Home Ergonomics for Online Students

January 6, 2021 • 4 Min Read

Ergonomics involves adjustments to individuals' work environments to ensure safe and efficient interactions between people and their work. The purpose of ergonomics is to eliminate discomfort and minimize the risk of injury. For example, someone who spends days awkwardly bent over their computer could develop a musculoskeletal disorder.

Musculoskeletal disorders affect muscles, tendons, and ligaments and cause body pain. Repetitive tasks and awkward positions typically cause these disorders. According to the Bureau Labor of Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders accounted for 30% of work-related injuries and illnesses in 2018.

Embracing good ergonomic design at home can help online students complete their coursework comfortably. Applying good ergonomic practices can also increase productivity and workflow. Students with ergonomically designed workspaces reduce the risk of developing short-term and long-term medical issues.

Change Your Settings

Changing the settings on technology can reduce the risk of ergonomic injury. Adjusting computer settings is a quick and low-cost way to improve work and study spaces. Students in online learning programs can easily adjust these settings for an immediate and effective change in their work environment.

Lower screen brightness

Looking at a bright computer screen for long periods of time can cause eyestrain. Lowering the screen brightness reduces the blue light that causes eye fatigue. Computers and other screened devices typically allow users to change the screen brightness settings. You can search online or check your user manual to learn how to adjust your screen's brightness.

Adjust mouse sensitivity

Adjusting mouse sensitivity can help prevent strain in the hand, wrist, and shoulders. Certain related movements can cause sharp pain and tingling, sometimes impacting the whole arm. Finding the right balance between large and small mouse movements can reduce the risk of arm strain.

Adjust technology settings

Students can use phone and computer apps to change technology settings. For example, the software f.lux automatically adjusts the lighting and color of computer screens to match the time of day. This can reduce eyestrain and even promote better sleep.

Set Up Your Desk and Seating

Online learners spend many hours working at computers. Without a proper desk and seating arrangement, students can develop injuries that decrease their comfort and productivity levels. Making the following ergonomic adjustments can help students create an effective and safe place to study from home.

Calculate measurements with an ergonometric calculator.

Desk Height

Finding the ideal ergonomic desk height can drastically improve an online learner's work environment. Correct desk height promotes good posture and reduces the risk of neck and shoulder injuries.

The ideal desk height depends on the individual's body height. The student's feet should be flat on the floor, and the desk should allow enough clearance for their knees. Their arms should rest at about a 90-degree angle.

Many students choose to adjust their desk rather than purchase a new one. While some desks feature height adjustment settings, others do not. For desks shorter than the ideal height, individuals can place blocks or boards under the legs. For too-high desks, learners can raise their chair. If necessary, students can place a footrest, small stool, or steady stack of books under their feet.

Chair Height

Using a desk chair of an ergonomic height can help prevent neck and spinal injuries. Many chairs feature height adjustment settings to support the user's spinal curvature and promote good posture.

When using a chair of the correct height, individuals' feet touch the floor and their thighs rest parallel to the floor. Their wrists are straight, with their elbows at a 90-degree angle. Their arms rest gently on the armrests, allowing their shoulders to relax. Users should place the monitor an arm's length away from the chair, and the top third of the screen should be at eye level. Students can also consider purchasing a lumbar support pillow.

Keyboard Height

Learners should place the keyboard on top of the desk, within easy reach. While typing, individuals should keep their wrists straight and their upper arms close to their body. Laptop users can consider purchasing a separate keyboard to ensure that both the monitor and keyboard rest at ergonomically ideal heights.

People who struggle with wrist comfort can choose a keyboard that offers additional support. Titled keyboards provide visibility and bring the keys closer to the body. Split keyboards help prevent carpal tunnel. While traditional keyboards force the wrists to extend outward, split keyboards allow the wrists to face forward or inward.

Mouse Options

The mouse should be positioned on the same surface as the keyboard. While using the mouse, learners should keep their wrist straight and upper arms close to their body. Laptop users may consider purchasing a separate mouse to ensure proper mouse placement.

Students can choose from a variety of mouse types. For example, a vertical mouse prevents users from twisting their wrist. Trackball mice use a stationary setup to reduce wrist movement. Mouse pads with wrist rests also help support the wrist and prevent injury.

Special Options

Completing school work from home allows learners to choose ergonomic options for their at-home study space. Many online learners select unique variations that suit their particular needs.

Learners can choose from seating variations beyond adjustable office chairs. For example, exercise balls promote good posture while engaging the core. Students can use traditional exercise balls or an ergonomic balance ball chair.

Students can also use desk variations. Standing desks promote good posture and reduce health risks associated with sitting for long periods of time. Floor mats offer additional support for standing desk users. Additionally, exercise desks reduce health risks by encouraging movement while working, which can also lead to energy boosts throughout the day.

Additional accessories can enhance study spaces. For example, students can purchase stands to raise the height of a monitor or laptop.

Set Up a Good Environment

Online students can customize their study space to help increase productivity. A good work environment helps improve focus and overall health.

Enhance privacy

Many online students live with other people. Navigating a shared space while working from home can lead to obstacles. Tools such as privacy screen filters help keep others from seeing the contents of your screen.

Decorate your space

Decorating can help personalize your workspace and make it feel unique. Learners can add a houseplant, decorative bookends, or framed pictures of friends and family. Students can also keep a favorite mug on their desk.

Get good lighting

Good lighting, such as a desk lamp with soft lighting, can help reduce eye fatigue and lead to a better overall mood. Temperature can also impact productivity. Students can use a desk fan or hand warmers to regulate the temperature.

Get equipment upgrades

Equipment upgrades also improve efficiency for learners studying from home. For example, students may keep a shelf near their desk for easy access to books and materials. Comfortable noise-cancelling headphones can reduce distractions, especially when studying in a shared space. Speakers for background noise or a white noise machine can offer similar results and improve focus.

Develop Good Habits

Regardless of space, students learning from home can establish routines and positive habits to improve their work performance.

Take breaks

Taking regular breaks from studying helps improve mental well-being and sustain productivity. Medical professionals recommend the 20-20-20 rule to prevent eyestrain. Every 20 minutes, look at an object that is at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Blinking and exposing the eyes to natural light also helps reduce eyestrain and fatigue.

Stretching during breaks increases activity levels while studying from home and can boost energy levels. Students can perform stretches at their desk, such as neck stretches. Deep breathing exercises can also increase relaxation.

Take care of posture

Learners should keep their posture in mind while working. Correct desk and chair height help support good posture, but habit affects posture as well. A note can serve as a reminder to adjust your posture.

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