Ouch!!! Does your neck hurt by noon every day? Avoiding neck pain can be important to home office workers who need to be productive all day. Neck pain can be avoided simply by following a few rules of ergonomics for the home office monitor.
If you have worked in an office, you have probably experienced pain in the neck caused by sitting all day staring at your monitor. When you are young, the pain can simply be tiring and uncomfortable, but by the time you reach my age, “monitor neck” can be almost debilitating.
Due to an automobile accident in my teen years, I have off and on experienced moderate to extreme neck pain. Recently the pain was so intense that I was afraid I would not be able to continue working at the computer. Avoiding neck pain at all costs became my mission. If I did not figure out how to correctly position my chair in relation to my monitor to drastically reduce neck pain, I would be unable to work.
Thus began my quest for the ergonomics of monitor placement for avoiding neck pain. Upon looking through research, I found that depending on the country, the year and the organization conducting the research on ergonomic design, the best placement for monitors varied widely. There simply is no global consensus regarding monitor placement for the best ergonomics. But with further searching, I found some tips that will help you in determining how to place your monitor at your home office to help protect your back and avoid damage to your neck even if you spend long hours at your desk.
Best monitor placement for avoiding neck pain
To protect your back and avoid neck pain, place the screen so that your eyes and head are level as they look at the monitor. You can adjust several ways: adjust the height of the monitor, the height of your chair or the distance of the monitor relative to your position. You may have to experiment before getting the position that allows your head to remain level when working. Generally, your neck will “know” when you get the right position because you will feel no strain or pull looking at the monitor for an extended time.
It is recommended that you position the monitor about arm’s length away or approximately 20 inches. If your monitor is larger, then place it further away. The “sweet spot” you are looking for is the distance away that allows you to have your head level to see the screen clearly – looking neither up or down as you work.
Positioning large monitors for avoiding neck pain
I had a difficult time finding a position that allowed my head to remain level as I worked and discovered that I had the monitor too close.
For my large monitor, I had to set it back about 26 inches. If you have to move the screen too far away to see clearly, you may have to adjust the zoom for larger content. For me, it was simply a mental thing – I wasn’t used to the monitor being so far away and had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t have to have my nose almost on the screen to see it clearly. After enjoying the lack of pain, I have found it easier to get used to the distance.
It may take some time to find the right adjustment of monitor height, monitor distance and chair height, but you, too, will be rewarded with less pain at the end of the day when it is positioned correctly. Making this simple change will make a huge difference in ergonomic home office monitor health.
Image quality to improve screen usage
When you are viewing the monitor, make sure it is: sharp and crisp, not fuzzy, stable (without being jittery or flickering) and bright enough to see without straining your eyes. Usually modern monitors are preset to ensure best viewing quality, but if your monitor does not have these characteristics, go into settings and modify to your comfort level. You also want to ensure that the images (both text and graphics) are large enough to see without squinting or straining your eyes.
Minimizing blue light on the home office monitor
Lately, there is a growing concern about prolonged exposure to blue light, part of the visible light spectrum that radiates from monitors and other displays (cell phones, tablets, some TVs, etc.). Blue light reaches deeper into your eye than natural light and research suggests that the cumulative effect of blue light exposure can damage your retina and is connected to age-related macular degeneration.
In addition, blue light wakes up your brain, so if you do not have blue light filters set up on your devices, you may find that when YOU are ready to go to sleep, your brain is not. You may have noticed that most cell phones now have a blue light filter that comes on at night and now Windows 10 has a blue light filter that can be turned on in Settings. Turning this on your monitor will help with eye strain and also help your brain to begin to shut down even if you work at night in your home office.
The graphic below shows you where to look to turn on your blue light filter if you have Windows 10. If you have an earlier version of Windows or a Mac, you can get a free blue light filter online. Three blue light filters are available for free: Iris mini, f.lux and Redshift.
Avoiding neck pain by reducing screen glare
In addition to adjusting your monitor and chair for the proper height, and installing a blue light filter, check for glare on your screen. While it may seem counter intuitive, screen glare can cause neck pain if you adjust your head position to avoid glare on the screen. Screen glare can be diminished in a variety of ways.
