The holidays are officially upon us, and you know what that means: time to buy new jeans so you can safely accommodate all of those delicious holiday cookies! (Might we suggest an elastic waist?).
Just kidding (sort of). For the everyday office worker or manager, the holidays are a great time to reflect on how you’re moving about the office and whether or not you’re meeting your ergonomic goals. All the more so if you’ve experienced any upticks in pain over the past year due to worsening Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs). To get you into the holiday ergonomics spirit (yes, there is such a thing), for the entire month of December we’re taking a look back at our top ergonomic tips you can start implementing today. Yep, it’s the “12 Days of Ergonomics,” and we’re confident it will get you started on the right foot this new year.
Day 1: Break out the Measuring Tape
On the first day of the 12 days of ergonomics, it’s time to break out that measuring tape and make sure you’re adhering to the Comfortable Computing Top 10 . You’ll want to position your computer monitor a good 20 inches away from you — just out of arm’s reach. The very top of your monitor should be just at eye level, and titled back 10 to 20 degrees. This will help keep your eye focal length consistent as you scan across the screen all day long, helping to prevent eye strain.
Now, how about that keyboard? Whether you use a sit or stand desk all day , your hands should float comfortably over the keyboard. Generally, this means that the top of your keyboard will be level with the height of your elbow. Your shoulders and wrists should also remain relaxed, which requires a wrist rest or an ergonomic keyboard. If you sit, it’s often best to use a keyboard tray as well as an ergonomic chair with armrests to support your upper body. If you stand, balance your external keyboard on a stack of books until it reaches the right height for you. Believe us: getting the measurements right on Day 1 will save you years of pain and lost productivity!
Day 2: Look Away
You know that dried out feeling your eyes get at the end of a long day at the office? How about that blurred vision, or that tension headache? Chances are, you can mark those feelings down to too many hours spent staring at your screen. Your eyes, after all, weren’t made to stare at the same spot for long periods of time, and they’ll let you know when you’ve pushed things too far with any one of these annoying symptoms.
Luckily, eye strain is easily prevented. Every 45 minutes or so, simply focus your eyes on an object at least 20 feet away for a few seconds. Do this several times before you return to your work. If you need to, set a timer to remind you to do so, or use a dedicated app like Eyeleo. Soon, you won’t be looking nearly so bleary eyed, even on those late deadline nights.
Day 3: Take a Break
The same principles behind the causes of eye strain apply here. Neither the human body nor thehuman mind were made to work uninterrupted for much more than 45 minutes to an hour at a time. Push past this boundary and you start getting distracted, spending more time on Facebook than on that scintillating Powerpoint presentation. And when you keep your body stuck in a static position or repeating the same motions over and over again, you’re straining your joints and muscles. Not to mention, putting yourself on the path for developing a Repetitive Strain Injury. On top of that, as you continue to sit without a break, your blood doesn’t move very well and your metabolic rate drops. This decreases the amount of blood flow to your brain and possibly increasing the size of your waistline.
All of this can be quite simply fixed simply by working in spurts. Schedule one task at a time, set a 45 to 60 minute
timer and then push yourself as hard as you can during that time. When the timer beeps, head to the bathroom. Go for a quick walk. Do a few quick stretches or talk to a coworker. Moving around will be sure to stimulate both your body and your brain.
Day 4: Call a Walking Meeting
When you hear the word “meeting,” you probably think of a plain, off-white room, filled with people and chairs, right? Well, it’s time to think outside of this boring template, for the health of your body and your mind. How? Hold a walking meeting, of course! Walking meetings will increase blood flow to everyone’s brains, which will power better ideas, better listening and better collaboration. Getting outside of the office to explore interesting environments will also lead to more creative thinking and will cut through hierarchical distinctions, as your team all navigates the same route together. And of course, walking comes with a number of health benefits, jump starting your metabolism and moving your muscles in different ways.
To hold a successful walking meeting, make sure to set an agenda so you don’t get off-track. Set the route ahead of time and use smartphones only for note taking so that you can concentrate on the work matters at hand, not navigating or texting. Choose an ideal time of day. Preferably during typical energy slumps like post-lunch, when exercise will be most beneficial for powering your team up. And of course, make sure to set an action plan at the end of your meeting, so everyone knows what steps to take next.
We’ll be back next week with Days 5 – 8. In the meantime, get your office all set up and start implementing a very strict break policy!