Here’s a health problem that didn’t exist 50 years ago: Bad Computer Health. With the proliferation of computers have come many potentially risky health habits caused by working in front of a computer, less face-to-face interactions with others and being in constantly accessible. From posture, headaches and eye fatigue, to less sleep, more stress and poor social skills, computers have led to some very bad health problems and behaviors.
The truth is computers aren’t the problem so much as their operators. A-hum, meaning, all of us people who use them. Having healthy computer habits including setting boundaries, staying organized and knowing when computers aren’t the best means for communication are important to our modern health. Here are some tips to keep your computer health on track:
Posture: If your back aches and your neck is stiff after working at your computer, chances are you have bad computer posture, which can lead to chronic muscle problems and inflammation. Make a conscious effort to sit up straight by pushing your bottom out against the back of your chair and sit with your legs uncrossed to relieve pressure on the lower back. Get up and walk around regularly and stretch periodically as well. Some people are following a new trend of standing computer work stations, which is better for your back, neck and shoulders. Plus, standing burns more calories throughout the day.
Eye Strain: Repetitive Strain Injury is common for people who work in front of computers daily. This condition happens over time as tissues, muscles and nerves fall into unhealthy patterns from computer exposure. In the case of your eyes, poor lighting that creates a glare on your computer screen can cause eye pain from squinting, blurry vision, dry eyes and eye fatigue. When your eyes are affected in these ways, it can lead to shoulder and neck pain as well as headaches. Make sure you have an appropriate amount of light in your work space and follow the 20-20-20 rule: every twenty minutes, look away from your screen for at least 20 seconds at something at least 20 feet away.
Email Habits: Being constantly available to co-workers, clients and vendors can cause a lot of stress and greatly interfere with your personal life. “Workaholic” is a real condition and a common cause of stress and anxiety issues that lead to physical health problems including high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke and poor diet and exercise choices. Also, disorganization of emails and files can lead to stress from less productivity and always feeling flustered. Create some healthy email habits such as prioritizing your emails and setting specific times to respond (meaning, not at midnight), creating folders so emails and information are easily accessible when you need them and adhering to deadlines, even for simple responses to emails.
Set a Tech Schedule: Computers and phones are more portable than ever. It may be tempting to bring yours everywhere – the bathroom, your bed, carpool line. Sometimes your body and your mind need a tech break, which often gives you some freedom to collect your thoughts and be creative so you can return to work more productively. Separating yourself from your computer and all the people, facts and projects it represents is often the most dedicated, healthiest way to work. Additionally, staring at a bright screen, reading stimulating emails or getting stressed about work right before bed is not good for your sleep. You need time to unwind. Make a rule not to bring your technology to bed.
Computer vs. Telephone vs. Face-to-Face: Computers have reinvented the way we work and will continue to do so for many years in the future. But there is a time and place for computer-based business communication and every message you want to relay may not be best said through technology. Longer, more complex thoughts and anything that requires a back-and-forth discussion to resolve may be easier to explain via phone or in-person. Email or bring along charts and supporting written materials if that helps, but leave more elaborate ideas for verbal communication. Additionally, social interaction is vital to most humans. Voice and face-to-face communication connects us in ways no other species on Earth can do, and it is one of our basic human needs. Human contact makes us happier, more compassionate, more interesting people even if we’d rather be hiding behind a computer. Challenge yourself to come out from behind the screen when the time is appropriate.
Just like exercise, practicing safe driving, taking a daily multi-nutrient supplement and maintaining emotional balance are crucial to our health, good computer health is a part of modern healthy living. Avoiding computers in your work may not be possible or responsible, so keep these healthy computer habits in mind to ensure technology does not negatively impact your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.