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Ergonomics in the Office

After working through pain for quite some time, I finally found some relief by improving the ergonomics of my working space.

I have dealt with persistant back pain for quite some time.  For me, it was a near daily ache in and around my left shoulder blade. I assumed this pain was due to bad posture or from tensing up when stressed, and treated it with OTC pain medication. I also purchased a height adjustable desk a few years ago, allowing me to alternate between sitting or standing while I work. Then, partway through the pandemic, I started experiencing tennis elbow as well. I thought that might be due to an increased workload and the awkward position of my arms while working, so I removed the arm rests from my chair. But the pain persisted - nothing I was doing seemed to resolve my long term issues. 

In late spring of 2021, I started work on a website for Sheila Hahn, a new client who is an interior designer. In addition to designing interiors of residential and commercial spaces, one of the pages I was working on for Sheila's Kohon Designs website described her egonomic design services for home and corporate offices. At the time, being focused on finishing the project, I didn't really think too much about this, but later I started wondering if she might be able to help. 

I contacted Sheila, and she came out to take a look at my space. She brought some peripherals like ergonomic keyboards and mice, offering them as try-before-you-buy loaners. She also provided an ergonomic checklist and guildelines document, and had some immediate thoughts about my workstation that had never occurred to me. For example, for design and development I use two monitors because it greatly helps to be able to code on one monitor and review it alongside on another. I had my two monitors set up side-by-side, centered on my desk. Sheila pointed out that this configuration meant that I was sitting straight on, but with my head turned to the left for the majority of my time at work, since most of my ongoing work was displayed on my left monitor. I would only briefly or occasionally check the right monitor. Over the next few days I tested her theory by rearranging my configuration so that my primary monitor was placed in the center of the desk so that I look straight forward at it, while my secondary monitor was moved and angled on my right. Within only a couple of days I realized that my upper back pain was no longer causing me issues.  

In the end, based on the recommendations and information provided to me from Sheila, I ended up getting an ergonomic keyboard (the split version so I can angle and position it the best way for me), a new chair that offers more adjustment options (turns out that really does make a huge difference), and a monitor stand that allows me to align my monitors vertically instead of horizontally - no more constant twisting for me! I still need to work on improving my posture while working, but these changes have made a significant difference in my day-to-day pain and discomfort.

For those struggling with back pain, leg pain, tennis elbow or carpal tunnel - either at the office or in your pandemic-related home office - I recommend looking into the ergonomics of your work space. And if you'd like a second opinion from a professional about how to improve your office ergonomics, think about giving Sheila at Kokon Designs a call.