- LIGHTING: Use indirect lighting as discussed in an earlier blog post. Direct light to bounce off a wall or ceiling to reduce glare on your monitor. You can also dim lights in the room or remove one of the fluorescent bulbs from the ceiling. Natural light is the best light for office productivity. However, make sure that you place your monitor away from any direct sunlight streaming into the window.
- USE A MONITOR HOOD: Using a hood or screen around the monitor also reduces glare. Monitor hoods are easy to install and are relatively inexpensive. For a great DIY that your neck will appreciate, monitor hoods can also be made easily and inexpensively.
- ADJUST SCREEN SETTINGS ON YOUR MONITOR: Monitor buttons are generally on the bottom or side of the monitor. These buttons will allow you to adjust the brightness of the monitor. Reducing the brightness will also reduce the glare.
- USE A FILTER: To reduce glare, you can cover your monitor with an anti-glare coating or filter. Now, screens are available that are both anti-glare and anti blue-ray. While relatively more expensive than DIY monitor hoods, your eyes and neck will thank you for installing them. If glare is a strong problem for you, this might be your best option.
- WEAR ANTI-GLARE GLASSES: Glasses are now available with anti-glare, anti-blue light coatings. These glasses are helpful for looking at the monitor. They will also reduce glare in bright sunlight and at night when driving. Glasses with anti-glare coating help to reduce eye strain and look more attractive. Talk to your eye care professional about anti-glare or anti-reflective coating for your glasses. Also, discuss the correct adjustment for your bifocal or progressive lenses in viewing the monitor without eye or neck strain.
Computer monitor document holders
Using a document holder helps you to position the paper so you can comfortably see it without straining your neck. Many options are available for document holders. Some holders attach to the side of your monitor, others attach to your desk, and other options are free-standing. Document holders come in a wide variety of price points. While this may not seem an important element for an ergonomic home office monitor, it can really help diminish your neck pain.
Use a stand-up desk to avoid neck pain
According to research, sitting all day is dangerous for your health. Mayo Clinic analyzed 13 studies about sitting more than eight hours a day without physical activity. The bad news? Those who sat more than eight hours had the same risk of dying as those with diabetes or smoking. The good news? Those negative effects of sitting for long hours can be diminished simply by being active. For example, standing while you are working at your computer will largely counter the negative impact of sitting. There are many different monitor stands that convert regular desks into stand up desks. These are available to allow you to adjust your monitor for sitting and standing.
Posture when at the home office desk
If you take a look at the posture of the computer user on the left, you will notice a spinal curve as he works. This is caused from placing his laptop too low on the desk. This works for short periods of time. However, for prolonged periods of time, this position will cause pain in your neck.
Reducing neck pain will overall improve your productivity in the home office. In a nutshell, more productivity equals a better bottom line for you. But, even more importantly, reducing or even eliminating neck pain will have long term positive consequences for your health. At first, concentrate on your posture – back straight and neck level. After a while, this posture becomes normal for you.
The primary focus of this article is adjusting the monitor to help alleviate neck pain. Other factors can contribute to neck pain such as your choice of chairs, your posture and even stress while working. Later posts will focus on these topics in your home office. But, beginning with monitor positions and adjustments, you will find relief from your strained neck almost immediately. In this case, you will be able to feel when you have made the correct adjustments. Your your neck will tell you. Believe me – taking the time to make these adjustments will be well worth it.
Final thoughts on avoiding neck pain
If you work at home, then you probably spend an enormous amount of time staring at a computer monitor. It is just how we work these days. Avoiding neck pain is probably very important to you, like it is to me. Proper posture and monitor placement may seem minor at first. However, the more years that you hunch over a computer, the more your spine will be negatively impacted. Making changes to your office to ensure you work ergonomically all day will benefit you for many years to come. After all, you are working hard at home so you can enjoy life. Making monitor adjustments today will ensure you will enjoy life from now on.
- Woo, E. H. C., White, P., & Lai, C. W. K. (2016). Ergonomics standards and guidelines for computer workstation design and the impact on users’ health–a review. Ergonomics, 59(3), 464-475.
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