This month, Ergo Diva tackles a great question that concerns many professionals who spend endless hours at their screens. As always, her focus remains the development of practices and use of ergonomic furniture and peripherals that alleviate stress, increase productivity, and contribute positively to healthy and happy people around the world.
Ergonomic Advice for the Weary Wristed
Dear Ergo Diva,
I’m in the midst of my capstone project and I’m transcribing about eight hours of interviews. I’m one interview down and I thought it might be wise to see if I could get an ergonomic keyboard for this project. I rarely type this much but I’m guessing I’ve got about 35 hours of fast typing ahead of me in the coming month.
Thanks for your help Ergo Diva!
Weary Wristed in San Diego
You are a wise woman to seek advice now, while you can still make positive change in your ergonomic setup before the brunt of the work. While an ergonomic keyboard is a great idea, there are some other ergonomic basics you can (and should!) implement to ensure that your hands won’t get swollen or sore when you’re doing intense keyboarding.
1. Ergonomic Seating
Raise or lower your chair as needed to ensure that your elbows are level with your keyboard and your shoulders stay down and relaxed while you type.
2. Ground Your Feet
Your hips and knees should be level as well and your feet supported. If your feet are not resting solidly on the floor (for example, dangling in the air or resting on your chair base), use a foot rest.
3. Better Monitor Placement with Wireless
If you don’t have a separate monitor, Leave your laptop on your main writing surface, in your case, your dining room table and use a wireless keyboard and mouse on your lap. (See #4) This will help with proper ergonomics for your neck. Ideally, your head should be level with your laptop screen. Unless you wear bifocals or progressive glasses, in which case it should be lower with a relaxed neck angle.
4. Out with the TV Dinners
There are some lightweight wedges or cushions you can put on your lap to stabilize your keyboard and mouse. You will be able to lower your chair, your feet will be flat on the ground, and you can relax your shoulders. A “TV tray” is another lower solution.
5. Drumroll please . . . Ergonomic Keyboard Options
Once you have all of those suggestions in place, you can focus on the right ergonomic keyboard for you. There are many options that are small and portable while still maintaining ergonomic balance. Some tips:
- Wireless is great because it is easier to travel or work remotely without needing to deal with cords.
- If embedded numbers work for you, they can allow for a smaller keyboard footprint.
- If you get an ergonomic keyboard or a keyboard that splits and angles, only angle it as wide as your shoulders. (If you angle it too wide, it can force your elbows away from your side creating fatigue and awkward posture)
- Get a keyboard that offers an easy touch. You don’t want to bang on the keys when typing. That will create too much pressure on your wrists and fingers and can cause swelling.
- Often, using a standard keyboard and getting a roller mouse that fits in front of the keyboard is the more affordable and ergonomic solution. That way, you don’t have to extend your shoulder and arm when reaching for the mouse. Positioning your mouse in front of the keyboard allows a more neutral and relaxed body posture.
- Also, a gel wrist rest goes a long way toward preventing your wrists from hanging off the front edge of the table. It keeps your wrists well supported and level when working on intensive projects. The goal is neutral and relaxed posture to help you plow through those 35 hours of speed typing.
Well, there you have it, my champion typist. Using ergonomics to create a positive working environment is always doable, regardless of budget and time constraints. And what’s even better than that is that these small tweaks in your surroundings can have amazing effects on your health and well-being.
Thanks for reaching out, enjoy the project, and remember to take breaks and stretch often. To your healthy posture and successful project!
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About Ergo Diva – Karen Burke
Karen is the founder and president of Kare Products, specializing in active ergonomic solutions. She has 30 years experience in ergonomic product design and consulting.