Sitting at the proper distance to the screen is important for your long term health. Unfortunately, many people sit too close or too far which can be a risk to eye health and cause injuries. If you use a computer all day, you really need to read this post.
A good rule of thumb is to sit at arms length with the screen placed directly in front of you. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends 20 – 40 inches (50 – 100 cm). The average arm length is 25 inches (63.5 cm), making it a great way to approximate the correct distance without any measurement tools.
In the rest of the article, we’ll deep dive into common problems caused by being an incorrect distance from the screen. We’ll also explore other screen types such as the television screen or small handheld devices like phones and tablets.
Guide for Proper Screen Distance
The proper distance to a monitor or laptop screen is where you can easily read all the text with your head and body in an upright posture. Your back should also be supported in your chair.
This is generally between 20 to 40 inches and a simple, tool-free way to measure it is using your arm length. For an adult, this is around 25 inches, and fits perfectly within the recommended range. However, if you are still growing, or know that you have shorter arms, you can always add a few extra inches.
There is no exact distance that your eyes should be from the screen. The main thing to make sure is that you aren’t too close or too far as both extremes can lead to issues. Not only can your eyes suffer, but you posture suffers as well.
Problems Caused By Wrong Screen Distance
There can be a lot of different issues resulting from the prolonged use of computers and screens. Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is an umbrella term coined to collectively refer to all of them. They can be caused by a slew of incorrect screen usage behaviors. However, in this article let’s focus only on those caused by sitting too close or too far from the screen.
Sitting Too Close
When the distance between you and the monitor is too short, your eyes have to work harder to focus on the screen. Doing this for prolonged periods of time can exhaust the ability of the eyes to focus. If you are doing this without the proper prescription, it can cause headaches.
Moreover, the overexposure to the bright glare of the monitor from sitting too close can strain your eyes.
When you become agitated from sitting too close you can compromise your good posture. People tend to start leaning back and tilt their head. They may also push the chair further away resulting in outstretched arms while typing.
How To Fix: Too Short Distance to Screen
Often times, fixing this issue is not as simple as moving your chair back. This can lead to outstretched arms if you don’t have enough desk space to bring your keyboard closer. In this case you will have to move the screen further back on the desk.
Depending on your desk, this can also prove to be difficult. You may have to clear up space that you used for other items, or place your monitor or laptop on a wider part of the desk.
If your desk is simply too short, you can purchase a monitor or laptop mount. These allow you to mount your device in a very adjustable way while taking a very small amount of real estate on the desk. You can also find ones that can mount two devices at the same time.
In case you are wondering what a good desk size is to avoid these issues, I wrote an article on the topic here.
Sitting Too Far
Sitting too far is also not great in the long term. Your posture suffers because you lean forward to compensate for the distance and your eyes strain to read the text on the screen. These result in stress and fatigue and is not something you want to sustain for a long period of time.
How To Fix: Too Long Distance to Screen
The easiest would be to move your chair forward while adjusting the keyboard position to make sure your arms are comfortable. However, some chairs have arm rests that prevent this by colliding into the table.
In this scenario, you can try a few things. If there is enough space on your desk, you can move the screen closer to you. If not, a mount can help again. Monitor and laptop mounts attach to the desk at the back and keep the screen in the air, thus utilizing very little desk space. In this case, you want a mount with a long arm length so that the monitor can come closer to your face.
You can also upgrade your chair to one that is more compatible to your desk or invest in a desk with adjustable height that will allow the arm rests to slide under. While these are more expensive solutions, you can tackle a slew of other issues with these upgrades. Don’t tell me you haven’t been eyeing that motorized standing desk for your home office.
Ideal Distance to Other Devices
Laptops and monitors are not the only screens we tend to use on the daily. You may be curious about other devices in your household that you use a lot such as the television or your phone or tablet. Let’s start implementing the healthy viewing habits for these devices as well.
How Far Should You Sit From Your Television
Unless you are using a tv on your desk as a monitor for a gaming console, you are going to be adequately distanced from the device.
Generally, we use our distance vision when watching television. When this is the case, CVS ailments such as strains don’t apply. However you can still strain you neck if you employ a bad posture while watching.
Instead, television distance guidelines optimize viewing field of view depending on the resolution of the TV. For standard 1080p HD televisions, a general rule of thumb is to take the width of the tv and multiply by 1.5 and 2.5 to get the recommended distance range.
- 32″ (81.3 cm) width – 4 to 6.7 feet distance
- 40″ (101.6 cm) width – 5 to 8.3 feet distance
- 43″ (109.2 cm) width – 5.4 to 9 feet distance
- 50″ (127 cm) width – 6.3 to 10.4 feet distance
- 55″ (139.7 cm) width – 6.9 to 11.5 feet distance
- 60″ (152.4 cm) width – 7.5 to 12.5 feet distance
- 65″ (165.1 cm) width – 8.1 to 13.5 feet distance
- 70″ (177.8 cm) width – 8.8 to 14.6 feet distance
- 75″ (190.5 cm) width – 9.4 to 15.6 feet distance
- 80″ (203.2 cm) width – 10 to 16.7 feet distance
- 85″ (215.9 cm) width – 10.6 to 17.7 feet distance
For televisions with higher resolution such as Ultra HD 4K systems, you can generally sit closer and still enjoy. At the end of the day, with television, you can sit how and where you are comfortable as long as you are not hurting your posture.
How Far Should You Sit From Your Smartphone or Tablet
With phones and tablets, you are no longer just using distance vision so CVS ailments can occur. People tend to use these handheld devices too close to their eyes. This can exhaust the ability of the eyes to focus as well as make them work harder.
Imagine reading a book from really close. It’s not pleasant, so why do we like to hold our phones at this distance?
The general rule of thumb for handheld devices is to place them as far away as possible where you can still read the text. Then bring the device slightly closer until your hands are in a comfortable position. It’s a balancing act to ensure comfort as well as eye safety.
Hamid Tahir is a Mechatronics Engineer and founder of WFH Overload. He is currently working from home and is dedicated to the continuous improvement of his home office setup. Hamid has extensive experience setting up workspaces and dealing with the related tech. He hopes to share his knowledge to help you create the most productive and comfortable work from home setup. Read More