, once every hour it’s important to get up, walk around, and stretch a little, even if it’s a quick stroll to the office break room for a little trail mix. (Who are we kidding? I meant chocolate bar.) According to Zmuda, just getting your legs moving will help keep them from cramping up and will help you be more productive when you sit back down.
Also, drink plenty of water, as most office environments tend to be pretty dry. The plus side of this is that it’ll keep you up and walking to the bathroom, hence giving your body the much-needed stretching it deserves.
Now let’s talk about your computer and your screen. The top of your computer screen should be at eye level — not any higher or lower so you don’t have to strain your neck to look up or down at it. Also, position it away from the window so you don’t have any glare from the sun on the screen, causing you to strain your eyes. Your mouse should be in line with the far edge of your shoulder, so you don’t have to reach out to use it. Finally, your keyboard should be flat, not angled up. This will not only be more comfortable, but will help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
Now for your back — try to find a comfortable chair (if you don’t have one, maybe steal one from that office gossip Patty down the hall — God knows she’s never in her chair anyway) that allows your feet to lie flat on the ground or rest on a footrest. You should sit all the way back in your chair and not have to lean forward. Your arm rests should be parallel to the floor and below the height of the elbow bend.
Finally, if you want to really do your body good, ask your boss if you can have pajama day at work. (This is my idea, not Zmuda’s.) It might seem far-fetched, but employee satisfaction is key in today’s corporations and your boss just might go for it. After all, what could be better than processing invoices in your fuzzy rabbit slippers and your flannel PJs while sipping hot cocoa? Take it from me — there ain’t nothin’ like it.
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