Display Screen Equipment – Top User Tips to Avoid Work Strain

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Have you ever experienced aches, pains, or strains at work? As a desk worker, your workstation and screen set-up can make or break your comfort. If you’re keen to reduce work strain from your display screen equipment, read on for Workhappy's expert tips.

DSE health risks

The use of devices with screens (such as computer screens, laptops, tablets, and smartphones) is now extremely common in many workplaces and sectors. However, we all know how much pain they can cause when they are used all day, everyday.

Some individuals experience eye strain, upper limb problems, work fatigue, and backache from the improper use or overuse of digital equipment. Not only are these issues uncomfortable and dangerous in the long term, they’re also known to severely impact work life as well as increasing the number of sick days taken. HSE reported that 8.9 million work days were lost in 2019 and 2020 because of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

DSE related musculoskeletal pain can be a real obstacle for desk workers. But not all hope is lost – there are lots of easy ways to minimise the impact of these devices.

Avoiding work strain from DSE

Many issues with DSE arise from poorly designed workplace set-ups. By taking note of a few simple tips, you can immediately reduce strain – whether you work in a shared office or from home. 

Eye strain

  • Arrange your desk to avoid glare. This might involve adjusting curtains or blinds to prevent intrusive light.
  • Adjust the brightness and text size on your devices so you can easily read text and see images.
  • Ensure your screen is clean.
  • Type or read in colours that are easy to process. E.g. avoid red text on blue backgrounds.
  • Try the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes spent using a screen; you should try to look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds.
  • Speak to your employer about arranging an eye test. As part of HSE regulations, it is an employer’s responsibility to organise eye tests for DSE workers when requested. They must also provide glasses if an employee needs them solely for using display screen equipment at work. 

Hand, wrist, and arm strain

  • Make sure you are seated at the correct height. Being seated too low can cause you to load through your hands and wrists causing pain and discomfort. 
  • Consider using a compact keyboard without a number pad on the right. This will prevent overextension to the right when reaching for the mouse. 
  • Ensure your wrists are straight when you’re typing and mousing.
  • Position your keyboard and mouse within easy reach. 
  • Avoid using the trackpad on the laptop. 

Upper back, shoulder, and neck strain

  • Makes sure that you screens are at the correct height and distance. The top of your screens should be at eye level and about arms length away from you. They should feel a bit too close so you are encouraged to recline into the chair as opposed to leaving forward. 
  • Never work directly from your laptop for prolonged periods. This is not only important for upper back, shoulder, and neck strain, but discomfort across the body. 
  • Make sure there is enough space on the desk to accommodate all your equipment without straining to reach it.
  • Set your chair at the right height, your shoulders should be relaxed with your elbows at the same height as the top of the desk - a DSE assessment can help you identify this.
  • It might be helpful to remove the armrests from your chair so that you don't hunch your shoulders into your neck and you can get close to the edge of the desk. 

Lowerback strain

  • Make sure that you recline into your chair properly and avoid hunching forward away from the support of your backrest. 
  • The angle between the seat on the chair should be at least 90 degrees, but ideally 95 to 100 degrees. 
  • Adjust the angle and height of the backrest so that your lower-back is well supported. 
  • If your chair is not adjustable you may want to request a DSE assessment so that a consultant can give you advice on a suitable chair. 

Leg strain

  • Ensure there is enough space under your desk to move your legs. If there isn’t, you might want to consider talking to your employer about alternative desk options.
  • Ensure your chair seat is the right length to avoid pressure from the edge of your seat on the back of your legs or knees. With your bum as far back in the seat as possible there should be 2-4 fingers space between the back of your knee and the edge of the seat.  
  • Consider getting a footrest.
  • Take regular breaks to stretch, walk around, or do some simple exercises to improve your blood flow.

If you feel unable to make any of these changes, chat with your employer about your DSE safety preferences. They will be able to order the correct equipment (such as an ergonomic chair and monitor screen) to make your time at work more comfortable.

Employer DSE responsibilities

Are you an employer? If you’re in charge of a team of 5 employees or more, you have a legal responsibility to assess your workplace’s DSE risks and the needs of individual staff members. It’s beneficial to get DSE assessments to give you regular, in-depth overviews of your specific company risks, areas for improvement, and practical solutions.

You also have a responsibility to ensure you comply with DSE regulations overseas if you have an international team.

DSE assessments from Workhappy

At Workhappy, we’re the UK’s number one DSE assessment provider. It’s our job to improve the lives of individuals who work at screens and make it easier for employers to support them.

Are you an employer looking to make your company safer for your team? We offer online DSE self assessments, in-person DSE assessments, pregnant work DSE assessments, DSE assessor training, and more. We also provide a range of wellbeing workshops that can help your employees work comfortably and healthily.

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with one of our consultants today.