Display Screens at Home - changes that you can make at home to reduce risks associated with display screen use

DISCLAIMER: The information contained within this section of our website is only intended as guidance on temporary measures at a time of great need as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The advice should in no way be taken as being enough to ensure that you can continue in the longer term to work from home in a suitable or safe manner.  The same legislation that protects us in an office applies if we're working from home on a permanent or regular basis - but it may be a while before this kind of adjustment can happen. 

 

DSE assessments should be undertaken on at least a yearly basis with all employees and further assessment may be required if a basic DSE assessment identifies that the DSE user is at risk.  Please contact your employer's Health & Safety representative to ensure that this takes place.

In this time of a sudden move to home working, many of us are having to work on a laptop as our main workstation.  Although the technology in our laptops is broadly speaking the same as the tech in our old office desktop computers, there's a very important difference between a desk-based machine and a laptop.  Laptop computers are not intended to be worked at for extended periods -

Laptop computers are designed for portability - they can be packed up and slipped into a backpack or briefcase and taken from one location to the next.  They allow us to enter information on the move - but they're not built for working at for long periods of time.  The main risk factors associated with laptops being used as main computers are:

  1. Screen height

  2. Screen size

  3. Keyboard and mouse input

Screen Height

Laptops are generally used on a flat surface like a tabletop.  However, when used in this type of position, the screen sits much too low for comfortable use except for very particular situations (more on that later).  DSE guidance states that the top of the screen should generally be at or slightly below eye level (as shown in the image to the right).  However, with laptops, the actual screen height is often much lower.

The reason this is so important is to avoid putting strain on the muscles of your back and neck.  Your head is heavy and constantly looking down at a screen will tend to result in your back being pulled forward away from the back of the chair.  This will typically lead to upper and lower back problems as well as literally, a pain in the neck!

When it comes to raising the screen of your laptop, literally anything that's solid will do.  However, do bear in mind that laptops generate heat and therefore putting a heat resistant coaster or table mat underneath the laptop might not be a bad move.  Possible items around the house that you could use to raise the screen so that it sits at or just below eye level might include:

  • Jigsaw boxes

  • Board games

  • Reams of paper

  • Storage crates or plastic boxes

  • Books

Varifocals and Bifocals

A quick note about a possible exception to the general rule here.  For those of us who have to use varifolals or bifocal glasses, the most comfortable viewing height is unlikely to be at eye level.  The part of the lens that deals with close distances is generally at the bottom of your glasses and if the screen is too high, you'll find yourself tilting your head back so that you can focus on the screen.  This gets really uncomfortable after a short period of time so if you use these types of glasses, consider lowering the screen a bit.

 

The best height will vary depending on the design of your lenses so do a bit of experimentation and try various heights until you find one that's usable without having to either tilt your head back, or forward.