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Ask Slashdot: Ergonomic Office Environment?

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the i-recommend-airplane-seats dept.

Input Devices 235

relyte writes "In the spirit of the recent poll — where many people recommended ergonomic upgrades — what's the best way to get a comfortable, ergonomic, efficient work environment? I'm just starting my career in software development, and I'd like to get a great chair, keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc. What models would you recommend to save wear and tear on joints, eyes, and muscles? Are there other categories I should consider?"

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Start with your chair, monitor, keyboard setup fir (4, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | about 3 years ago | (#37725286)

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/855/ergonomy.png/ [imageshack.us]

this image is an image that shows proper ergonomy for working in front of a computer. the orientation and alignment of arms, hands, back and their support is most important.

Monitor Height (2)

Elfich47 (703900) | about 3 years ago | (#37725312)

I normally set my monitor higher than the picture because I have the tendency to hunch if the monitor is lower than me. Once I have hunched over I have to tip my head up to look at the screen. These days I elevate my monitor so it is level with my eye-line.

Re:Start with your chair, monitor, keyboard setup (2)

mdf356 (774923) | about 3 years ago | (#37725470)

IMO, those images are useless. I don't sit in one position all day, and it's not healthy to do so. I slouch, I lean forward, I sit up straight. My legs are stretched out in front of me, tucked behind me, sometimes one leg is crossed under my knee with my heel on my chair, etc.

I have never had a keyboard tray I liked; invariable I bang my knees on it and it's not wide enough for my keyboard and all the places I want to put my mouse. My arms are usually out to my sides a bit. I want my monitor's center about at head height so for some things I look up and some I look down.

To the OP, in my 10 years of experience the only thing that I needed that was in any way uncommon was a split keyboard so my wrists didn't hurt. YMMV, of course, since the things your body complains about won't be the same as mine.

None of the chairs I've had at work have been awesome or terrible; they were somewhere to put my ass so I could type. For that matter, I'd be happy with a standing desk too but they cost money and my cube isn't well set-up for that.

Re:Start with your chair, monitor, keyboard setup (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725500)

Monitor height is wrong, top of monitor should be above eye height.

Re:Start with your chair, monitor, keyboard setup (1)

John Bresnahan (638668) | about 3 years ago | (#37725606)

Not if you wear bifocals, and you use the bottom part of your lenses to focus on the monitor.

Now, get off my lawn!

Re:Start with your chair, monitor, keyboard setup (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | about 3 years ago | (#37725742)

Not if you wear bifocals, and you use the bottom part of your lenses to focus on the monitor.

I just got a pair of progressive lenses (i.e., no-line bifocals) and the bottom of the lens is best for viewing things about 6-12" away. My monitor is about 24" away, so the middle of the lens works just fine. Maybe it's just me, and maybe it's the progressive lenses.

The head of our IT department has single-vision lenses, and needs to put small print about 5" away from his face (with glasses off) to read it, and ISTR that same less than 12" distance is how my parents, etc, read things before they got bifocals.

Re:Start with your chair, monitor, keyboard setup (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725522)

This image is not very good, and has some issues.

Please look at a better image here: http://ergonomics.about.com/od/office/ss/computer_setup_2.htm

I didn't read that article too thoroughly, but based on that image provided, it will be a better source.

Your armrests should not provide vertical support to your arms. If you are leaning heavily on them, you aren't using them correctly.

Optimally, your hands will actually take a slight downward angle to your keyboard, which ideally would also be slightly angled downwards. If angling the keyboard down isn't possible, straight out is OK but NEVER use the stupid pegs under your keyboard to lift the back of it. Typing at a slight downward slant can be a little awkward at first, but adjustment doesn't take long at all.

Qualification: I am an Industrial Engineer university-trained in Human Factors Engineering, which heavily focused on workstation design.

