Guest Author - virginia hixson
There are two main considerations in monitor placement – Neck Angle, and Vision. This article primarily focuses on Neck Angle with a review of some basic Vision issues.
Through the years there have been many different ideas about what is a good place to put the monitor - but referring to basic Ergonomics, our goal is to find the posture and visual angle that will let you work in the easiest way possible (e.g. easy on your body). This takes us back to neutral position. How do we set the monitor so that our necks will naturally fall into neutral position? How can we position the monitor to reduce eye strain?
The back has 3 natural curves: one in the Lumbar Region (low back), one in the Thoracic Region (mid back) and one in the Cervical Region (neck). Some people curve only a little, while other curve a lot. Your curves are different when you sit and when you stand. As one curve undulates into another position, all the others change to accommodate so that the spine as a whole is affected. What does this mean practically?
Your natural neck curve may vary with the chair you sit in. When your neck curve changes, the monitor may need to be adjusted to optimally accommodate. Usually this is not a large change. Often, you can find a ‘middle ground’ which will work in most cases. If the chair is very different or uses a different seating theory, you may need to adjust height, distance and / or angle.
• You may need a monitor that has adjustable angle and probably adjustable height.
The neck is composed of eight different joints and there is an angle at each juncture. Generally it is easier to think of 'neck curvature'. Are the ears over the shoulder (best if you are young). Is the posture similar to standing neck curve, or to sitting without a monitor? (usually better for older people who have habituated into neck posutres).
First, find a chair that supports the work you do – and that fits your body. (Review the article on this site that talks about office seating). Once you have the chair, look straight ahead at a blank wall. Your neck should fall into a natural posture very close to the position you want to end up with while working. Now all you need are some basic vision guidelines.
Monitor Distance And Height
Monitor distance used to be a fairly simple formula. Reach out with your arm until it is parallel to the floor. Straighten your fingers. The monitor should be close to that distance away.
As humans our normal gaze is about 15 - 25 degrees below straight ahead. Take your 'straight-ahead gaze' and drop it until you feel your eyes relax. That's the height you want for the center of your visual field - about 1/3 of the way down your screen.
The Balancing Act
Nowadays however, there is no real standard size for a monitor. The larger the monitor, the further away it should be to have most space included in an easy span of vision: The larger the monitor, the larger the problem. The eyes can encompass only so much. The closer the monitor is to you, the more you lose any potential value from the larger screen.
On the other hand, the further away the monitor, the larger the font needed in order to read without strain – there is a trade off.
Effects of Aging
From about the age of 50, vision begins to change. The focal distance of the eye changes. This is a natural process, but does affect the way a monitor should be placed. Height and distance become more important. Sometimes, things need to be further away in order to maintain clear and easy focus. Sometimes font will need to be larger.
If glasses or contact lenses are employed, the monitor may very well need to be lowered in order to avoid ‘neck craning’. An article is coming soon that will discuss more about Visual Ergonomics.