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Monitor Placement

Friday, July 30, 2010
By Anne Kramer

Research suggests that among the greatest causes of workplace injury is erroneous placement of computer monitors. Lack of ergonomic knowledge or simply the ignorance thereof, causes millions of office workers worldwide to suffer a number of related injuries – many of which go untreated. Ailments such as eye strain, neck pain, and even back injury have been traced to poor monitor placement. It is important to know, from individual to individual, where best to position your computer screen to avoid these problems.

To this end there are three main factors to consider when deciding where to place your monitor.

Eye-To-Screen Distance

The most important determinant of eyestrain in computer monitor-related cases is eye-to-screen distance. Because this range is the distance over which your eyes must focus to bring characters on your screen in view, it is important to know the optimal distance for yourself. Try this simple test:
  1. Hold your index finger at arms length directly in front of your eyes.
  2. Slowly draw your index finger closer to your nose, following your finger with your eyes.
  3. Identify the distance at which your vision starts to become blurry.
The distance found in step #3 of the above exercise is known as the “distance of convergence.” This length varies from person to person, but is usually around 12 centimeters or 4 ¾ inches. A good rule of thumb when trying to decide how far to place your computer monitor from your eyes is to take your individual distance of convergence, and simply add 25 inches. If you find that this distance is too great to make out characters on your screen, simply enlarge the font you’re using instead of bringing the monitor closer.

Vertical Monitor Location

The average computer worker simply situates their computer monitor at eye level for the sake of ease. It turns out that doing so can actually contribute to eyestrain and neck injury.

The make-up of the human eye allows it to focus more easily on objects that are located slightly below the level of natural eye gaze. Those of us who are getting a little older notice this when we focus on an object close to us, but then realize it’s much easier to see if we tilt our heads back slightly. The same technique can be employed with using your computer monitor. Research shows the optimum placement of the entire viewing area of your computer monitor (that is, the entirety of the screen from top to bottom) ought to be placed between 15 and 50 degrees below the horizontal.

In addition to reducing eye strain and even improving vision of the computer screen, lowering your computer monitor to a position within the above described range can prevent neck strain and injury. Whereas when the computer monitor is placed at eye-level, there are a limited number of neck positions available to the user. When the monitor is lowered however, a full range of lower-tilting neck positions become available and still allow the user to read the screen. Anyone who has used a computer for an extended period of time can tell you keeping your neck in one position can lead to discomfort.

Monitor Tilt

For the same reasons described above, incorrect monitor tilt can lead to additional eyestrain and neck injury. Research has shown that tilting objects to be viewed, whether they be books, computer monitors, or other objects away from the eyes – that is, top further away than the bottom – allows the individual to more easily focus on the object, and do so in a more comfortable neck position.

Positioning your computer monitor may not be as straight-forward as the above article assumes. If you’re looking to improve your workstation ergonomically, but need help re-positioning your monitor, consider the aid of a monitor arm or monitor stand. These simple and effective devices are designed to afford you the widest range of movement when positioning your monitor to allow for any number of possible ergonomic positions.

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