Re:Start with your chair, monitor, keyboard setup (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725638)

Ummm... That's not right either! Is that image showing how to display the most reflections on the monitor? Because that's all it is doing at that angle/height off of desk.

Re:Start with your chair, monitor, keyboard setup (1)

Richard_J_N (631241) | about 3 years ago | (#37725578)

There are 3 important differential-heights to get correct:
      floor -> chair (so your legs are comfortable)
      chair -> desk (so your arms are comfortable once sitting)
      chair -> monitor (so your eyes are at a sensible level and you are not looking down too much).

Laptops are a disaster for this unless you use a laptop stand + external keyboard. Also, imho, most tables are too low, and you'll never get it right if you don't fix this first.

Also, get the monitor a comfortable distance from your eyes to avoid eye-strain; if necessary, then make the monitor larger, or put it on an angle-poise style arm.

     

Re:Start with your chair, monitor, keyboard setup (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37725650)

Actually, far too many workspaces are set up at countertop height (34"-36"), which is much too high. A sit-down working desk, especially if you spend a lot of time at the keyboard, should be no higher than 28"-30" off the floor. That is why add-on keyboard drawers hang UNDER the desk, often by 4"-6".

Adjustable table! (2)

catman (1412) | about 3 years ago | (#37725728)

Agree with all of the above, and also: I once had a motorized table that could be raised and lowered at a touch of a button. It was wonderful. I could raise the table and stand up to stretch my back and legs, it had room for two monitors. The "desktop" PC was actually hanging under the table, but out of the way so I didn't bang my knees on it when sitting down.

No chair (5, Interesting)

Eevee (535658) | about 3 years ago | (#37725304)

Re:No chair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725438)

I work out regularly. I am not obese (although I was at one time). I eat healthy foods and I don't eat out much. I'm in decent shape.

I tried the standing thing for 3 months. My knees, ankles and back were constantly in pain when I got home from work. When working out I'd have numbness in my feet and legs. I thought I was just adjusting--I wasn't.

After the three months were up I went back to sitting. I no longer have the pain. While this is one isolated person doing it, I certainly don't think it's the life-saving panacea that everyone is claiming it is.

The additional costs to employers and healthcare due to adverse reactions to something which has become very popular is just not worth it IMO.

Re:No chair (3, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | about 3 years ago | (#37725574)

> I tried the standing thing for 3 months.
There's your problem. Not even horses stay on their feet that long.

Re:No chair (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725686)

Yeah, have a seat every once in a while, fatass!

Re:No chair (1)

flaming error (1041742) | about 3 years ago | (#37725616)

Snarkiness aside, it's interesting to hear a counter-example.

Maybe different shoes or flooring could have made a difference. Maybe sitting down periodically during the day could make a difference. Maybe the rest of your workstation was set up unergonomically.

Or maybe the notion that standing all day is healthier is bullshit.

Re:No chair (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | about 3 years ago | (#37725846)

Standing is very hard, especially on hard surfaces. Using rubber/foam mats will about double the time you can stand comfortably. Keeping your weight more towards on the balls rather than the heals of the feet help. Good shoes help. Alternating walking and standing is easier than doing either continuously. Even after doing it for years it still hurts.

Re:No chair (1)

e4g4 (533831) | about 3 years ago | (#37726006)

You needed something like a chef mat [google.com]

Re:No chair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725466)

That's why I try to do 15 to 45 burpees [wikipedia.org] every hour. It's not easy but it is necessary and quite effective [livestrong.com]

Re:No chair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725520)

I found an old drafting board and I put a 4' x 8' butcher block top on it. I set it to its maximum height so I can stand all day. It's very comfortable. I also have a nice rubber mat to stand on.

Re:No chair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725558)

There should be a cluster of tables that are stand-up height, like people in eateries just grabbing a quick bite, for the mobile worker needing a spot, or the occasional telecommuter spending a few hours touching base with others.

Don't ever put the outlets down on the floor for these people. That is utter disrespect in our line of work.

