Sunday, October 18, 2009

All about Ergonomics: A report on my workstations and more...

Today's blog post is all about ergonomics: the study of how people work in their environments and how to adapt work environments to suit people's needs better. This report outlines both the advantages and problems of my various workstations and work habits. The assignment asked us to evaluate the workstation we use most often, however, I really move around quite often so I'm evaluating all of my recent workstations.

Green = Ergonomically good, Yellow = Not ideal, but not terrible, Red = Needs ergonomic adjustment.

In this chart, you can clearly see that the most ergonomic workstation is the SunRay at work. While I no longer work at Sun Microsystems, I included it in the chart because I knew that it would be the most ergonomic of all of them. The only additional design that would have been nice was a document holder, but quite honestly I rarely needed to refer to paper documents. Nearly everything I needed was in the form of electronic documents. I will now address the other three workstations.

The Laptop
Clearly, this is my least ergonomic friendly environment. The positives are that my feet can be properly placed on the floor and my wrist is properly angled on the mouse. Additionally, I have lots of space to spread out. The challenges here are: 1. It's a laptop so the monitor and keyboard are together, and the table is too high so my keyboard is not ergonomically ideal for my forearms. 2. While my feet technically can touch the floor properly, my work habits are to fidget in the chair, cross my feet, sit forward in the chair, etc... Some of this probably also has to do with the fact that I am using a dining room chair!

So, what are my alternatives: 1. Move. Don't work at the dining room table. Instead move my laptop to my desk in my office and work from there. This still doesn't resolve the laptop issue but would help with the chair issue. I could also get an adjustable chair for use at the the dining room table although my husband would prefer the former. But, you will see why moving to my office is not really an option. 2. Buy a separate monitor and keyboard to use with the laptop. I could but where would I keep it? 3. Keep working at the dining room table but sit properly and buy a document holder.

Home Desktop

My home desktop environment is a moderately ergonomic friendly environment. My feet can be properly placed on the floor and my forearms are aligned properly with the keyboard in its drawer. My chair is also completely appropriate for an office environment since it has lumbar support and adjusts in three different areas. The challenges here are: 1. I keep the mouse on the keyboard drawer which creates an improper angle. I would move it up to the desk if I had space. 2. Space. My desk is completely cluttered. I have no room for workbooks or textbooks or really anything else. I'm not even sure where I would put a document holder if I had one!

So, what are my alternatives: 1. Clean! Yes, I know I have to clean the desk. This would solve all the problems. I could buy a document holder, have space for my notebooks, and move the mouse up higher. Because of the size of the desk, it might not solve the laptop problem, but it might if I used a KVM switch and just pushed the laptop to the back. The problem. I have no time to clean it. It's a major project at this point in time and with school, student teaching, my internship and also finding time to spend with my husband, there just isn't anything left. My goal is to clean this all up when I graduate!

Student Teaching Desktop

My student teaching environment appears to be slightly more ergonomic friendly than the laptop situation although I must say that it doesn't feel that way. About the only good thing is a proper chair and a monitor in front of me. The challenges here are: 1. It's a shared group office. A technology office. My "workstation" is a PC amidst the clutter of other PCs, motherboards, manuals, and of course other people. You'd think I'd feel at home here given my home desktop description, but I really don't. I have no space for workbooks or even a document holder and barely any space for the mouse. 2. Because it's a shared office, I also have to use my cell phone without speaker, which means holding it to my ear while typing. It usually means stopping work while I talk.

So, what are my alternatives: 1. Ask my "neighbors" to move some of their stuff. or 2. Wait for my placement to be over. :-)

So, I've mentioned some possible alternatives above. In this section, I will identify some items that fulfill these accommodations and also list some additional websites for research.

Adjustable Chair (for the dining room) - This might help with my laptop environment.
Monitor & Keyboard - Allows me to place the laptop in a location with an adjustable keyboard drawer and position the monitor better.
KVM switch - Allows me to use my desktop keyboard, video (monitor) and mouse for my laptop.
Document Holder - For use at any of my workstations. This one is a bit expensive but I like it because I can use it with documents or books.
Desk - Possibly get an extra desk for my laptop, although I have to figure out where I'd put it.
Footrest - While this wasn't mentioned above, I wonder whether having a footrest would help me sit better.
Laptop in Bed - Another alternative although it means using the touchpad instead of a mouse.
You can find all of these listed on my Kaboodle Wish List under Ergonomic Devices.

Additional Resources

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