proper computer monitor height
Christoph Hohl

Christoph Hohl

The big ergonomic issue about the correct screen height

 

Nowadays, the majority of people work in front of a screen for several hours, practically every day. Many rightly ask themselves what the effect the positioning of the height of the screen has on their health?

It is clear that more and more people have neck pain, shoulder tension, burning eyes or headaches. It is also a fact that many of these ailments are triggered by the monitor, especially by its positioning, which unfortunately often has the wrong ergonomic height.

 

What needs to be considered when setting the correct height for computer monitors?

correct height for computer monitors

Basically, the proper computer monitor height, or even laptop or notebook screen, has a profound effect on your health! It is of utmost importance to adjust the monitor in such a way that an ergonomic work environment can be guaranteed, and a complaint-free workplace is ensured.

Since an optimal workstation depends not only on the ergonomic height, but on a mix of different factors, the following points should be taken in consideration:

  • Location of the monitor
  • Height of the computer monitor
  • Distance to the screen
  • Central field of vision to the monitor
  • Inclination of the computer monitor
  • Screen display
  • Arrangement with multiple monitors
  • How is a laptop positioned?
  • Where are the working materials positioned?

 

Location of the monitor

Before you start properly adjusting the height of your monitor, you need to locate it optimally to ensure an ergonomic working environment.

A monitor should never be placed directly in front of a window, as the eyes may be blinded and suffer strain from the significant differences in light from outside and inside.

The reverse is also not advisable, with the light coming in directly from a window behind. This will create reflections and glare on the monitor, which in turn causes eye strain.

An optimal position is next to the window at a 90° angle or in such a way that the light falls laterally on the workspace without creating glare.

If you do not have optimal light conditions, then change the position of your workplace. It can be very rewarding to move or rotate your desk. If you have no other option than to work directly in front of a window, you can prevent reflections with a non-transparent curtain or blinds.

Also to be avoided are reflections from ceiling lights.

In summary, make sure that there are no reflections on the monitor and that there is not a large light difference between the monitor and the rest of the working environment.

 

Height of the computer monitor

One major mistake I find is that in many cases the monitor is definitely set too high. Often stacks of paper or other devices are placed under the computer monitor. In addition, some people have the belief that one’s eyes should be at the same height as the center of the screen, which is absolutely wrong!

Although monitors are getting taller and wider, as a rule of thumb you should be able to see a finger’s width over the top of the screen with the center of your vision.  Make sure that you assume your usual sitting posture when adjusting the proper computer monitor height.

Generally, a lower set monitor is less harmful than one set too high. The angle of your view should always be tilted slightly downward, about 20 to 30°, so that your spine remains unloaded without muscle strain.

Often people with bifocals make the mistake of pushing their head forward and tilting their neck upward to read better through the focus zone of the glasses. Here, the correct height for computer monitors would be slightly lower than in normal cases.

When you purchase a new monitor, make absolutely sure that it can be adjusted in height.

 

Distance to the screen

Apply this simple rule of thumb:

From your normal ergonomic sitting position while working, you should touch the screen with your fingertips while your arm is extended.

I often experience that the computer screen is too far back. This then results in people having to lean forward in order to read well. Inevitably, this leads to the banana position, which can cause a series of adverse health effects. Very classic in this case are shoulder tension and neck complaints. Often, the lumbar area and the upper cervical vertebrae are also affected. Therefore, it is extremely important to follow this rule for the proper distance from the screen.

 

Central field of vision to the monitor

Further, it is important that you do not sit too much to the left or too much to the right of the center of the screen, otherwise you will be forced to constantly turn your neck or adopt a slouched posture, which in turn can lead to tension.

So, make sure that the screen is positioned directly in front of you, so that your gaze goes directly to the center of the screen, without turning your head.

 

Inclination of the computer monitor

Since the ideal posture is with your gaze angled slightly downward, the monitor should also be gently tilted. So, the top edge should be slightly further back than the bottom edge, in order for your viewing angle to be 90° to the screen. This helps the eyes to keep both the top and bottom areas of the screen in focus, ensuring approximately the same viewing distance everywhere.

If the monitor is perpendicular, it is more tiring for the eyes because the viewing distance in the upper area is closer to the eyes than the lower area.

If you have a fixed screen that can’t be inclined, you can also simply fold some paper several times and place it under the front of the screen base. Be sure, though, that the computer monitor is stable.

 

Screen display

It is much more comfortable for the eyes to view a screen with high contrast, such as black text on a white background. This is called positive display, whereas negative display with a dark background and light font has a much more tiring effect on the eyes.

In addition, bright colors should not be used over a large area and the illumination of the monitor itself should be set to ensure good contrast.