If you have the luxury (and humor), articulated monitor supports, but have cup/drinkholders at the ends. We treasure both equally.

Re:No chair (4, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37725664)

It is true that standing up, at least part of the time, can be a healthy improvement over sitting for 8-10 hours a day. However, I am unaware of any study showing that standing for the entire time is necessary or even desirable. That is the reason for the recent popularity of the adjustable desks, that can be changed from sitting height to standing height. They are much more popular than standing-only desks although quite a bit more expensive, too.

Both sitting AND standing are bad for you. (2)

jtolds (413336) | about 3 years ago | (#37725722)

This just in, http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/CUESitStand.html [cornell.edu]

From TFA:

The bottom line:

Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward titling keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 2 minutes AND MOVE. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and move for a couple of minutes. Simply standing is insufficient. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles. Research shows that you don’t need to do vigorous exercise (e.g. jumping jacks) to get the benefits, just walking around is sufficient. So build in a pattern of creating greater movement variety in the workplace (e.g. walk to a printer, water fountain, stand for a meeting, take the stairs, walk around the floor, park a bit further away from the building each day).

So the key is to build movement variety into the normal workday.

Re:No chair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725744)

Standing all day is also bad for you. And most people who buy standing desks abandon them quickly. A sensible middle path recommended from Cornell:
http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/CUESitStand.html

Re:No chair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725750)

According to some reason studies that is insufficient:

Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward titling keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 2 minutes AND MOVE. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and move for a couple of minutes. Simply standing is insufficient.

                http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/CUESitStand.html
                http://daringfireball.net/linked/2011/09/15/sitting-and-standing (via)

Given that, I'd probably recommend an "AdjusTable" unit from the Details folks:

                http://details-worktools.com/products/adjustables/
                http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/06/06.html (via)

They're height-adjustable from 24-52". For when you're sitting, a Herman Miller (Aeron or Mira) or Humanscale Freedom chair would probably be good (if money isn't too much of a concern).

Not sitting, being stationary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725950)

It's not so much the fact that you're sitting, as the fact that you're not moving. Standing in place has not been shown to be any better for you than sitting on your ass.

Ideally, you'd walk around the office every few minutes.

Stand up a bit (2)

Haedrian (1676506) | about 3 years ago | (#37725322)

Don't stay sitting down, every so often walk around a bit. Go to the water cooler or slack off or something. It's good for you.

Even the best chair setup will damage you eventually.

Re:Fighter-pilot posture... (2)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 3 years ago | (#37725688)

I saw an @Google video a few weeks ago that recommended sitting in the cockpit position, reclined about 35deg. Apparently the Air Force did a study, and found it would be cheaper and more effective to just design their aircraft seats to those specs than to teach their pilots how to keep good posture in a "normal" seat. (At least that's what the guy in the video said.)

He also talked about the main problem with posture for the average office/cubicle drone. We tend to hunch forward over the keyboard, which forces us to crane our necks up so we can see the screen. This puts strain on the back-of-the-neck muscles and can lead to headaches.

Re:Fighter-pilot posture... (1)

bkmoore (1910118) | about 3 years ago | (#37725978)

But it's harder to see behind you if you're reclined at 35 degrees. Can be deadly in a visual fight.

Re:Stand up a bit (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37725710)

I won't recommend a particular brand, but be sure to get a fully-adjustable chair that is rated for more than 8 hours, even if you are only sitting in it for 4 or less. Your body will thank you.

Don't overdo it (1)

solidraven (1633185) | about 3 years ago | (#37725336)

Don't go for those weird shaped ergonomic keyboards. They usually slow down work and your fingers end up hurting more cause you're not used to the weird positioning of the keys. The best "new" keyboard I've found up to this point was the Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000, the 3000 is sort of ok but already has a weirder shape. In terms of monitor, get something that isn't reflective (more comfortable for the eyes if there's a lot of sunlight coming in through a window) and about 21", larger requires increased distance and that might be annoying for people who have to wear glasses for things that aren't nearby. Mouse you should just get a normal one that isn't too large. And chair and desk, just go to your local IKEA and try out what sort of desk and chair works best for you.

