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November 26, 2009

Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your Workspace

Filed under: Health Care — Tags: , — techobuzz @ 11:11 am

It’s easy to forget about your body’s needs when you’re deep into your work or the net—until your body offers a painful reminder. Save your physical shell some strain with these cheap, customizable ergonomic workspace upgrades.

10. Elevate your laptop to eye level

Your neck can’t text you to explain how annoying it is to have to keep looking down at your laptop. Over time it will let you know, though, in a nagging, painful way. If your laptop is your day-to-day work machine, elevate it to eye level using any one of a number of clever solutions. Perhaps one among our Top 10 laptop stands will do the trick, or a built-to-fit DIY pipe stand. Any of them are better than imagining yourself as a hunched old man or woman, constantly warning the neighborhood kids to sit up straight and look ahead.

9. Mix up your positions with a standing desk

It’s hard to slouch when you’re not in a seat. To help your body benefit from your upright instinct, and give your lower body a break from sitting, work a standing desk into your workspace. You can go for it in a big way, like with this handcrafted setup, stick with something as simple as a $20 model or a surface on a storage rack. If you want to go really fancy, you could try a treadputer or something like this adjustable desk. It doesn’t have to be your only desk, either—just a break room for your butt.

8. Get better sleep support

How your back, neck, and joints fare over eight hours of work can be influenced by how they spent eight hours in bed. Give your body a better night’s sleep by catching up on Lifehack.org’s pain and posture basics. According to the post, the standard, no-pain position to shoot for is “on your side, knees bent, pillow between the knees, and your head resting on a single pillow,” or on your back with one pillow under your knees and one under your head. You might need to leave out an element or two from that ideal if you’ve got a hard-set sleeping habit, but it’s worth considering a switch-up. Photo by james.thompson. (Original post).

7. Invest in a real mouse and keyboard

If you’ve stuck with your mouse and keyboard just because your desktop came with them, we feel for you. If you’ve been using a laptop at a desk without an external mouse or keyboard, we’re in tears. Invest in the tools your hands spend thousands of hours on every year by perusing the best mouse recommendations from Lifehacker readers and their ultimate keyboard picks. All of them are designed with a good hand feel and better functionality in mind. Consider your hand comfort worth five cents an hour? You’ll amortize these puppies in no time.

6. Align yourself properly with your computer

Adam’s had his problems with hand, wrist, and back pain from repetitive stress and other conditions at his workspace, and a few years ago, he decided to set up a healthy, usable workspace to get back in shape. His post is a front-to-back assessment of what healthy working spaces should include, but his basic sitting setup involves keeping your elbows bent near 90 degrees, keeping a mouse comfortably within reach of a keyboard, avoiding slouching, and keeping a monitor at eye level, between 18-28 inches from your face.

5. Build your own ergonomic desk from scratch

You don’t have to have Bob-Vila-level woodworking skills to craft your own workspace—after all, college students have been laying doors on cinder blocks for years. To make an actually ergonomic desk from medium-density fibreboard, you need two power tools (your neighbor has them if you don’t), time enough to sketch and plan your cuts, and measurements to know how high you should set up the legs, so your monitor is at eye level and you’ve got just enough room for everything you’re working with. When you’re done, you can paint or stain it whatever color you’d like, and when your friends ask where you got that desk, well, you know the answer. (Original post)

4. Use exercises to ward off RSI

You can do a lot to prevent stress and pain in your hands working at a computer all day, but you’ll almost inevitably have bad days full of overly long hours, and, over the long haul, risk sidling yourself with repetitive strain injury (RSI). Percussionist David Kuckhermann knows a thing or two about repetitive wrist and forearm strain, as does RSI expert Sherry Smith, and they both recommend and demonstrate a few simple exercises that can ward off and heal the effects of working your hands into knots. (Original post)

3. Fine-tune your desk spacing

Are you the type that busts out the tape measure whenever you’re putting anything up on the wall? For setting up your workspace with proper distances and heights between yourself and your computer tools, ergonomic goods firm Ergotron offers an ergonomic workspace planner that, once you enter your height, gives up the details on suggested seat heights, monitor heights and distances, and keyboard shelves. If you’re thinking about working in a standing desk, they’ve got measurements for that, too. (Original post)

2. Use software enforcers

It’s great that you’re dedicated to pushing out this project on time, but unless your deadline’s right this hour and you need every second, you should be stepping back occasionally to give your wrists, eyes, and arms a rest—and maybe even read something off-screen, while you’re at it. If mental reminders aren’t enough, apps like AntiRSI and Timeout for Macs, and Workrave for Windows and Linux, force you, in differing levels of subtlety, to take a break and physically remove your hands from the keyboard every so often. (Original posts: AntiRSI, WorkRave, Time Out)

1. Go easy on your eyes

Eye strain is particularly bad news for those who write (code, copy, or anything else) or assemble things on a computer all day—it hits you right in what feels like your brain, and makes concentration terribly hard. Two simple solutions are to turn on ClearType and increase your monitor refresh rate in Windows systems, or install a serious protection scheme like EyeDefender. Reader’s Digest suggests other easy eye fixes, like keeping your monitor slightly below eye level to bring less glare into your retinas. And simply using a darker desktop theme is often a nice first step toward reducing the amount of time you feel like you’re staring into a flashlight with words written on it.

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