It is often in the workplace where, despite our best intentions, we tend to fall into bad habits. We come in fresh from our commute (in the best case scenario, that is) ready to take on the world. But after a while our energy fades. We begin to slouch at our desk, to lean too close to our computer screens. And towards the middle of the day, it starts: That nagging pinch in our shoulder blades. Or it could be a low throbbing further down our backs. Either way, poor management of our bodies when we are working leads to inevitable pain management down the road.But even with the knowledge of how office wear-and-tear can adversely affect our wellbeing, the working world is generally not something we can avoid. And our yoga instructors and personal trainers can't follow us in everyday life to make sure we breathe from our abdomen or that we sit up straight. These are reasons why office ergonomics is quickly catching on in the American job market. Ergonomics is simply the belief in designing the work station most effectively for the individual worker. While there are many aspects of ergonomics, the physical part is applied when creating the layout for a company's workspace, or a long-term plan for workspace usage. For example, the New York Times employs training sessions for proper use of their electronic equipment. Other companies invest more money into ergonomically-designed tools and goods. And the outcome doesn't just benefit the employees: Many corporations report a noticeable decrease in medical costs due to the elimination of repetitive work-related physical stress!
If you're skeptical about your boss' willingness to dish out dollars to alleviate your right-wrist tendonitis, don't worry. Here are just a few ways in which you can help yourself:
Get a keyboard and a mouse pad with a soft wrist rest. Because your hands rest palms-down at a slight angle, and they are not naturally flat, a soft wrist rest pad will help correct this imbalance.
Invest in a split keyboard, or a Vertical Mouse. John Fewell, Owner of Imagine Visibility, prefers the Vertical Mouse: "It was a little awkward at first but once I got the hang of it, it reduced the strain in my wrist and index finger. I love it."
Adjust the height of your chair. Your chair should be high enough that your knees make a 90-degree angle with the floor.
Stretch, Stretch, Stretch! Gently roll your neck, stretch your arms to the ceiling, shake out your hands and wrists, stand up and stretch your legs. Our bodies aren't meant to be sedentary, and stretching helps to combat the lack of circulation and fatigue that can effect us at the office.
Take small breaks, drink water, and breathe. Work can be a fulfilling and enjoyable part of our lives, let's make a healthy part as well.
For more information about ergonomics in the workplace, visit the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health website at www.osha.gov.