Re:Don't overdo it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725482)

My all over best combo ever is the Microsoft Laser Desktop 5000 Keyboard + Mouse combo.. Just enough curved so that it doesn't strain your hands with the awkward position, and has enough shortcut keys for some of the quick things you might need to do often (run the build script, pull up source control, open the browser on your web app login page). Also, two extra mouse keys (one on each side) gives you an ambidextrous mouse that can easily be used with expose/spaces (or an equivalent of that for windows), and lets you be much more productive (that is, if working with multiple things open is your game).

Also, the batteries last forever (I've been changing them every year or so, for the past 3 or 4 years, afraid they might leak if I leave them there too long), and it's wireless, so you can always slack off a bit when you need.

Re:Don't overdo it (1)

6Yankee (597075) | about 3 years ago | (#37725636)

When I started getting wrist pains, I got a Comfort 4000, the split one - best thing I've ever done, and it soon taught me which hand I was supposed to type those middle letters with! It was weird and awkward for a couple of weeks, but never painful; after that, it's really helped. I certainly wouldn't bother with the really weird stuff, though; I've seen some truly perverse keyboards out there.

I'm typing this with my laptop on the dining table, and my neck hurts like hell from looking down for as long as I have been. Wrists are hurting too. Really must get this sorted out.

Right now, the Comfort is in work, because the laptop they gave me there has a Finnish keyboard and I can't code on it worth a damn...

Get up often (1)

Killer Instinct (851436) | about 3 years ago | (#37725338)

Make a point of getting up and moving around, at least once a hour if possible. Most employers i have worked for dont mind if you get up for a few mins and move around. All of them were usuallyslow at getting anything remotely ergonomic for you unless u have a doc note or lots of persistence. And if you forget, set an alarm. There will be plenty of times you stare at a monitor for hours, dont let it happen all the time and you'll be ok.

Work at home as much as possible (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 3 years ago | (#37725354)

If you don't have a "a comfortable, ergonomic, efficient work environment" at home . . . then you have other problems.

Most employers won't cough up the bucks for ergonomic stuff anyways. They read "ergonomic" as "expensive" . . . which it usually is. But you have a free open range at home.

Re:Work at home as much as possible (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 3 years ago | (#37725506)

Oh, nonsense. They realize that repetitive stress injuries are one of the biggest costs to health care. My company tries to shove ergonomic stuff down our throats once a month or so.

      Most of it makes my hand/arm/back hurt. I actually prefer the standard stuff and in particular, the Godammned "keyboard tray" that is not solid and moves around as you are trying to use it is a damn disaster.

Re:Work at home as much as possible (1)

gmack (197796) | about 3 years ago | (#37725828)

Yes but that doesn't mean you have to suffer. Just because you are at work does not mean the employer must pay for everything. and I can't imagine an employer that would mind an employee bringing things to work that make them work more efficiently. I'm not saying go all out but forking out $20 - $30 for a monitor riser stand so at least the worst of the neck strain isn't an issue will at least make life easier.

Exercise (5, Insightful)

ion++ (134665) | about 3 years ago | (#37725358)

Are there other categories I should consider?

Yes, exercise

Re:Exercise (1)

goathumper (1284632) | about 3 years ago | (#37725456)

Seconded. I've recently dropped ~70lbs (yes, I have pictures to prove it!! haha) in the span of about 9 months, and have not significantly decreased my time in front of the computer. What I have changed is that I exercise much more (~2h/day), and obviously eating right (but that's not what this is about).

