Loss Control Insights

Office Ergonomics: Monitor Placement

computer related neck pain

The annual incidence of computer-related neck pain among office workers is 34.4 percent, according to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Another NCBI study of 206 computer users found that almost 60 percent of respondents suffered from upper extremity or neck pain attributed to computer use.

One of the leading causes of this growing problem is the placement of the monitor: monitors are too high or placed at awkward angles. The problem will only become worse as employees switch from stationary desktop computers to portable laptops and tablets. I recently worked with a client who was experiencing an increased number of neck and shoulder injuries because the company had switched from desktop computers to laptops. In this case, I recommended a riser and stand for the laptop, as well as an external keyboard and mouse.

Employees who experience discomfort and stress in the workplace lose 30 percent of office productivity. These injuries can be reduced or prevented by implementing an ergonomics program that emphasizes proper monitor placement.

Monitor Placement Tips From the Experts

  • Angle—Monitors should be placed directly in front of the user, not angled to the left or right. This helps eliminate neck twisting. Also, encourage the employee to use the screen scroll bars to keep what is being viewed at the center of the monitor instead of at the top or bottom of the screen.
  • Height—Place the monitor at a height that doesn’t make the user tilt his/her head up or bend his/her neck down to see the screen. When seated comfortably, a user’s eyes should be in line with a point on the screen about two to three inches below the top of the monitor casing.
  • Bifocals and progressive lens—Postural problems can occur among employees with bifocals. Employees with bifocals should sit back in the chair in a reclined posture with their back at around 110 degrees rather than sitting erect at 90 degrees. If the monitor is tilted slightly backwards, the employee should be able to see the screen without tilting their head back or craning their neck forward.
  • Viewing distance—The monitor should be at a comfortable distance for viewing, which usually is around an arm’s length. At this distance, users should be able to see the monitor without making head movements. If text looks too small, the employee can either use a larger font or magnify the screen image in the software rather than sitting closer to the monitor.
  • Screen quality—Use a high-quality computer screen. Make sure the text on the screen looks sharp to the employee.
  • Keep papers close—Make sure any paper documents that users read are placed as close to the computer monitor as possible and are at a similar angle. Use a document holder when possible.

Don’t Forget Good Posture
Having the proper monitor placement will help ensure proper posture to avoid a computer-related injury. Other workstation posture basics include:

  • An employee should be able to reach the keyboard keys with their wrists as flat as possible (not bent up or down) and straight (not bent left or right).
  • To avoid nerve compression at the elbow, make sure that the user’s elbow angle (the angle between the inner surface of the upper arm and the forearm) is at or greater than 90 degrees.
  • Wrists should stay as straight as possible when the mouse is being used.
  • The user should sit back in the chair and have good back support. Feet can be placed flat on the floor or on a footrest.
  • Keep the head and neck as straight as possible.
  • The posture should feel relaxed for the user.
  • Things the user uses most frequently should be placed closest so he/she can conveniently and comfortably reach.
  • The user should be centered on the keyboard.

Resources for Workstation Ergonomics
Neck and shoulder injuries resulting from improper monitor placement are relatively easy to prevent. Educate yourself and your employees about workstation ergonomics and make needed investments in risers, stands and other accessories to improve workstations. Address the issues with the following EMC resources: