Healthy Desktop Computer Use

This guide provides information on good computer use. There is a lot of information available in books and on the internet about safe computer use, and it is really worth considering your ergonomics when you do use a computer, particularly if it is for long periods of time. Check some of the resources listed at the end of this sheet for more information.

Common problems:

Posture and movement

Most commonly, people are seated at a computer with the monitor (VDU), keyboard, and mouse on the desk. It is important to adjust these to suit you, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time using the computer.

Make sure that you adopt a good seated posture when working on a computer. To adopt a good seated posture:

  • Sit on a chair with support for your back.
  • Sit upright so that your back and neck are upright, but so that the natural curves are maintained.
  • Relax and drop your shoulders, so that they are not hunched up
  • Sit on your bum, not your back, so that the weight is passed through the pelvis (the ischial tuberosities)
  • Position your hips so that it is comfortable to keep the natural curves in your back. This is probably between 60 degrees and 90 degrees.
  • Don't cross your legs, and make sure that there is a gap between the back of your knees and the chair
  • Have your knees and ankles at about 90 degrees.


Environmental factors

The key environmental factors in computer use are the pieces of furniture used. The chair and desk should support the good sitting posture and body position described above. It may be necessary to also use a footrest, if your feet cannot comfortably rest on the floor when you are sitting down.

Computers can generate noise and heat. Make sure that you are not too hot when working at a computer, and take frequent breaks to get fresh air.

If possible, make sure that there is good ambient light, but minimise the glare as much as possible. If you are working with a document, use task lighting to light this, rather than the computer.


Work Organisation, Information, and Operation

It is a good idea to take a couple of seconds each time you use a computer to make sure that the key elements are appropriately adjusted for you, that is, the keyboard and mouse are within reach, your seat is at an appropriate height and so on.

Try to consciously organise both your work space and what you do on the computer each time you use it. Make sure you have enough space for all that you need, and that potential spills are prevented by positioning any liquids well out of accidental reach.

Learn how best to use the computer and the programmes that you most commonly use. IS Services provide a range of courses on common programmes used in College.

Make sure that you take regular breaks.