My point is that with exercise, your body will keep itself aligned and tuned up (so to speak). Make sure that whoever your trainer is or "gym guy" is, knows his stuff - mine has made all the difference b/c he was able to spot all of the little "deformities" and "inconsistencies" in posture and movement that I had earned from ~20 years in front of a computer with marginal exercise. For instance, I have a bad knee injury which for the better part of 15 years has plagued me. I'm now able to play sports in spite of not yet having the surgery I need because of all the other corrections in posture and joint movement. Point is: it won't make you a jock, but it will make a HUGE difference and you'll be less vulnerable to "bad" or "un-ergonomic" equipment.

I'm now able to play sports again (like in high-school and early college), and my posture is near-picture perfect (still some things to tweak). I sleep better at night, and have no aches or pains anymore other than the occasional bruise from football (soccer, for the gringos in the house!) contact.

I do have this keyboard [microsoft.com] (but ONLY the keyboard), but that's because I'm used to the curvature. Other than that my equipment is fairly standard.

One important detail: proper posture of your back when you sit - regardless of the chair - is CRUCIAL. Always sit with your back up straight, no slouching, and your weight on your buttocks and adductors (back of your leg), with your knee making a ~90 degree angle (can be slightly more or slightly less, as comfortable, but the closer to 90 you are the better). You can relax this position occasionally for short periods, but never more than as a "break".

Re:Exercise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725816)

So this keyboard? http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/en-us/p/natural-ergonomic-keyboard-4000

Re:Exercise (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 3 years ago | (#37725800)

Mod parent up.

Exercise is critical to long term orthopedic heath - proper muscle tone is needed to support the ligaments, joints and spine. Unless you exercise you will always eventually have back problems no matter how good the ergonomics of your seating position are.

Split Keyboard, arm-rest mounted (1)

lkcl (517947) | about 3 years ago | (#37725362)

well, it depends on what kind of impression you want to give. the setup that i had at ISS was a swivel chair that had a split keyboard, with a mouse track-pad on one half. even as a touch-typist, it took about 2 weeks to get used to, for two reasons:

1) the split keyboard when mounted on the arms of the chair turns out to be just outside of peripheral vision. it was a real surprise to learn that i was relying on peripheral vision to get 150wpm typing speed.

2) the split spacebar (one on each half) had me going "rattle rattle rattle THUMP rattle THUMP" for about a week as i missed the (shortened) spacebar with left thumb. after a while, again, i got used to it.

now, the really utterly cool thing about having a "Command Console" Chair was that, with the 4 metre cable, i could put my feet up on the desk, staring at a black linux 80x60 console screen using alt-f1 to alt-f6 to select different applications. people stopping by could hear that i was definitely "working", because of the distinct sound of 150wpm typing speed.

however this may not necessarily be the kind of impression that you wish to give at work: laid-back cool but way fast working, i dunno. it's definitely better than the pizza-consuming caffeine-crazed internet junkie stereotype, though.

Re:Split Keyboard, arm-rest mounted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725444)

Dude, load a pic of you in that setup. I really want to see it. Blur out the face if you want.

Re:Split Keyboard, arm-rest mounted (1)

KerrickStaley (2423808) | about 3 years ago | (#37725480)

I'm intrigued; could you give a link (Amazon, etc.) to the chair that you used?

Re:Split Keyboard, arm-rest mounted (3, Funny)

6Yankee (597075) | about 3 years ago | (#37725674)

the setup that i had at ISS was a swivel chair that had a split keyboard, with a mouse track-pad on one half.

I'm intrigued as to how you managed even to stay in it, what with the weightlessness and all... Duct tape?

Don't be a pussy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725376)

....

Go shopping (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#37725378)

No one here is going to be able to tell you what chair suits you best

Mechanical Keyboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725380)

Research mechanical keyboards over at http://geekhack.org and invest in something that is actually nice to type on.

"I'm just starting my career" (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 years ago | (#37725398)

And you are already making demands? Be happy if you get something more than a milk crate to sit on.

