Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Workstation Ergonomics

Since I work with a lot of people that are at their desk all day, and I've spent a lot of years of my life at a desk already, I have lots of opinions on things like office Feng Shui, ergonomics, inter-office politics, the spirituality of crisis, etc. But to keep it short, here’s my .02 on workstation ergonomics.

First, are you sure you want to use computers and work at a desk all day?

But if you must work at a computer, this is what I recommend:

You basically want to be in the praying mantis position from tai chi: back straight, shoulders dropped and loose, wrists slightly higher than elbows, and hands dropped. To that end, this is what I use:

1. Use stands or mounts to get the top of your monitor(s) at eye level, which eliminates neck strain, which often goes down into your back and shoulders.

2. Use an Aeron or similar chair and adjust it so that you comfortably sit up straight, and the arm rests can support your elbows in a natural position.

3. Use the Design Within Reach Soho Keyboard System, and set it up so that your mouse is within natural radius of your arm (and use a padded mini wrist rest there), and the keyboard itself should be tilted downward toward your monitor. This is what makes this keyboard tray one of the best—you can adjust the keyboard not only where you want it horizontally and left and right, but also at the tilt that is the most comfortable.

4. Use an ergonomic split-key keyboard, though I find that a regular keyboard feels fine on the Soho Keyboard System above.

5. Always use a headset if you use the phone much at all.

6. If you are at your desk most of the day, schedule short stretching exercises on your Outlook, Blackberry, iCal or whatever to remind you to move around every hour.

Some of these adjustments may seem a bit pricey, but I started using this combo in 2000 when I started getting back pains and it has been an investment that has really paid off for me.

Additionally, here's a great resource from Boston University's Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

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