Monday, November 5, 2018

Computer usage and health

Introduction:
If you're in infosec or any other computer focused jobs such as sysadmin or a programmer, you may be spending a lot of time on a computer and/or sitting at a desk all day (or at least more than the average human being). This may come with health problems related to but not limited hands, eyes, back, and neck. In this post, I'll try to provide tools and tips that may help limit injuries or pain. 

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This blog post does not provide any cures. Check links in the resources section for more information. 

Tools/Tips:
One of the main things you do when using a computer is staring at your screen. I'm not sure if this affects your vision long-term or not but it may certainly cause strain or dry eyes. There are applications you can install to remind you to look away or take a break from staring at your screen. These applications include Workrave (http://www.workrave.org/) and Eyeleo (http://eyeleo.com/). There are more if you check AlternativeTo (https://alternativeto.net/). I have used Workrave in the past but currently, I use Eyeleo. Depending on your settings, Eyeleo will give you a popup about various eye movements (rolling your eyes for example) or looking away. Workrave also gives you popup about doing exercises at your desk. You may have to tune the time settings to make sure the popups don't get too annoying and you can still remain productive. 

You can also adjust your screen brightness level depending on the light level around you. Android phones and tablets usually have an option to adjust brightness based on the sensor included on the phone. Another thing you can do is use a blue light filter option on your devices. Again, Android phones and tablets may include this option in their settings as well. For Windows, I use f.lux (https://justgetflux.com/), which is pretty popular. It will adjust your screen color based on the time of day. 

Finally, you can get computer glasses that are designed for computer users. I'm pretty sure they protect your eyes from the blue light, besides that, I'm not 100% sure what else is different about them. Additional features or protections may depend on the manufacturer I guess. 

"Protect Ya Neck" - Wu Tang Clan
You may get neck issues depending on how your monitor is positioned/angled. Make sure your monitor is in front of you and you don't have to keep your neck tilted or twisted to view it. Position the monitor so you're not getting glare or reflection. Keep your monitor clean as well. Keep in mind the height and distance of the monitor compared to your eye level. You shouldn't have to bend your neck down to view what's on the screen. Check the resources for more information on setting up your monitor. 

Pay attention to your posture when using a computer. Make sure you're not cutting off or reducing blood circulation to your hands because of the way you're using the keyboard. Try to keep your back straight. Keep your forearms and wrists aligned with the keyboard and mouse. Your feet should be flat against the ground. Check the links in the resources for a diagram. 


Instead of sitting all day, you can also stand at your desk. Adjustable standing desks exist, you can also buy kits that convert your desk into an adjustable standing desk. If you do utilize a standing desk, make sure not to stand ALL day and switch between sitting and standing. Also, if you're standing, use an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. 

Ergonomic keyboard and mouse may make your hands more comfortable when using a computer. Ergonomic keyboard and mouse can be used with your natural hand position and may help prevent carpal tunnel (not sure how true that is). There are many options out there when it comes when it comes to ergonomic keyboard and mouse, you may just have to test and find what feels most comfy to you. 

Some workplaces may have people in charge of ergonomics/human factor or occupational health. I've worked at a place that has had people like that. They can help make sure your work environment is comfortable and safe. Check with HR. 

That's all! Hopefully, some of the information was useful to whomever that's reading this. Links in the resources are probably more helpful.

Resources:
http://www.workrave.org/
http://eyeleo.com/
https://alternativeto.net/software/eyeleo/
https://alternativeto.net/software/workrave/
https://justgetflux.com/
https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-use-blue-light-filter-phone/
https://ergo-plus.com/office-ergonomics-position-computer-monitor/
https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/office/monitor_positioning.html
https://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/ergonomics/workstation-ergonomic-tips-computer-monitors-posture
http://www.healthycomputing.com/office/setup/monitor/
https://lifesworkpt.com/2018/03/proper-computer-posture/
https://www.wikihow.com/Sit-at-a-Computer
http://ergonomictrends.com/proper-sitting-posture-computer-experts/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/standing-workstation/art-20088544
https://www.uclahealth.org/safety/sitting-to-standing-workstations
https://www.doityourself.com/stry/choosing-the-best-ergonomic-keyboard-five--essential-features

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