Re:"I'm just starting my career" (1)

relyte (1624133) | about 3 years ago | (#37725706)

Actually, I'm planning to spend my own money.

Re:"I'm just starting my career" (1)

gmack (197796) | about 3 years ago | (#37725918)

I highly suggest an Ergotron monitor stand. They are easy to set to the exact height you need the monitor to be at and, thanks to it's internal pulley system, after 3 years mine still holds solid as opposed to the cheaper (or even some of the more expensive) ones that have a tendency to slowly sink.

I prefer mesh chairs to anything else because they don't hold the heat against my back or seat and at work. In my office I have a standard chair with the usual fake leather and I find I lean forward on hot days to avoid back sweat and I know that's not good for my posture.

I also suggest not bothering with ergonomic keyboards and instead go with something like the HP washable. It's solidly built and every once and awhile I go give it a solid washing. Hygiene is important too and keyboards tend to be bacteria central.

My two (2)

markdavis (642305) | about 3 years ago | (#37725404)

The two best things I ever did was to cut 4" off the legs of my desk and to start using a split keyboard, both about 10 years ago. Split keyboards never seem to turn any heads, but I get a lot of snide comments about my low desk. I don't care- I did what was necessary to prevent further RSI and CTS. Sometimes simple changes can make a world of difference.

The other change was to pay more attention to what my body was telling me. And that is a lot more difficult than one might imagine- especially when overworked and tied up in so many projects and demands. I have yet to master it.

Be careful what you buy... (2)

WCLPeter (202497) | about 3 years ago | (#37725406)

In my experience ergonomic all too often means "uncomfortable as all hell". Find a chair and desk where you can sit pain free for a while and, like the poster above suggests, get up and walk around.

My in office set up gives the Ergonomic Coordinator fits but it's comfortable for me and, assuming I take regular breaks, I suffer no joint or back pain.

In other words, do what works for you; chances are something similar to what you use at home will come out on top.

Watch Yourself (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725414)

...which it sounds like you are doing already, so you are doing it right! Everyone's body is different. I started with an IBM model-M, and then when my wrists and hands started hurting, I switched over to the Kinesis. After a week of training, my typing speed recovered (> 110WPM) and my hands stopped hurting. The Kinesis people contracted a company to study elbow, wrist, and other joint extensions for their keyboards and others of that time (circa early 90s) and found measurable decrease in extension. They basically moved the control keys (ctrl, shift, alt, return, backspace, command/windows, and delete) into the center so your thumbs can access them.

Same story with my chair. One day I noticed my back started hurting, so I got one of those chairs you kind of kneel in, but then my knees started hurting, so I got a lab chair with good lower back support.

Its all about monitoring yourself, and finding the ergonomic products that make your body stop hurting, while asking around, reading studies, and being careful to not use un-tested or unconventional products.

exercise and diet (1)

erase (3048) | about 3 years ago | (#37725418)

remember to get exercise and eat well, too. if you do nothing but sit in front of the computer all day and eat terrible food you'll put yourself in a position where it's easier to injure yourself... taking care of your body means more than just getting some ergonomic equipment. if you develop good habits now, they'll last you for a lifetime.

Height adjustable table. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725420)

Possibility to work standing, sitting in saddle chair or using normal chair.

Why don't you know this already? (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 3 years ago | (#37725424)

If you are a software developer, you should have some knowledge of what sort of keyboard, mouse and monitor you prefer. As far as chairs, the only way to check is to go test them out. I have this chair and its pretty comfortable, also you don't sweat through your shirt and upper pants when it gets too hot in the office. http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/510830/Realspace-PRO-Quantum-Mesh-Mid-Back/ [officedepot.com]

Re:Why don't you know this already? (1)

relyte (1624133) | about 3 years ago | (#37725738)

Chair looks nice. Thanks. I'm "just starting my career," i.e., relatively fresh out of college. My college CpS lab was comfy, but that doesn't mean it was the best dev environment ever. And without a real career, I've been able to justify the expense until now. Now, it's worth it to me.

