Over the last several months at the Impact Partnership, we have been setting up more and more convertible standing desks. It has become quite commonplace to see heads poking out above cubicle walls.
Seeing this trend gain momentum got me thinking about healthy computing in the workplace and ergonomics, the study of designing safe and efficient equipment. Such a topic may seem outside the wheelhouse of an IT guy, but our department is about more than technology; it’s about people’s interaction with technology.
It turns out that computer-related injuries are a serious concern, with many office workers across all industries complaining of such ailments as back pain, stiff necks, arm or hand numbness, and eyestrain from 40 hours a week of bad posture and repetitive motions.
For me, it’s easy to get so caught up in my work that I don’t realize I’m hunched over in my seat with my shoulders tight up against my ears and my eyes staring deep into my computer monitors. I’m sure this is a familiar scenario for many of you.
So, to help you avoid computer-related injuries and maintain proper ergonomics in your office, here are a few simple tips you can implement today:
Monitor – Position your monitor about an arm’s length away, which will help reduce eye strain and fatigue caused by being too close to the display. Also, make sure your monitor is directly in front of you. This will help prevent pain from repeated or sustained neck turns. If possible, adjust your monitor to eliminate any glare from surrounding light or windows.
Mouse and Keyboard – The repetitive motion involved in controlling a mouse and keyboard can lead to upper back and shoulder pain as well as musculoskeletal conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. These conditions tend to develop over time, but preventative measures can be taken to lessen the risk.
Place your keyboard an appropriate and comfortable distance away, with the mouse close by to avoid unnecessary reaching or bending. There are also ergonomically designed alternatives to the typical mouse and keyboard, such as trackball mice, touchpads, and curved keyboards.
Chair – Make sure you have a chair that fits you and your particular needs. You spend a significant amount of time in your chair, so it’s important to have proper back support and overall comfort.
Once you have the right chair, adjust it so that your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, with your thighs parallel to the floor. Your arms should follow the same guideline, with elbows bent at 90 degrees and wrists in line with the forearms, so adjust your chair’s height appropriately.
Desk – Since it’s important to stand and move around throughout the day to maintain both physical and mental health, you may want to consider upgrading to a convertible standing desk — like the ones that have overtaken Impact.
Standing burns more calories than sitting, which helps decrease your risk of obesity and related conditions, and can also help keep your blood sugar levels in check and reduce your risk for heart disease. It’s a great way to maintain energy levels and reduce back pain and discomfort, especially when combined with a memory foam mat to stand on.
Breaks – Beyond standing, you need to get up and move throughout the day. Walk around while talking on the phone or go to a coworker’s desk to talk instead of sending a chat message. For some extra steps throughout the day, I prefer to use the break room on the other side of the office for my frequent coffee and water refills. Even 20-second breaks to get up and move around are beneficial.
Bottom line: You spend a large portion of your time at work. Shouldn’t you be safe and comfortable while you’re there?