Tag Archives: office ergonomics

Ergonomics for Writers

National Novel Writing Month: Ergonomic Best Practices for Writers

In honor of November’s National Novel Writing Month, we salute the writers, the novelists, the next Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Dan Brown.

Writing takes talent, research, muse, and sometimes a bit of luck. But if you have all four of those elements, adding in a sprinkle of ergonomic best practices can help elevate any novelist to the next level.

Setting the Tone

The first step toward the next great American novel is the tone set by the writer, for the writer. Of course, the tone in the novel itself is critical as well, but before you can attend to that, you must set the tone and control your writing environment. Six tips to do so:

  1. To organize your thoughts, stage your area with the research you need and the necessary notes.
  2. Adjust the room temperature to your liking.
  3. Consider musical inspiration that is conducive to your writing (or, if you prefer silence, set it up as golden).
  4. Prepare to hydrate and feed your brain with plenty of water and nutrient-rich foods that will nourish you without distracting you.
  5. Find inspiration by selecting something to focus your attention on when you need to pause and gather your thoughts: flowers, rocks, shells, photos . . .
  6. Commit: Set a time and amount of time for daily writing. Set the timer so you can stay the course. Though writing is a creative process, organizing and structuring it releases your mind from worrying about those details and frees you up for creativity.

Ergonomic Tools

Some writers work in an office or library; other prefer to work in nature or in a Starbucks. Regardless of your choice, prepare the tools of your trade and always consider tools that are kind to your health and well-being. For example:

  • A laptop: more transportable than a desktop computer, a laptop is a must for any writer who plans on crafting away from the office or home.
  • A monitor: in addition to a laptop, having a stationary monitor at your main writing desk is being kind to your neck.
  • A monitor arm: additional optimization of height placement is added TLC for your neck (after all, you neck holds your head and your head holds your novel!)
  • A keyboard and mouse: also for when you are at your desk, peripherals will improve your posture (see below). Always set the speed of your mouse to the faster options to minimize required mouse movements. You can find this setting under your system preferences.
  • A footrest: keep your feet flat and supported with a footrest that is between 2-6 inches if your desk is 29” and you are 5’7” or shorter.
  • A document holder: give your neck a needed (and deserved) break by positioning any research notes at an easy to read angle. This will raise the angle of your neck and allow you to relax those neck muscles.

Ergonomic Tricks

In addition to empowering yourself with the right tools, there are some tricks to keep in mind. These practices are easy to implement and have great effect on your health and stress levels.

  • If your wrists rest on the edge of your desk, raise your chair, get your feet propped, or lower your desk. A keyboard tray is also a good option, as long as you make sure there’s enough room for both your keyboard and mouse.
  • If you have a lot of writing to do, some easy exercises will help: shake out your hands, clasp your hands together and reach out in front of you for a good stretch. Then get back to creativity.
  • If you invest in a fully adjustable chair, make sure you are using it well. Lock in the back tilt angle for upright back support and ensure that the seat cushion has 2-4 fingers between back of knees and front edge of seat.
  • Try standing sometimes. If you have a sit/stand desk, alternate between those options. If not, set yourself up to stand for a chapter or two per day. When you stand you access the most creative part of your brain.
  • Vary your work area: try writing from the couch, the desk, a coffee shop, your kitchen counter, or on a porch.
  • Take breaks. Try placing your printer in another room to force yourself to get up from time to time.

Ergonomic Posture

Probably the most effective change you can make (and possibly also the easiest) is to your posture. Remember these 3 pointers:

  1. Sit so that your knees are level with your hips and your elbows are level with your wrists.
  2. Your shoulders should be rested naturally; your neck and head upright and supported.
  3. Exercises are essential: do shoulder circles (5 forward, then 5 back), and neck circles, and always remember to breathe!

Be Healthy; Be Inspired

Setting yourself up with the tone, the tools, the tricks, and the posture will do wonders for your physical and mental health. And, when you feel well, you will write well. Writing a novel is a journey; these best practices will empower you to make that journey a comfortable, healthy, and enjoyable one.

For more information about optimizing your workstation, read this post.

Happy National Novel Writing Month! May your writing always be inspired and inspiring.


About 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.

Dear Ergo Diva – Ergonomics Advice for Halloween Time


This October, in a special Halloween edition, Ergo Diva tackles three great questions about accommodating taller employees, natural lighting, and working with laptops on the sofa. Her advice continues to help readers around the country and throughout the world implement 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 Vertically Gifted

Dear Ergo Diva,

One of my employees, Gerry, is quite tall: over 6’4”! His chair does not go high enough. What can be done so he can get the height he needs?

Thanks and Happy Halloween!

