Working at my computer is, literally, a giant pain in the butt. Like millions of other working Canadians, I spend the bulk of my day sitting while typing and staring into the cold blue glare of a monitor. Usually, I can work for a couple of hours without any problems and then it starts: the buzzing in the sciatic nerves down the backs of both legs, the burn in my wrists and fingers, and the ever-present knotted muscles at the base of my neck, which may or may not cause a headache, depending on my stress level that day.
Now, granted, some of my problems may be caused by the fact that I simply don’t get up and stretch often enough, but I think it has more to do with the fact that my office chair used to belong to my grandmother’s dining suite, and while I have an adjustable tray for my keyboard, there’s no room for my mouse, so I’m forced to reach forward to scroll and click. What I need is a total office makeover!
After a little investigation I learned that Microsoft Canada has a hardware division — no surprise there — but according to Elana Zur, Marketing Manager, Microsoft Canada Hardware, it is the only hardware manufacturer employing full-time ergonomists — experts who actually study the relationship between people and their working environment as it pertains to comfort and safety. For you and me that means hardware is designed as much for comfort as it is for function.
When setting up an ergonomic office, there are three Ps to remember:
You want to make sure your space is organized so that you are relaxed, natural and comfortable while you work.
Your office chair needs to be adjustable so that any member of the family using it will be comfortable. It should offer support to the lower back as well as comfortable support all the way up your spine and neck.
The height of the chair should be adjusted so that your knees form a 90º angle with your feet flat on the floor or, if necessary, on an adjustable footrest. The armrests should be adjusted so that your elbows form a 90º angle.
While you’re working try to be aware of your posture – you should be relaxed and comfortable, but sitting straight.
Everything you require and use regularly at your workspace (phone, mouse, keyboard, copy holder, pens, stapler, etc.) should be located within arms’ reach so that you are not forced to strain, reach or bend awkwardly.
As you’ve probably figured out, not all hardware is created equal. And as I discovered, some of it takes time to get used to, but once you’re converted, you’ll never go back. Some of the products I tried included:
Wireless Laser Mouse
These products are designed to feel as natural as a handshake. The natural ergonomic design features an elevated thumb scoop to keep your hand in its most relaxed position. Aside from how cool this kind of mouse looks, it’s also easy to use.
This keyboard’s curved key bed features a natural arc so that your hand, wrist and forearm are positioned more naturally. The arc sits between the split keys so it’s like you’re typing with your hands on either side of a small hill. Sound odd? It is – at first. But it’s quite comfortable once you’re used to it.
Gel Wrist Rest
Not ready to go space-age ergonomic? A wrist rest helps take some of the pressure off your carpal tunnel, easing that burning pain you feel when you’ve spent the afternoon crushing your wrist against the surface of your desk. A wrist rest will provide comfort while you type at the keyboard, and a wrist rest and mouse pad offers the same comfort to your mousing hand.
Now, sitting at the computer is a much more comfortable experience. In addition to the three Ps, there’s just one more thing you need to consider: moderation. Take breaks to change position and move every couple of hours. It’ll keep you limber and comfortable and going to work won’t be such a pain in the butt – at least not literally.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for This Week on readersdigest.ca newsletter and have our latest articles delivered right to your inbox.