When you start a new job or launch a business, there are lots of things you think about: what kind of work environment you thrive in, whether you have the discipline to be your own boss, what sort of things you want to do every day.
At some point, you likely plunked down your laptop at your kitchen table and got down to job searching, business starting, and butt-kicking. You probably spent hours researching your market or industry and becoming familiar with the key players. You took stock of your income needs and current resources.
Me? I found a comfy spot in the living room and started freelance blogging. Lucky me, I love what I do! But until I started writing for a home office design firm, I never gave a second thought to the neck aches and burning eyes that came after a few hours at the computer.
I was in denial. So are all of the rest of you who work under poor lighting, in non-ergonomic chairs and desks, on laptops and in awkward spaces.
Not only are you hurting from your work habits, but your productivity probably is too. Just think of how much you could get done if you didn’t get tired as fast and you were free of distracting aches and pains.
The good news is, you can protect yourself against the following big three office killers, and you don’t need one of those fashionable orange helmets to do it.
1. Sharp edges
Resting your wrists against the sharp corner of your laptop, table or IKEA desk as you type compresses the delicate tissue of your forearms, which will eventually lead to pain. The tissue bounces back easily when you’re young, but over time, you’ll have to stop work for a few weeks or months to heal the damaged area.
Solution: To avoid being taken out of the game, look for a desk and keyboard with rounded edges. If you have to use a laptop, get an ergonomic keyboard to plug into it.
2. Poor fit
Reaching up for the keyboard, looking down at your lap to read or text, craning your neck to hold the phone as you type, and other awkward movements can all rack up serious body damage over time. You’ve heard of carpal tunnel. That’s just the beginning. Chronic back, arm, and neck pain can result after a couple of decades of computer work in poorly designed offices. Gulp.
Solution: Go ergonomic! In other words, position the things you use at a height and angle that is comfortable for you. Ideally, get a desktop computer with adjustable monitor, then adjust it so that your neck is tilted slightly forward. You should also invest in a desk that wraps around you so that everything you need is within arms’ reach. Other features to look for are a height-adjustable keyboard tray and even adjustable legs if you’re taller or shorter than the average person.
3. Improper lighting
Your mom always told you that reading under a dim light was bad for your eyes. Well, she was right, and just because you’re reading on a screen doesn’t change the rules a bit. Working in a room that’s too dim will cause eye strain and fatigue. So will glare from bright windows and reflective surfaces like glass.
Solution: Brighten up your workspace with ambient lights to prevent the burning sensation that comes after several hours of computing. Use warm, focused lights (high-lumen LEDs are great) to illuminate work surfaces. Be sure windows are behind your monitor where they can’t cause a glare.
The bottom line is, if you’re serious about your career or business venture, you need to get serious about your work space.
What are your big office killers? What’s keeping you from conquering them?
Tuula Rebhahn is a young entrepreneur and a writer for Workspaces, Inc., a custom office furnishings and design firm based in Newcastle, Washington. Now that she took her own advice and ergonomic-ized her office, she is an unstoppable blogging machine.