Ergonomics for Writers Part Two: Preventing Tired Eyes and Aching Wrists
Mary Plehal, professional ergonomist, generously shared valuable information specific to writers. Last month, we covered correctposture and chair adjustment. Today we’ll learn how to prevent eye and wrist fatigue, proper desk organization, and monitor adjustment. Your particular needs should be verified by your health care practitioner.
What I take away from today’s tips is that we must adjust our work stations to suit our bodies, and not the other way around. As much as is possible in your situation, make your work environment ergonomically correct. Don’t let preventable aches and pains end your writing sessions early. The better you feel physically, the longer you’ll be able to write!
Prevent Eye Fatigue
Colorado is a dry climate. Dry eyes and eye fatigue are common. Mary’s tips will help you keep your eyes happy.
- The 20-20-20 Rule:
- Evert 20 minutes take 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away
- Closed Eye Rolls: Close eyes, roll eyes in different directions- up, down, side to side, circles
- Make sure your font is big enough for your viewing comfort
- Dry air? Consider moisturizing drops
- Avoid reading or doing crossword puzzles on breaks
Safe Keyboard Use
I have a tendency to stick my elbows out while typing, not unlike a chicken attempting to take flight. When I follow Mary’s next tips, I have less fatigue in my shoulders and upper back.
- Keep elbows close to sides
- Avoid repetitively or constantly bending wrist to the little finger side of the hand. People with broad shoulders or torsos may benefit from an ergonomic keyboard
- Use the lightest keystroke possible
- When not actively typing, rest your hands
Safe Mouse Use
That little critter next to your keyboard can be problematic. It’s not so much about your hand, as the position the mouse puts your wrist into, and where you place the mouse on your desk.
- Avoid repetitively bending your wrist toward the little finger side of your hand
- Position your mouse directly next to the side of your keyboard
- Consider a mouse that allows your hand to drape rather than hover (no gap should be between the mouse and your palm)
- A mouse that turns your thumb slightly upward prevents wrist contact pressure with the desk and rotates your arm in a more neutral position
The next section some of you won’t like. I often claim I need the clutter, and that I know where everything is if people will just leave my stacks of junk alone. I have to admit, being organized has its advantages. Not only does a clean and tidy desk prevent fruitless searching for misplaced items, but it also has ergonomic benefits.
- Keep things organized and uncluttered. Clutter decreases mental focus and energy
- Make enough space for adequate keyboard/mouse space, wrist rests and forearm support
- Avoid contact pressure from resting wrists on desk edges- move your keyboard back or get a wrist rest (note: your body tolerates contact pressure better on the forearms than at your wrists)
- Keep frequently used items within reach
- Avoid frequently reading hard copy that is laying flat on the desktop to prevent neck bending and twisting
If a copy stand is used, place it in a location that is close to the monitor(s)
If a keyboard tray is used, don't place the mouse on the desktop if it requires reaching forward or to the side
No matter what type of monitor or desk you use, you should be able to make the following adjustments to encourage proper posture.
- The monitor(s) should be centered in front
- Monitors should be approximately fingertip distance away when reaching forward
- The top of the monitor screen should be approximately even with eye level
- For those people who wear multi focal or progressive lenses, the monitor should be lowered to prevent tipping the head back (consider task specific computer glasses)
Now that you’ve gotten everything adjusted correctly, you need to cement all the settings, right? Wrong! Changing position relieves fatigue and prevents aches and pains.
- The best position is a new position– change positions frequently
- Tweak your positions slightly throughout the day:
- Move keyboard closer or farther away
- Move wrist rest closer or farther from keyboard or mouse
- Slightly change the tilt on the chair back
- Move the copy stand to the other side of the monitor
- Take micro breaks: Find reasons to stand up and move regularly
Non Traditional Work Settings
So you get your home work station adjusted correctly. That’s great, but what about when you work elsewhere? While traveling, at a coffee shop, or on a cushy chair in a sunny window?
- Regular long durations of laptop use are not recommended. Minimize sofa and coffee shop time
- When working on the sofa, place a pillow behind your lower back for support
- Pause frequently to stretch in the opposite direction of the position you’ve been maintaining (neck, back, hips, shoulders, hands)
- Try to create some forearm support on the tabletop or with pillows
- When at home, use a separate monitor and keyboard or a stand for the laptop and a separate keyboard (these are very portable and can be brought to a coffee shop)
About the Author: Catherine’s fifth published short story appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’s May 2016 issue. The second novel in her amateur sleuth murder mystery series, Stone Cold Case – A Rock Shop Mystery, is available on-line via Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and in e-book for Kindle. She anticipates a fall release for book three. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, her stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains, fishing, and running.
You can learn more about Catherine and her writing at:http://www.catherinedilts.com/