Work right. How to set up your work-station

Your life may seem chaotic, rushing from lecture to seminar to social engagement. It may feel like you don’t have a spare minute. Stop for a minute and think about how much of your day is actually spent sitting down, staring at a screen.

As a student much of your existence will be spent hunched over a keyboard so it’s important to ensure that it isn’t also harming your health. Here are some quick-fix solutions to make sure time spent dedicated to studying is both productive and good to your joints and posture.

Love your chair

If you’re going to be working somewhere for an extended period of time you need to look at the relationship with your chair. How well is it treating you? Make sure it isn’t actively attacking you behind your back.

Investing in an adjustable chair for your room is worth looking into. Sitting at an awkward angle can affect your posture and develop into back problems. Whenever you’re using an adjustable chair, make sure you adjust it; otherwise it’s just another uncomfortable chair!

Aside from moving it up or down to accommodate your legs, few people actually take the time to move the back. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your legs forming a 90 degree angle so this will need adjusting if you’re wearing heels. Adjust the back-rest so that you’re sitting close to a 135° angle, which will put the minimum amount of strain on your back.

Spending five minutes adjusting the chair to a comfortable angle and height will significantly improve your seated position and help prevent backache and joint pain.

If there isn’t an adjustable chair in sight, swap your seating until you can reach the floor while sitting with your back against the rest. Move the chair forward or back so that you’re not hunched over, like Quasimodo at school.

Adjust your keyboard

If you’re working on a PC then placement of the keyboard could be causing you trouble. Typing requires short sharp movements, often at unwieldy angles, that are constantly challenging the tendons in your hands. This can result in micro-trauma, which may lead to repetitive stress injury like Tendonitis.

You may have lucked out and inadvertently chosen to study somewhere with ergonomic keyboards. These have been designed to improve the position of your hands while typing, allowing more natural wrist alignment. Flip up the flaps at the back for the most natural position.

If you’re working on a laptop or non-ergonomic keyboard then it’s better to leave it lying flat- otherwise your hands will be forced into an unnatural angle that could cause you injury.

Protect your wrists

You’ve adjusted your keyboard, looked at the angles, but your wrists still start to ache half-way through writing an essay. Try a wrist support. This spongy cushion will raise your wrists so they stay straight while you type.

With your adjusted chair and good posture you should be sitting straight. Go back and check your chair or keyboard if you find you’re leaning on your wrists or they are at an odd angle.

Check the monitor

Our eyes weren’t made to look at the artificial light of computer screens for long periods. The brightness level can be adjusted to help protect your eyes, however it can tricky to find the right one for you. If it’s too bright the glare can be damaging, but conversely if it’s too dim your eyes will strain to see.

As all eyes are different the best way to find the levels you’re comfortable with requires some trial and error. Adjust the level each day and rate how tired your eyes are, until you find the right setting for you. It may take a week to find the level you’re comfortable with but once set will mean comfortable eyes.

Take regular breaks

No matter how comfortable you make your work station, don’t stay there all day. Research shows that sitting for long periods of time increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, deep-vein thrombosis and becoming obese.

Get up and move around. Try thinking through an idea, or running through revision notes, while walking around outside or pacing up and down your room.

Staring at a screen for hours on end isn’t good for your eyes so try to look away every 20 minutes or so. Do your brainstorming on paper, instead of running through ideas on screen. This should help reduce that feeling of sandy eyes.

Don’t develop a hunch before you’ve reached the age when it’s acceptable.  Make sure you are using your work-station at its best so that aching wrists, back pain or throbbing legs don’t interrupt your productivity.

Other resources: infographics