Is there one optimal position for computer use?

Simply put, we are all different and there is not one single “optimal” position that will fit everyone or their needs.  Look for ergonomic guides, and adjust yourself based on what feels right for you, and what leaves you feeling your best at the end of the day.

How far should I sit from the monitor?

How can we suggest an optimal distance for viewing the monitor when we know that visual capabilities often vary between individuals?  Monitors located too close may increase strain on the eyes, while monitors positioned too far may encourage us to lean forward in order to see the information clearly.

The ergo guide suggested using your arm length as a start point, then adjust for comfort.  For prolonged viewing, the CSA guideline for office ergonomics recommends a viewing distance between 400 mm (16 inches) and 740 mm (30 inches).  Information on the screen should be clear, easy to read and not encourage awkward postures.

Font size should be considered when adjusting the depth of the monitor.

Should I adjust the screen’s height so that the middle is at the level of my eyes?

This may seem like the proper thing to do considering that you look at all parts of the screen; however, our normal line-of-sight is 15 degrees below the horizon with the optimal viewing range between the horizon and 35 degrees below the horizon.  The keep from bending the neck forward, position the top of your monitor at eye level.

I wear bifocals.  How does this effect my monitor’s position?

Bifocals and trifocals are eyeglasses with corrective lenses containing two or three powers respectively.  The lower portion of the lens is most often used to view close-up objects (computer, paperwork etc.).  Based on the optimal line of sight, it makes sense that the portion of the lens used to see close-up items such as paperwork is below the horizon.

However, monitors are often placed in front of the user, well above the close-up portion of the lens.  The typical response includes tilting the head back to line up the close-up portion of the lens with the screen.

Bi/Trifocal users typically demonstrate improved neck posture after lowering and tilting the screen for comfort.  You may also consider altering the monitor’s depth so that the screen can be viewed clearly when looking through the middle portion of the lens.  Regardless of the monitor’s position the goal is to improve neck postures.

Should I use the little legs at the back of my keyboard?

The little legs help to tilt the keyboard toward the user (positive tilt).  When the keyboard is located just below elbow height a flat or slight tilt away from the user (negative tilt) is recommended for neutral wrist postures.  When the keyboard is well above resting elbow height the legs may be helpful.  Remember the goal is straight or neutral wrists.

Where should I put documents that I need to reference?

The preferred position for documents frequently referenced is located between the monitor and keyboard.  This position keeps papers close to the resting line of sight limiting neck bending and twisting. Try tilting the documents towards you, using a binder or a document holder.

Credit: University of Western Ontario, Human Resources