Get out of the ergonomics = expensive mindset (5, Informative)

will381796 (1219674) | about 3 years ago | (#37725430)

I work in Environmental Health and we get requests to perform an ergonomic evaluation all the time. Most of the time people call us thinking that we'll simply be able to get them a more expensive chair and that's the extent of what's required to work ergonomically. First, get out of the mind-set that you need to spend a lot of money to create an ergonomic work environment. Many people think that in order to have a workstation that is "ergonomic" then you need to have a piece of furniture that's been stamped ergonomic by the manufacturer. But that's simply not the case; you can create a completely ergonomic work setup with standard furniture without the need to pay a premium to buy an "ergonomic" workstation. You can do a lot to improve the ergonomics of your workstation by simply rearranging where you keep your equipment. If you have your monitor to your side so you constantly have to look over when you type, then move it in the middle. The top of the monitor should be at your eye level (it's more comfortable to look down slightly while you're typing than it is to look up or straight ahead for extended periods of time). If you're constantly leaning over to see your screen, bring it closer to you. Try and get away from wrist-rests; despite what you might think, having your wrists constantly sitting on those "ergonomic" wrist rests is actually terrible for your wrists and your typing technique. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, use a headset instead of picking up the phone and awkwardly holding it in place with your neck. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor...really all you need in a good chair is firm lumbar support and the ability to adjust its height so your legs aren't dangling or bent awkwardly (use a footrest if you're short and can't touch the ground with the chair all the way down). Buy a simple document holder to hold documents you are reviewing while you work, rather than have them laying flat or holding them in your hands. Take frequent breaks from your work (5 minutes every hour is usually recommended). This all will work wonders to improve your productivity and also reduce your risk of developing any type of repetitive motion injuries.

Re:Get out of the ergonomics = expensive mindset (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 3 years ago | (#37725526)

Try and get away from wrist-rests; despite what you might think, having your wrists constantly sitting on those "ergonomic" wrist rests is actually terrible for your wrists and your typing technique.

      I take back what I said about keyboard trays, the "wrist rests" are the absolute worst. It puts your wrist at a funny angle, and worse, it applies pressure and cuts off circulation to your skin. Its the same problems as overly-soft car seats, you butt goes numb after a while.

        Brett

Re:Get out of the ergonomics = expensive mindset (1)

Richard_J_N (631241) | about 3 years ago | (#37725548)

Use the gel-wrist-rests under the elbows though... that can help if you have a hard desk and don't wear a sweater.

new setups Re:ergonomics != expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725542)

Good post

For a new office, where apperance also matters,

  Watson office furniture that has channels for wires so your headset does not tangle...and wrap arround desk components, and can be configured to have good sight lines with coworkers.

Some also have motorized desk height adjustment, so one can change position thru the day.

Disclaimer: I have delivered Watson furniture, and want to do more. So many customizeable parts...

Re:Get out of the ergonomics = expensive mindset (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37725726)

The one item I disagree with you about is the chair. There is a lot more to a good chair than simple height adjustment and lumbar support. No chairs in the United States are rated healthy for 8 hours or more of sitting unless they are fully adjustable for height and tilt, as well as back position (front-to-back distance), height and angle.

I definitely agree with you about foot support. Many people set their chair too low in relation to the desk, so that their feet can reach the floor comfortably. This is backwards, and results in all kinds of arm and wrist problems. The proper approach is to set your chair to the proper height in relation to the work surface, then find some kind of foot rest if that is too high for you to reach the floor. Leaving your feet dangling is hard on the knees and the backs of your legs, and causes bad posture in compensation.