Risk Manager of the Vertically Gifted from Los Angeles

Dear RM of the Vertically Gifted,

An athletic themed Halloween celebration would be well suited for your office; maybe Gerry could go in dressed in a NBA theme…

When it is time to get back to work, it is wonderfully well informed of you to realize a chair that places your employee’s knees higher than his hips will over time create low back discomfort.

Rest assured, there are a few ways to help! First, I would recommend getting a chair with a taller cylinder (most likely, a 6” cylinder will be the right height). Since this person is taller, he will likely also need an adjustable seat depth and prefer an adjustable higher back and a deeper, wider seat. I always recommend a back that can angle forward for full adjustability. Make sure the arms of the chair can also adjust high enough and low enough so that the elbow is supported and shoulders are relaxed.

I assume that his desk is most likely a higher model, at about 31”, right? There are monitor arms that have a longer post to also accommodate a taller person. Together, this nice little combo will support his best work and minimize the risk unnecessary aches and pains.

Thanks for being concerned and taking action to help your employees protect their health.

Happy Halloween to you and Gerry!

Southern Lights

Dear Ergo Diva,

I love my room and especially the view of the Rockies from the window. It’s a great way to take breaks while I’m working. It is southern facing. Do you have any input about that?

Needs Enlightenment about Lighting from Colorado

Dear Needs Enlightenment,

Though this time of year, we are generally focused on dark and sinister themes, it is refreshing that you love your light. No vampires roaming around your offices, I gather! However, you need to be aware that placing your monitor in front of a window to capture the view can weaken your vision quickly. There are TRICKS you can use to enjoy the TREAT of your view while taking care of your eyes.

Craig Stewart, who has done thousands of ergonomic evaluations, sees this situation about 20% of the time. “It’s good to be able to look outside to stretch those eye muscles, but not at the same time that you’re viewing your monitor. Your pupils are going to constrict or dilate based on the amount of light it’s exposed to. You’re focusing on the dimmer screen, but all of this light is coming through the window setting up a conflict for your eyes forcing them to overwork. Couple that with not blinking enough can force eye fatigue and dryness. If you continue with this, you may find your vision worsening because of this continued eye strain. The solution is to move your monitor so the window is perpendicular to your monitor. Note the seasonal sun changes and minimize the glare. The goal is to control the light source at the window and reduce that.”

OSHA recommends:

  • Use blinds or drapes on windows to eliminate bright light. Blinds and furniture placement should be adjusted to allow light into the room, but not directly into your field of view. Note: vertical blinds work best for East/West facing windows and horizontal blinds for North/South facing windows.
  • Use indirect or shielded lighting where possible and avoid intense or uneven lighting in your field of vision. Ensure that lamps have glare shields or shades to direct light away from your line of sight.
  • Reorient the workstation so bright lights from open windows are at right angles with the computer screen.

Now, don’t worry if you don’t have the horizontal blinds. More important to ensure the vertical blinds have the curved side facing out to minimize glare. You can also turn off the overhead lights and simply work with a task light. Be sure to take some breaks to TREAT yourself to that lovely view!

Windows are great, but placing your monitor in front of a window to capture the view can weaken your vision quickly.

Windows are a necessity, but remember to place your monitor away from them.

 Laptop Love

Dear Ergo Diva,

Is sitting on a couch with a laptop bad for my back?

Sofa Sitter from Saratoga

Dear Sofa Sitter,

I write this as I sit on my couch in a relaxed posture with my head resting on sofa back and stretched out with ottoman under my feet and laptop on lap debating which Diva to dress up as for Halloween: Cher or Madonna?

There isn’t anything wrong with laptopping on the sofa as long as you remember to take breaks and change up your posture. For example, I have my laptop sitting on a wedge with the thicker end toward my knees as I write. That will angle the monitor up a little higher while keeping the keyboard more accessible and the wrists neutral. Resting your wrists on the edge of the laptop should be a Number one no-no. That’s too much pressure on the wrist and restricts blood flow. It’s nice to change postures from a “desk” or “standing environment.” Still, do vary your posture and use the kitchen counter for standing as a “counter” balance. Take breaks, change your posture (not always sitting slumped), rest the head on the back of the couch, and then try sitting up or sitting cross-legged. Roll your head gently from side to side, stretch and turn your ottoman or nearby chair into another computer support while floor sitting or kneeling. Enjoy the variety.

Make your home office comfy

Make your home office comfy

Maybe I will spend half the night as Cher and then change costumes to Madonna, what do you think?

Got Ergonomic Questions?

Ergo Diva has answers!

Send your inquiries to ergodiva@kareproducts.com


About Karen Burke

Karen is president of Kare Products which specializes in ergonomic products. She has 30 years experience in ergonomic product design and consulting.