Ergonomic Tips for Mobile Workers
In a previous post I shared my story of working at home and not following good ergonomic principles. The result was a stiff neck and sore back. This made me think about all the office ergonomics training I’ve had and have given. This is the second post on the subject of Ergonomics for Road Warriors, providing ergonomics tips for when working with specific pieces or types of equipment. I hope you find the information useful.
The very design of hand-held devices with small screens and keyboards,
and the design of laptops with the screen fixed to the keyboard can make
working in a neutral posture difficult.
Knowing the optimal positions of screens and keyboards, and know the
best choices for chairs and work surface can help you adapt and modify your
Laptops offer many ergonomic challenges. Their small size and connected
screens and keyboards mean that you have to compromise posture for either good
viewing height or proper hand height. While there is no single best position,
there are things you can do to minimize stress and strain:
- Position the screen for comfortable viewing when you are primarily reading material on the screen.
- Place the laptop in a way that gives you the best arm and wrist position when you are mostly typing.
- Stand at a counter to work for a while if you are doing a combination of typing and reading.
- When using the computer in your lap, put a pillow on your lap first and then a hard surface like a tray or book on the pillow; now put the laptop on the hard surface to protect it from overheating and to give yourself a more stable surface.
- Try using a laptop stand and a document holder for the best head position.
- Use an external mouse instead of the device’s touchpad.
- When you are at your office desk, consider using an external keyboard, mouse and monitor.
- Change positions frequently and take regular breaks.
- When carrying your laptop use a wheeled case, messenger-style bag that goes across your upper body or be sure to frequently switch hands with a briefcase style bag.
Frequent users of hand-held devices like cell phones and smart phones
are especially prone to repetitive stress injury of the thumbs, hands and
wrists. To avoid these chronic conditions follow these guidelines:
- Only use them for quick work: short emails, texts and limited researching; use a full-size keyboard and monitor when working for prolonged periods.
- Hold smart phones and cell phones with two hands in loose neutral grip; avoid the one-handed hold using the same thumb to scroll or type.
- Alternate using thumbs and index fingers when texting and typing.
- Hold the device up so you are only looking slightly down at the screen.
- Use a headset when making calls and avoid cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder.
These increasingly popular devices have their own unique challenges because they are heavier and larger than other hand-held devices. As such, we tend to pinch grip them using one hand, so we can access the device with the other hand. This causes strain to the hand, wrist and shoulder. Instead:
- Place the device on a stand, counter or chair back to use it while you are standing.
- If you can’t do this, rest the tablet on your open hand and forearm.
- Avoid placing it flat on a work surface and looking down on it to minimize neck strain when sitting and working.
- If you don’t have a stand, place the device on a pillow or cushion or even prop it up on your knee. Your goal is to have the screen at a height where you are only looking slightly down on it.
Our eyes lead our body into its working position. Wherever we look and
focus, we tend to position our bodies to follow and maintain that focus. To
reduce neck stress and eyestrain:
- Place your laptop on the work surface so you can look slightly down on the screen.
- For smart phones and other hand-held devices such as tablets, try to hold the device up close to eye level, again so you are looking slightly down.
- Keep windows to the left or right of the screen; not directly in front of or behind it to minimize glare.
Up to ninety percent of people who work with computers experience
eyestrain. To minimize this bothersome situation:
- Have regular eye exams and tell your doctor about your computer and hand-held device use.
- Get fitted with the right types of lenses that may include bifocals, trifocals and anti-glare coatings.
- Blink frequently. Your eyecare professional may recommend eye drops or artificial tears for dry eyes.
- Keep your head in its proper position of looking slightly down at the screen.
- Adjust screen contrast and brightness settings and increase zoom controls.
As I said at the end of Part One, following these simple tips can make a world of difference. Your comfort is important, so taking a few minutes to consider your work area and how you can configure it for better ergonomics will keep you from the strains and stress that plagues Road Warriors. Be Safe!