Monthly Archives: November 2013

Computer Vision Syndrome

In today’s digital world, many people spend several hours a day using a computer. Activities such as work, school, artistic endeavors, socializing, researching that next fabulous vacation, and taking care of personal business like banking or shopping, all entail time spent in front of the glare of a computer screen. That can result in dry, red, irritated, strained eyes, which can cause fatigue, headaches, and even neck and back discomfort, blurred vision and more. When you love being online, whether for work or for play, physical symptoms of eyestrain can really put a damper on things.

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, if you have been experiencing the symptoms listed above, you may be developing an increasingly common condition called Computer Vision Syndrome. Studies show prevalence figures as high as 90% for Americans who use a computer for more than three hours a day. According to Dr. Sandy T. Feldman, medical director at Clearview Eye and Laser in California, one in six patients exhibits signs of computer vision syndrome.

The expansion of the digital age in the 21st century has given us the ability to keep up with loved
ones from around the world, skip long lines at the DMV, and take care of business online and, in many cases, even earn our living from the comfort of a home-office by freelancing or working remotely. In fact, one recent study by
Business Insider showed that by 2020, about 40% of people will be freelancing. Of course, all of that means a lot more computer time.

Fortunately, there are plenty of easy remedies to help protect your health and stay physically fit in the digital age. Simple back and neck exercises, a daily yoga practice, utilizing ergonomic furniture, and getting fitted for protective computer glasses are all great ways to take care of yourself and enjoy your computer time.

Here are some terrific guidelines for taking care of your eyes so that you can be comfortable and healthy, no matter how much time you spend online.

  • Blink your eyes frequently to replenish tear film.
  • Invest in over-the-counter teardrop solutions to reduce dry eye symptoms.

  • To alleviate dry eye syndrome, make sure your monitor isn’t too high because if you look up, you reduce the amount of evaporation in your tear ducts and you’re able to lubricate the eye a bit more.
  • Buy a monitor that allows you to reduce glare and adjust the screen brightness level in different environments.
  • Bigger is not always better. A 27-48 inch monitor or multiple monitors are not always the solution. They can create awkward neck and head postures along with dry eyes.
  • Ergonomic experts advise that you keep a distance of at least an arms length between your eyes and your screen.
  • Create healthy lighting conditions by using task lighting, and arrange your desk or chair so that you are not facing direct lighting.
  • Avoid facing a window because it’s difficult for the eyes to adjust to outside brightness and the computer screen (opposite effect) and can result in weakening your vision.
  • Sit so that air from a fans, or vents, doesn’t come into direct contact with your eyes.

  • Take frequent breaks to rest your eyes. Set a timer on your computer or phone to remind you to look away from your screen every 20 minutes, or so, for at least 20 seconds, and focus on something about 20 feet away; this is sometimes referred to as the “20-20-20 rule” for healthy best practices while working on a computer.

  • Finally, give your entire body, mind, eyes and soul a rest by taking frequent breaks to do a few yoga stretches, take a short walk or refresh with eyes closed for 5-10 minutes a few times a day.

Social media is fun. Today more than ever, people get to do what they love, online, from
someplace (anyplace!) other than a corporate office. Even jobs that take place in a corporate environment are made easier by the use of computers. Life is generally more convenient, given our ability to take care of it (whatever “it” is) via the Internet.

As our world becomes more computer-centric, we are fortunate to reap the benefits and rewards of the wonders of the World Wide Web. As with anything, we sometimes need to adjust our lifestyle. It’s really just a matter of adopting some work tools, like the right furniture, computer screen, or prescription eyewear, and making a few lifestyle and habit adjustments. To your health!

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.

The World According to Craig – Two Ergo Case Studies

craig stewartThere are times when you have to bring in the pros. Especially when it comes to ergonomics as it becomes more clear to employers that a growing business cannot afford patching up the office layout in order to meet the increase of daily tasks. Poorly designed work places negatively influence workers’ creativity, productivity and general satisfaction. Not to mention health hazards, which can eventually cost the employer in compensation and hidden costs. The following cases were evaluated and redesigned by Craig Stewart, ASP, an ergonomic specialist for the past 20 years.

Case #1:

An analysis was requested by corporate headquarters for a division serving as a phone center of abefore ergo design1 large medical company. The workers complained about noise, lack of space, dust, mold, physical discomfort, injuries and general dissatisfaction. It was considered the dungeon and the last place people wanted to work. At one point OSHA claims were made. Compared to other divisions in the company, worker complaints and absenteeism were high.

