5 Ergonomic Tips Every Business Should Adopt
Whether you work for yourself or a big company, one thing about your work environment doesn't change: its ability to afflict you with a multitude of conditions arising from improper ergonomics. RSI and carpal tunnel, back pain, eye fatigue -- the list goes on. These are conditions that are generally ignored until it is too late to go back, and yet readily preventable with just a bit of investment in your office equipment and your own habits.
A great chair is essential.
Spend the most time and money on a great chair. RSI and the like can be a huge pain, but they're nowhere near as difficult to reverse as back pain. It should be supportive for pretty much your whole body, and have a variety of adjustment options so you can tweak the setup to your body's shape. Most agree that lumbar support is the most important feature -- hence why the traditional cheap office chair, which has nothing but a gap between backrest and seat, is a terrible choice. Since desks don't tend to have adjustable heights, you should adjust your chair so that your forearms rest at a 90 degree angle on your desk for proper support.
Your mother always told you to sit up. Ignore her.
The conventional wisdom is that you should sit in your chair at a 90 degree angle -- sitting up as straight as you can, just as your mother taught you. In 2006, researchers used a then-new variant of the MRI scan to determine the seating position that put the least strain on your back. The resulting advice is that you should sit at a 135 degree angle -- that's a position in which you lean back considerably compared to the typical 90 degree angle -- or, if you have trouble with sliding on your seat at that steep angle, 120 degrees.
Get an ergonomic keyboard.
We don't have it as bad as our creative cousins, the writer, but in email and Photoshop and everything between, a lot of time is spent using our keyboards. Unfortunately, the vast majority of keyboards, low-end and expensive, aren't built in a way that'll keep your wrists comfortable and pain-free with extended usage. Invest in an ergonomic keyboard, whether it is contoured or split, which allows your wrists to rest in a position that is in alignment with the rest of your hands and arms. While you're at it, relax rather than tense while you type, and don't use your forearms to bear all the weight. You should also learn proper touch typing technique.
Get a better mouse.
Most mice do the job just fine for most people, but those of us working in front of a computer all day need to be careful. And moreso, designers need to be careful -- we typically use mice as much as writers use keyboards. A mouse that has contours so that you can comfortably rest the hand and non-clicking fingers is ideal, and a place to put the thumb. Without supportive surfaces, we tend to tense our fingers in a claw-like position over the mouse, which causes strain. Ergonomic mice often have extra customizable buttons where you rest your thumb, so take advantage of the added productivity benefits and keep your hand in good shape. While you're at it, pick up a wrist rest for your mousepad.
Position your monitor correctly.
Eye strain and headaches are no fun, and are a common web worker complaint. Most of the time, it has to do with incorrectly aligned monitors. You need to set up your monitor or chair so that your eyes are level with the top of the monitor, most importantly. It should also be placed so as to avoid glare, which will cause you to squint -- not great over long periods of time. It should be about an arm's length in front of you: not so far or so close that you strain your eyes to focus clearly. You should generally place your monitor directly in your line of sight from your natural sitting position, to prevent neck pain. If you're a multiple monitor user -- which most of us -- you'll have to compromise with a setup that requires only minimal neck movement. There's much more to ergonomics, and the experts could spend a whole day advising you and getting your workspace optimized. But if you've not given it a great deal of thought, these are five excellent starting points that should be the most effective for preventing a future of wrist, back, eye and neck pain. Don't delay -- work unergonomically for long enough and these afflictions are guaranteed. It's not a small risk you can take a bet on.
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