Chances are that you are working on your computer in the same seat and same position, now more than ever. Making sure that you are set up in the correct position won’t seem very important until you injure yourself as I did. To make a long story short, a while back I bought a new computer and set it up next to my old computer. I placed the 2nd mouse in a sub-optimal position (though it was comfortable and I felt no pain) and after about 3 months, I developed De Quervain’s tendinitis in my wrist. That lead to being unable to snap the buttons of my jacket, 2 or 3 steroid shots, and an operation. I had my mouse in the wrong position for 3 months and this required me to go to a hospital, give me general anesthesia, cut open my wrist to fix it. Think about that!!
If you're working for long periods in the same position, you are at risk to develop repetitive motion injuries, back pain, neck pain; the list goes on. But it's easy to prevent. Like everything else in life and project management, it requires that you intentionally focus on the risk and follow best practices. Avoiding injury means that you’ll avoid downtime and be able to better focus on whatever it is you're doing at your computer. Getting injured just plan sucks and you’ll regret it.
So here’s how to avoid it. By the way, I am not an expert in this area, and not in the medical field and am only sharing what I’ve learned by trying many things. It has worked for me, but may or may not work for you. Always consult with a professional.
First Things First
You need to get into the proper position at your desk. You're likely not even sitting at a desk. Perhaps you're at the kitchen table, living room sofa, bed, or a comfy chair. Get a desk, be it standing or sitting, and use it. You need to be correctly positioned. Use this diagram but do your research if it's not working for you. If you have any pain or discomfort, you need to get repositioned.
This diagram comes from Microsoft's website. Their healthy computing guide and whitepaper contains helpful information. It also includes proper laptop positioning.
Top Tips for Comfortable Computing
Here are some tips to help you get set up properly and avoid injury.
Dropdown Keyboard Tray - I've never been comfortable with my keyboard on the desk. Of course, you'll need to also purchase an external keyboard for your laptop. I recommend wireless as it's easier to position. Get a tray that easily locks into position and can be adjusted to various positions. This is worth spending the money to get a good one.
Separate Mouse Tray - The basic kind that works well for me attaches to the desk and keeps the mouse a little higher than the keyboard. You may need to try different heights to see what is the most comfortable.
External Mouse - At your desk, do not use the built-in laptop touchpad. Purchase a stand-alone, external mouse or trackpad. This is what you'll put on the mouse tray above. I have found this to be essential to maintain proper posture.
Adjustable Chair - any chair that allows you to be at the correct position and is comfortable, is a good choice. It does not need to be expensive. I have one similar to the one depicted in the diagram. I don't think I spend more than $130 or so
Separate Monitor - this is not really needed for a proper ergonomic position as long as you have a separate keyboard and mouse for your laptop.
Check back soon for my next post with more tips for comfortable computing.