Nevertheless, the eyes can burn after long work. This is often due to sitting in front of the screen with too much concentration and not blinking enough. To remedy this, take regular, short breaks during the day and consciously squint your eyes several times now and then.

Studies have also shown that the colors displayed on a monitor have an effect on sleep. For example, blue color promotes wakefulness. The bluer a monitor, the less quickly one gets tired. However, this also means that if someone works on a blue screen shortly before going to bed, they may have difficulty falling asleep. Rather use warm light and no blue tones on the computer monitor before going to bed.

 

Arrangement with multiple monitors

multiple monitors

The issue for the correct ergonomic arrangement of multiple monitors depends on the number and type of screens.

If you are working with two monitors, you should arrange them directly next to each other and set them at the same height. The shape of the screens should form a semicircle so that you always have the same viewing distance. Set the resolution the same for both monitors, as this puts less strain on the eyes.

If you are constantly working with two monitors, sit exactly in the middle, i.e. where the two monitors touch. While working, try to align yourself in such a way that you always look directly into the active monitor and turn slightly with your office chair to view the other. If you work standing up, consciously turn your whole body a few degrees to the second monitor.

It is different, however, if you have a main monitor and the second monitor is a notebook or laptop used infrequently. In this configuration, the main monitor should be centered in front of you and the second monitor should be positioned immediately to one side, as close as possible to the main monitor. If you work on the second monitor for a longer period of time, turn your entire body so that you look directly into the current work screen without having to twist your body.

Place the laptop or notebook on a stand to ensure the correct ergonomic height of the monitor.

multiple monitors

There are people who work with more than two monitors, for example in a monitoring room, at the stock exchange or other work areas where a lot of information comes together at the same time. Here it is also important to arrange the monitors as close as possible next to each other or on top of each other. Special monitor holders can be a great help for this. When working with several monitors, try to turn your body towards the monitor to be viewed. If the monitors are one above the other and the head is inevitably directed backwards, a headrest on the office chair will consciously support and relieve the neck.

 

How is a laptop positioned?

laptop position on a table

A big mistake people make is to work for hours with the laptop lying flat on the table. Especially among students or people who work in a home office, this non-ergonomic way of working is unfortunately very common. The negative health consequences, such as neck tension and shoulder complaints, can hardly be avoided.

how to position a laptop

I highly recommend that everyone who works more than one hour per day with a notebook/laptop, connect it to an external monitor and that the main work is done on the external monitor. In this way, you provide the proper computer monitor height. An external keyboard and external mouse should also be used. Since monitors, keyboards and mice no longer cost the world, it is absolutely worthwhile to make such an investment in an ergonomic work environment and will certainly help your health.

 

If you only want to work with your laptop, without an external screen, you should buy a laptop holder. Again, there are ingenious solutions for little money.

When positioning the laptop, pay attention to the same rules as with a normal screen. An external keyboard and external mouse will also be necessary; these relatively small costs are disproportionate to the benefit you will get.

 

Where are the working materials positioned?

As you are now sitting in a linear position in relation to the screen, the work materials should also be aligned accordingly. So, the keyboard directly in front of you, placed centrally so that you can type comfortably. The mouse should not be too far laterally, so that your shoulders do not twist excessively outward.

If you have hard copy documents, place them on a document holder and position it between the monitor and the keyboard, if possible, to ensure linear positioning. Often, documents are placed next to the monitor, but this quickly leads to tension, as the neck has to twist unnaturally for a longer period of time.

 

Final thoughts

In my experience, the ergonomic issue of the correct screen height is crucial and an important main topic in ergonomics!

So many people could save themselves much suffering if they respected the correct height for computer monitors. My experience also shows me how many people have been freed from headaches after just lowering their monitor a little. It is impressive how much influence the correct ergonomic height of a monitor has on health and how easy it is to put this into practice.

Often, I hear that people want to adjust their screen, but don’t have time for that at the moment and that it’s too much work to move the monitor. Oh yes, and then there is the cabling, which would have to be laid differently…

When I am personally present on site with these people, I do not allow such an excuse, but immediately adjust the proper computer monitor height, even if this sometimes causes some astonishment and changes on the worksurface. I am pleased to hear afterwards how much better the people concerned felt after this ” modification “. I highly recommend that you become active right now and adjust your monitor to the ergonomically correct height. Your body will soon be grateful.

If you want even more information, my book “Wellness in the Office” has a total of 51 detailed tips to help you turn your office into a little paradise.

wellness in the office 50 + 1 tips
50+1 tips to make your office a little paradise

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Christoph Hohl

Christoph Hohl

Christoph Hohl comes from Switzerland and is an ergonomics expert. For more than 20 years he has been offering many solutions with different products and many tips to provide more quality of life and a greater sense of well-being. SANTERGO is a special piece of this mosaic.