Law Office Ergonomics: Monitors Can Be a Pain in the Neck

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on January 23, 2015 12:16 PM

Big, roomy computer monitors are essential for comfortable lawyering. You spend a lot of your time at your desk, and a big monitor allows you to have multiple documents open side-by-side.

But monitors, like every other part of your desk, are governed by the iron-clad Law of Ergonomics. If your monitor is too close, or too high, or too low, you can end up with a sore neck, a sore back, or both.

Here's a quick cheat sheet for making sure you don't end up in traction at the end of the day:

Monitor Height

This is the big one. According to your friends at OSHA, "The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level. The center of the computer monitor should normally be located 15 to 20 degrees below horizontal eye level."

Many big monitors aren't adjustable, which is why you need an adjustable monitor stand. If you find yourself looking upward or downward at your monitor, then you're doing it wrong: Either your chair needs to move, or your monitor does (or you need to stop slouching. Why are you slouching?).

Monitor Distance

If you feel like Mr. Magoo trying to read the newspaper, you might need a bigger monitor, or a smaller resolution. Your eye should be 20 to 40 inches from the monitor, OSHA advises.

"But," you say, "I can't see anything!" That means you might need to decrease your screen resolution. The bigger the resolution, the smaller everything gets. Maybe 1920x1080 isn't for you. Conversely, both Mac OS and Windows have accessibility options that can increase the operating system font size without decreasing the overall resolution, in case you're having trouble reading things.

And If You Still Have a CRT ...

Time to throw it out. (Not in the garbage can, of course; you need to get it disposed of properly.) Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors -- the big, bulky ones -- don't have anywhere near the resolution and sharpness of modern LCD displays. In addition, they use a lot more power and take up a lot more space on your desk. You can get a slim 23" LCD display for about $150.

Hook Your Laptop Up to Something!

Are you hunched over your laptop like some hacker on TV? That's bad for all your ergonomics, and laptop screens don't provide a lot of real estate for your documents. If you're going to be sitting down and typing for an extended amount of time, seriously invest in a monitor.

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