A large proportion of German employees have been working from home for a long time. Happy all those who have long had a well-equipped office at home. If you don’t have that, it would be wise to get a few tips. Preferably directly from the expert: Dr. Daniele Bencivinni is a specialist in anesthesiology and occupational medicine. On Back Health Day on March 15, he answers the most important questions about healthy work.
In an interview with the RHÖN health blog, the expert says you don’t have to be an expert and poke through specialist books, but you need to develop a certain mindfulness and awareness of how you can work healthily yourself. First commandment: You should always make sure to use a room that allows relaxed and quiet work.
Dr. Bencivinni, perhaps the most important question first: How do I place myself at my desk?
Experts speak of so-called ergonomics here. If you are standing, you should make sure that you are in a straight posture and that your forearms are relaxed on the table. It is also important that the shoulders do not sag or have to be held all the time.
And when sitting?
It is pleasant to move a little dynamically at work, for example on the chair on which you are sitting. The height should be set correctly: Your feet should be flat on the floor, your own legs shouldn’t be trapped, so that the blood flow is not disturbed and you don’t remain in a constrained position. Some people also find footrests to be very comfortable. You can try it out.
Subject screen: How should I set it?
When looking directly at the screen, you should make sure to tilt your own head slightly down, because then the cervical spine is in a relaxed position, like when reading a newspaper. If you have to look up, on the other hand, it is unfavorable for the cervical spine and can lead to problems later. It should also be checked whether the distance between the eyes and the screen is sufficient. The optimal distance naturally depends on the size of the monitor and its resolution and should be around 50 to 80 centimeters. If you need glasses close by, you should definitely put them on. The question of whether computer glasses are required and which visual aid is suitable when and for whom can be clarified as part of preventive occupational health care. An additional examination by an ophthalmologist can sometimes be helpful.
Some people see the top 10 percent of the screen when they look straight ahead. Is that good or bad?
The saying always applied here: “Upper edge: upper eyelid”. In the meantime, occupational medicine regards it as optimal if the screen, similar to a music stand or a book while reading, is tilted backwards by 15 degrees so that the user can look at it from above. The head is then automatically straight and slightly bent forward. When looking straight ahead, you get a viewing angle of approx. 35 degrees on the monitor, which should allow the largest possible field of vision with a relaxed head position. When inspecting workplaces, we often find that employees have turned their monitors to the right, for example, and are therefore permanently pointing their heads to the right. In the long term, this leads to one-sided stress and can cause tension and pain in the neck, neck and shoulders.
What if you have two or more monitors?
Then the first question that arises is which is the main monitor that is used the most. The user should focus on this in terms of adjustment and seating position. Often other monitors are only those that you look at from time to time. Then it’s ok if you simply move in the respective direction on the swivel stool. However, a permanently rotated sitting position is harmful. So it’s better not to look to the right or left for half an hour. This would create a forced posture, which in turn can lead to problems of the cervical spine and shoulder. Interestingly, according to statistics in Germany, despite numerous efforts, employees sit up straight, but constantly look to the right.
Would you prefer a chair with or without a backrest?
I recommend a backrest, simply because it takes the strain off your back. On the other hand, free-standing stools are recommended because the user is more or less forced to sit up straight. There are also rocking ergonomic chairs that I don’t find bad at all. However, you shouldn’t spend the whole time without a backrest. A static posture for too long a period should be avoided.
What about the mouse and keyboard?
Here it is important not to stretch the arm and wrists so far to reach these so-called peripheral devices. The magic word here is also: relaxation! Otherwise there will be problems with the tendons, such as tendinitis. An ergonomic mouse and an ergonomic keyboard can help here.
Let’s talk about light …
A screen workstation should be bright at least 500 lux. That is a guideline. The older you get, the more light you should have when working. In addition, the workplace should be evenly illuminated. If you need a lamp in addition to daylight, the light should preferably come perpendicular to the screen from above or from the side, also so that it does not blind the eyes and does not shine into the monitor.
And how should you place the screen with regard to the incidence of light?
So that it is at a 90-degree angle to the window. Otherwise, either the eyes are blinded or light causes reflections on the screen.
And what kind of light do you recommend?
Daylight is optimal in terms of activation, alertness and alertness. Studies have shown that the blue component in natural daylight increases productivity and the ability to concentrate. As a result, daylight is always preferable to other types of light when working. Should it or must it be artificial light, I recommend daylight lamps. These can also help against depression in the dark winter months. Important: You should achieve at least 10,000 lux.
What about the reddish light, which is often perceived as pleasant?
Such light, such as candlelight, relaxes and makes you tired. Accordingly, performance also logically decreases. And color perception suffers. Nevertheless, one should know: The alternation of cold and warm light is important for our physiological day-night rhythm. It is not advisable to disturb him. So it is better not to use daylight lamps after 10 p.m. and suggest to the body that it is daytime. A blue filter on the screen can also be useful.
Do you have a few more tips for work?
I generally recommend a certain level of vigilance during the activity. So you should ask yourself every now and then while working: Am I sitting neatly and comfortably? So you can regularly observe and adjust your own posture. I was asked whether certain items of clothing can also support posture. In other words, those that fit snugly and optimize posture. However, I do not recommend long-term use here. Since the corset supports posture in these types of clothing, it can certainly relieve the muscles at times. In the long run, it makes more sense to train holding and support muscles.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen about setting up workplaces over the years?
Most often the screen is not set up correctly and in many cases does not fit the person sitting in front of it. The chair, i.e. size, height and seat as well as the table, often do not fit either.
Another popular mistake is that no breaks are integrated into work: a few gymnastics exercises or a short walk, briefly looking into the distance or taking a break for coffee – that works wonders. Basically, I also advise you to take several short breaks instead of one long break. In addition, it is important to get enough exercise in private: walking, walking, ergometer, cross trainer – all of this makes a lot of sense, preferably at least one hour a day. And of course a balanced diet also plays an important role.
Your expert for occupational medicine:
Dr. med. Daniele Bencivinni
Specialist in anesthesiology and occupational medicine
Occupational Medicine Center, Bad Berka Center Clinic
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