Wherever you work with a computer, be it at an office, in a classroom, or at a desk in a cubicle, your furniture can either work with you to increase your productivity or work against you to the point that your health is adversely affected.
When your neck is hurting, or you are experiencing numbness in your fingers, is far too late to consider the shortcomings of your current work area's furniture. Fortunately, common sense has much to say when it comes to picking the best working set up for using a computer for hours at a time.
Perhaps the first thing you should consider is what type of computer you either choose or are required to use. With the booming popularity of notebook class computers, most people do not realize that this class of machine is poorly suited for extended use. A notebook has a narrower keyboard that in many models is also an inch or more off of the surface of the desk you place it upon, which means you are either hanging your hands over it to type or you are resting your wrists on the surface of the desk and reaching up to the keys.. Furthermore, the a notebook's screen has a limited adjustment range compared to a desk top model. If you use a notebook as your primary computer, you would be wise to consider using a desk that can hold at least a standard keyboard, perhaps in a dedicated tray, and a freestanding monitor in addition to your notebook computer so that these more adjustable peripherals can be connected to the computer without eating up the available space.
Even if you use a standard desktop or tower computer where you can adjust the position of the keyboard and monitor to your preference, for the best possible productivity while minimizing the possibility of a repetitive strain injury, you should carefully match your chair to your desk if you have the choice. The relationship in space between your chair, your keyboard, and your monitor, not to mention the reach to things like the telephone, shelves or cabinets, the printer, and other parts of your workspace, is critical to your comfort and safety. If you are sitting too low in relation to the rest of the area you increase the work load upon your shoulders and elbows. If you are sitting too tall in relation to your desk you increase the pressure on your neck and wrists.
If your legs fit comfortably in the space afforded by the desk, with your feet on the floor, and you can comfortably reach for anything you may need on a repeated basis, you should focus on the choice of your chair. There are many things to consider about chairs. Some people like chairs that have arm rests, others like no arm rests at all. Some people like the ability to adjust the height or seating angle of the chair, an especially important consideration in spaces where the chair might be shared by two or more people. Many fine chairs on the market today offer nearly infinite adjustment possibilities and the ability to completely remove the arm rests if they are not desired.
By paying attention to what your body is telling you about your current computer furniture, you can learn to tailor the details of your workspace to maximize your productivity and minimize your risk for injury.
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