Standing Workspace, Wrist Ergonomics, Exercise.

Michael and Chris,

Re: CR76, on the topic of standing desks, ergonomics.

I would encourage you guys to use standing workspaces. Built one for work, I converted a book-shelf into one at home for my home office as well. (Pictures on my blog). I find it really helped me with lower-back pain.

There are just three tips to the ergonomics:

  1. the top of the monitors should be at a level about 1 inch above the height of your eyebrows, this encourages a level head posture
  2. the level of your keyboard should be close the level of your elbows, you want a pretty even level between your elbows and wrists, this reduces wear on your carpal ligaments
  3. you might need to put a book under your mouse or trackball to  keep the angle of your wrist more neutral. Pulling your digits back and up and lowering your wrist to move your mouse or trackball is a common RSI pattern that wears on your carpal ligaments.

There are a lot of tricks. Like switching your pointing device (mouse to trackball and back) at every pomodoro break. Eye exercises to reduce eye strain. And as you guys are both in the role of employers, all these are things you can steward in your employees.

Sometimes I need a sit break. I keep a large ball in the office to sit on and I tilt my workstation keyboard shelf up to do that. But I don’t need to do that for very long. I find it more useful to keep the ball around to do backwards upper neck/back stretches that counter “computer slouch.” (Recommended by my chiro.)

While in college, I suffered from a lot of wrist RSI, and wore wrist braces. These were my bad habits:

  • dehydration (soda, not water)
  • lack of exercise
  • repetitive gaming motions (Doom!)

When I stopped living on-campus and started bicycling to school and around town, my RSI cleared up. A major aspect of RSI is getting good oxygenation to your tissues — good circulation. I would also encourage you to bike to work and for shopping as well. We need the exercise, we don’t really like our cars as much as we think we want to.

As programmers and sysadmins, we are in a population faced with major health risks: sedentary life style leads to heart disease, diabetes (like me), gout and chronic stress (which compounds all the above). And the best advice I can provide is to build activity into your day by removing chairs (cars, sitting while programming).

Stay healthy!

Standing Workstation 2012

I’ve been computing at a standing workstation since 2010, and since then I haven’t had my lower back bother me for a while. When beginning my new job at Candela Technologies, I got a new workstation and decided to build…eh…over-build an adjustable multi-monitor standing workstation. Turns out it looks a lot like a mining frame from the 19th century. Wish I had some brass parts, then it would be Steampunk.

I really did want to do the triple-portrait mode for my monitors, but while I’m sure I could have gotten some magic done with Xrandr, I did need to get to work, and the ATI driver would not correctly generate something that Java, XFCE, Gnome or Unity would display properly on. I took this into account when building the swing-arms, so I use it landscape mode.