Living with the internet: learning online
Living with the internet: learning online

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Living with the internet: learning online

1.1.6 Creating a comfortable working environment

The following suggestions concerning working with visual display units (VDUs) come from the 2003 Health and Safety Executive leaflet Working with VDUs.

  • Adjust your chair and VDU (Visual Display Unit) to find the most comfortable position for your work. As a broad guide, your arms should be approximately horizontal and your eyes at the same height as the top of the VDU.

  • Make sure there is space underneath your desk to move your legs freely. Move any obstacles such as boxes or equipment.

  • Avoid excess pressure from the edge of your seat on the backs of your legs and knees. A footrest may be helpful, especially for smaller users.

  • Don't sit in the same position for long periods. Make sure you change your posture as often as practicable. Some movement is desirable, but avoid repeat stretching movements to reach things you need (if this happens a lot rearrange your workstation).

  • Adjust your keyboard to get a good keying position. A space in front of the keyboard is sometimes helpful for resting the hands and wrists while not keying.

  • Try to keep your wrists straight when keying. Keep a soft touch on the keys and don't overstretch your fingers. Good keyboard technique is important.

  • Try different arrangements of keyboard, screen, mouse and documents to find the best arrangement for you. A document holder may help you avoid awkward neck and eye movements.

  • Make sure you have enough work space to take whatever documents or other equipment you need.

  • Arrange your desk and VDU to avoid glare, or bright reflections on the screen. This will be easiest if neither you nor the screen is directly facing windows or bright lights. Adjust curtains or blinds to prevent unwanted light.

  • Individual characters on the screen should be sharply focused and should not flicker or move.

  • Make sure the screen surface is clean.

  • Adjust the brightness and contrast controls on the screen to suit lighting conditions in the room.

Customising the screen display

Your working environment also extends to the software you use. When you are using software where you have a choice of fonts and colours on the screen, do choose ones which are easy to read. Remember that everyone is different and the settings that may be suitable for one person may not be suitable for you. In the majority of cases the default settings will be perfectly good. So make sure that:

  • The text is big enough for you to read easily.

  • There is enough contrast between the text and the background; in other words there should be quite a difference in brightness between the text and its background. For example black text on a dark green background is likely to be very uncomfortable to use over time and should be avoided.

  • The colour combination of text and background is comfortable. Some colour combinations (for example red and blue) may give optical illusions that are uncomfortable to view.

  • The font (typeface) on your screen is easy for you to read.

  • You avoid your screen becoming too cluttered with lots of windows all visible at the same time.

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