What we found was a typical design that did not consider the workers, their space needs and the general work environment. This group of 30 workers had a 15% ergonomic injury rate; high dispersion of dust and mold had workers complaining of allergies and colds. In fact there were several complaints made daily and the supervisors spent much of their days addressing them.

In principal, a poorly designed office layout affects the productivity, satisfaction and profitability of workers and the company. This office layout was provided by a large furniture company and had case 1 - before redesignvery little thought put into design and outcome. When viewing the “before” photos, you can see what happened to the space over 2 years.

The old design provided what was thought to be an open layout (remember this is a phone center and everyone is constantly on the phones and filing papers). The desks were small and the mail bins took up 20 inches of desk space. Paper bins and file cabinets under the desks left no legroom and made it almost impossible to turn or swivel the chairs. Within a year the company had to purchase and install hanging file holders due to lack of storage. Keyboard trays were added because the standard 29-inch desk height started to create shoulder and neck injuries. Poor panel layout created problems for janitorial and IT personnel that was impossible to overcome.

We analyzed the issues and found that the company could solve the ergonomic concerns by using height adjustable desks with lots of desk space and legroom. Users could work in neutral postures and easily access their desk tools. This desk design eliminated shoulder and low back complaints. The desk height could be easily adjusted in 10 minutes, reducing facilities costs by eliminating extensive set up and re-design time.

When on the phone, it was difficult for the employees to hear clients. Our solution was a re-designed floor plan utilizing a combination of panels and a tall filing cabinet. This created privacy, acted as a sound barrier and provided much needed storage space. This design also eliminated the need for overhead storage bins and we designated easy to install modular panels that cost less.

With air quality and employee environmental sensitivities in mind, we chose a totally green cae 1 after redesignmanufacturing process. This included using sustainable woods with no VOC out gassing and water based glues. The steel legs are made of high-recycled content with an environmental method for application of the powder coat paint. The goal was to remove any possible future issues with air quality and offer a clean environment for the workers.

Gone were the “dead” dusty spaces with this new design and it was easy for the IT team to wire and easy to clean. The design combined sound privacy for the call center, offered lots of storage, promoted neutral body posture and encouraged team communication with easy monitoring for the supervisors. By opening up the space and providing ergonomic office furniture and tools, the complaints went from over 4 a day to zero. The department was happy, efficient and productive. Best of all the supervisors were freed up to do their “real” job.

The overwriting concept of all Kare Product designs is to always focus on the people, analyzing their daily tasks and requirements needed to place them in an ergonomically neutral posture. Creating a design that provides enough space to permit tasks to be performed in a productive manner while considering the health and well being of the employees is key. Once that’s in place, then it’s time to take those concepts and make them visually appealing.

Case #2:

In this case we performed an analysis of a division in a high-rise office building where employees complained about lack of privacy and noise interfering with their ability to complete their work. Daily tasks included intensive computer projects and ongoing communication with investors. As a result of the working conditions, Human Resource saw an increase in lost workdays and a rise in Workers’ Compensation cases.

We identified the need for a single overall design that would accommodate both group interactions as well as individual workstations. With that in mind, the system would need to dampen the noise and provide privacy for the employees.

The solution included a paneling system that allowed easy interface with co-workers for group projects. For the individuals, we provided sit stand desk configurations that addressed the employees’ heights (ranging from 5′ to 6’2”) and ergonomic injuries. The pedestals included the height considerate storage systems (not limiting a lower desk) and at each station we added dual height adjustable monitor arms.

Thus amount of ambient noise was greatly reduced, ample space for group projects was provided and each person was able to enjoy an ergonomically fit workstation. Comments from the workers were positive emphasizing the uniqueness of the design, how it accommodates their requirements and the fact that it had a pleasing appearance.

By making the design modular, the company was able to easily move offices a few times within a case 2 after redesign3- year range, taking it apart and re-installing all desk systems in less than one day. This alone saved more money than the cost of the entire system.

Lastly, each employee handled a large amount of paper on daily basis. In high-rise buildings and other closed office environments, the outgassing from most new furniture, carpet and paint releases a lot of fumes and the lack of ventilation can cause allergic reactions and cold-like symptoms. By selecting green furniture with water base glues, recycled laminates and non-toxic paints we were able to eliminate the reactions to the chemicals and create a healthier work place.

Author Byline

Craig Stewart is VP and co-owner of Kare Products since 1983. Craig brings analytical skills to Kare Products systems, manufacturing, workspace ergonomics and design. He has grown the company from bootstrap to a national market.

This article was originally published (in part) here.