Do you ever get pain in your wrists, back or legs while working long hours at the computer?
This can be a distraction or turn into a really painful issue!
Long hours at the desk can slowly start to wear on your body, your wrists will ache, your lower back and neck will start to get stiff and if you are like me this really kills your productivity. I am big on testing things on my self (read one Tim Ferriss Book and it got me) to improve my comfort and reduce the strain from working on a computer all day. From pressure on your wrists, to your lower back logging hours on a keyboard can cause a lot of discomfort. From making these changes I have been able to reduce pain and reduce my need for breaks.
Here are some of the changes I have made in my office set up that you can look to make:
Mechanical Keyboard And Layouts
Ross has called me a hipster for it but I am totally the guy that uses a mech keyboard in public. Most people probably know about mech boards because of the classic clicking sound they make (find video), these keyboards use a mechanical switch that once depressed inputs the letter with a satisfying click sound and have a pretty distinct feel. For some these keyboards help them type faster by providing feedback to the user as well as feeling really sweet. If you do any blogging, report writing, anything that requires a lot of typing than you should strongly consider a mech.
I have also taken this to the next level by switching from the standard keyboard layout (QWERTY) to a non-standard but optimized layout. it you aren’t familiar with the concept of alternate keyboard layout watch this nerdy video:
In short these layouts are used to reduce the amount of movement required to type commonly used letters thus putting less strain on the hands and fingers while increasing typing speed. I narrowed down my choices to the two most common layouts I could find: Colemak and Dvorak.
I selected Colemak over Dvorak (even it Dvorak is more fun to say), after some research and finding that it was easier to switch to from qwerty and someone get name, put together a training program called Tarmak which splits the transition from QWERTY to COLEMAK into 5 levels allowing you to learn the new key placements in stages (freeware training program I used). I chose this route to minimize productivity loss as I learn a new layout during working hours. This whole post was typed with Tarmak levels 2-3.
High Quality Mouse or Ball Mouse
The second I switched to a good mouse from a cheap laser mouse was like night and day! I found myself having more control over where I placed my cursor and was able to navigate back and forth using extra function buttons, it actually pains me to see people in offices using shitty mice. For years I used shitty mice because I was being cheap and thought there was no difference. I then managed to get one for the same cost as I had a job that had a crazy discount, I became more accurate and no longer had go switch to the keyboard go navigate between pages.
The next step up from a high quality mouse is a ball mouse, no not the ones we all used in the 90’s but a top-loaded ball design:
Yes, we are going full nerd here but I am now a baller and a shot caller, and while I don’t have Twenty inch blades on the Impala, I do have way less pain in my wrist. A ball mouse like this makes moving your cursor a function of fingers and hand movements and less on the arm and wrist which reduces wrist stress and the chance of carpel tunnel. Make sure you invest in a mid range option, while you don’t need to buy the best the lower end models can stress the tendons in you hand and fingers as they have poor accuracy and will also just piss you off.
A Good Chair
I have been abusing my body for years with bad chairs. From university classrooms to cheap seats in co-working spaces I have committed horrible crimes against my back and neck! I used to think people were crazy for buying high priced computer chairs, that was until I tried sitting in a good chair for the first time while working at a startup. I started looking into good chairs the next day and picked up a used ergonomic office chair.
Pro Tip: You can go out and buy new but these chairs are bought all the time by larger companies in large numbers so the used market can have a lot of available office furniture. this means you can get a good chair for cheap or a great chair for the same money you would have spent to buy a new good chair. After some reddit (Okay, way too much reddit) I was encouraged to try it myself, and found multiple high end chairs on kijiji.ca and on used office equipment sites.
If you can’t find a used chair focus on something that has good back support and is the right height, any other customization is nice but focus on the basics first. You want good back and lumbar support as well as adjustable arm rests to make sure your arms are the same height as your work surface.
Within a few days of switching from a Walmart special to a ergonomic chair (I own a used Leap), pain in my lower back had reduced and I found myself working more. I no longer need to get up as frequently as my back and legs do not get as uncomfortable, it’s like sitting on a slightly stiff cloud.
Invest In Your Tools
We get used to the pains and discomfort and assume that they are just part of working on computers but these pains can be reduced and even eliminated, increasing your productivity. The same way a mechanic buys good tools to aid their work, your chair, keyboard, and mouse, are your tools.With an investment into good tools, you will be able to work more consistently, and with increased focus.
It you are looking to upgrade your office even more check out: Five Things That Every Productive Home Office Should Have. What are some changes or tools that we missed? Let us know in the comments or on twitter @HustleGrindCo.