Working for the corporate world ruined my ability to sit comfortably at my non-corporate desk. I had been spoiled. One of the first things that would happen in a new job is that I’d have a visit from HR or Occupational Health or Health and Safety (depending on the country) to check out my workstation. They’d measure me against my chair and my desk and my keyboard and my computer monitor to ensure that I was sitting correctly. For them it was important – their way of avoiding my going sick with back pain or neck strain or eye strain. As for me, I took it for granted.
Six years of sitting at my desk in Budapest took its toll. My shoulders and neck were killing me. My lower back was practically shouting at me. I felt as if some sadistic fiend was driving hot swords between my shoulder blades on a daily basis. My neck screamed in agony so much so that I went off turkey as I had some idea of how the poor blighters feel when their necks are wrung. Masseurs despaired of my knots and my humour suffered accordingly. I was a moaning mess.
I mentioned the term ‘ergonomic screening’ to anyone and everyone I thought might be able to help. I Googled research articles by Hungarians on the topic and contacted the authors at their respective universities but got no reply. I was given a Hungarian book, complete with diagrams, and had a friend translate. But all to nothing. This wasn’t something I could fix by following instructions and diagrams. I needed someone to come into my office and assess my seating and then adjust if necessary.
I finally tracked down Miasnikov Tímea and E-Négyzet Wellness Szolgáltató Bt and made an appointment. After some to’ing and fro’ing we eventually found a date that suited. Tími arrived bright and early one morning to assess the situation and (I hoped) to put an end to my pain for good – or at least my work-related pain.
I’ve been through this loads of times and knew (or thought I knew) what to expect but she was far more technical than others I’ve been screened by in the UK, the USA, and Ireland. She stood me on a computerised plate of sorts and it checked my foot pressure, and hip and skull position. It told me that I have one leg shorter than the other (I knew that) and that my hips aren’t aligned (I knew that, too). She then sat me at my desk, measured me up, and adjusted my monitor, chair, desk, and keyboard accordingly. She told me how to sit and took me through me a series of exercises that I could do regularly to ease the discomfort. And then she sent me a five-page report with findings and instructions. In English.
That was in May. I still have the occasional twinge if I insist on sitting for 10 hours at a time at my computer, but it’s nothing like the pain I used to have. This time it’s my own fault. I know that I should take regular breaks (every 45 mins at least) and get up an walk around and stretch. I know that I should sit back in my chair and not try to crawl into my laptop. And I know that now I have only myself to blame if I start to ache.
The entire experience took about 90 minutes and was pleasant, professional, and worth every forint. If you’re feeling the pain of working from home, give her a call: email@example.com +36 209 65 88 40. Be sure to tell her I said hello 🙂
Here is a bit of free advice from working in the IT industry and using computers for 25 over years: Notebooks/laptops are the worst possible piece of ergonomic office equipment invented since the typewriter.
Here is why: The optimal position for your body to type and to view the document you are typing at the same time is for your shoulders to be relaxed, elbows at a 90 degree angle to the keyboard and your head and neck looking straight forward. This is not possible if you use a notebook computer. Typically, when using a notebook the neck is bent forward, causing stress to the neck, shoulder and upper back.
To correct this do the following:
1) Stand up straight and look forward at some distant object so your back and neck is straight (do this standing, not sitting to avoid slouching in a chair which will affect the results)
2) Bend you left at the elbow until your forearm makes a 90 degree angle to the ground.
3) Using a tap measure in your right hand, place one end of the tape measure on your forearm and look directly to the left at the tape measure without bending your head down even a little bit.
4) Note the measurement on the tape measure. That is the distance that should be between your keyboard and the center of your computer screen.
For example, for myself that distance is 45cm. So that is the distance I use for my workstation between screen center and keyboard and I never (repeat never) have sore shoulders, upper back, or neck problems from working hours on end at the desk. It really is that simple.
So, basically, if you use a notebook exclusively at your desk where you spend hours on the computer, get either an external monitor or keyboard and position one or the other at the correct ergonomic distance so your forearm is at a relaxed 90 degrees and you are looking always straight ahead while you type. Your body will thank you for it.