Ergonomic Environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725446)

I suffered a car accident a few years ago and especially have trouble with my wrist when typing due to the injuries I sustained. I have a beaded arm wrest that sits in front of my keyboard and a separate one for the mouse. I recommend them both highly as they are EXTREMELY comfortable. I picked them up at Staples rather cheap. Also, sitting on an exercise ball is really good for posture (I don't personally do this but know someone that has done it before).

I would also make sure that if you decide to purchase a chair make sure it is one you are comfortable sitting in properly. If you feel like it is not high enough and will make you slouch it is probably best to buy another chair. I would go to a place where you can try it before you buy as opposed to ordering online.

Standing Workstation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725458)

I recently converted to a standing workstation and have been really enjoying it's benefits. I still have to use a chair every hour or so because my lower back will begin to stiffen. I'll soon be getting a motorized desk for my workstation which will be convertible from a sitting height to a standing height.

Just order one of everything from Ikea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725468)

It's bound to improve your physical health since you'll be so busy putting things together that you won't have to worry about working.

Do not get a super-comfortable chair (3, Informative)

dballanc (100332) | about 3 years ago | (#37725472)

Seriously. I had the most comfortable chair in the world I think, and after several years I find it partially to blame for several years of back problems. Long hours in relatively the same position == BAD, no matter how painless it feels at the time. I've been adjusting my work-style and recovering.

I think it's best to get a chair that encourages motion of any kind. Swivel, moving back, etc. Comfortable enough that you can focus, but uncomfortable enough to remind you to shift and move around frequently. A little self-disciple would work too, but I find myself getting focused and forgetting easily. Two different types of chairs is also handy.

Good habits will really help. I find that 'thinking' time is best spend walking/pacing and working on a wall mounted whiteboard as much as possible. Your body really thrives on variety.

I also suggest a raising/standing desk. I found a hydraulic hospital table (the kind they put by hospital beds that raise and extend over the bed). Using that as my computer desk has been great. It's simple to lower it and use from a chair, or raise it and use standing. They also make real standing desks, but they are fairly expensive (the used hospital table was $20).

Other things I've found helpful:

Ergo keyboards. Not the common kind, but those that you can split and have several inches between the two halves. I use a goldtouch, which has been partially disassembed to allow for more separation. I miss my model M, but the goldtouch is easier on the wrists

Alternate mouse, or switching right/left sides occasionally. Personally I have a trackball on the right and an apple touchpad on the left for scrolling and gestures. Adding the touchpad solved some ulnar nerve pain I had been fighting in my right hand/wrist.

The last thing isn't ergo specifically, but multiple monitors are a big plus for development work.

Re:Do not get a super-comfortable chair (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 3 years ago | (#37725620)

Long hours in relatively the same position == BAD, no matter how painless it feels at the time. I've been adjusting my work-style and recovering...I think it's best to get a chair that encourages motion of any kind.

Put tacks all over it, points facing out
   

Re:Do not get a super-comfortable chair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725678)

Unless you are 'sitting' in the NASA relaxation bag, after 12 hours of hard work it feels like you have just get out of bed.

I love my swopper (part chair, part mushroom) (1)

HalAlpha (65019) | about 3 years ago | (#37725534)

I've used a Swopper chair (swopper.com) for over four years, and found that I have never experienced a sore back or poor posture. The design basically simulates sitting on a yoga ball without the related problems of falling off. It is highly configurable, can swoop around at up to 10 degrees in all directions, and I often find myself bouncing up and down in it a little throughout the day.

My setup (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725566)

Logitech Trackman Marble
IBM Model M
Be-Ge Industr AB Surveillance chair http://kob.be-ge.se/index.php?lang=en [be-ge.se] you can sit in one of those for 24 hours.
Adjustable table (electric... you'll never use it if its not electric)
Adjustable monitor arm

Do NOT work directly on a laptop (without either a separate keyboard or monitor) for any more than 3 hours!

Re:My setup (1)

thelonesun (2438194) | about 3 years ago | (#37725576)

If doing this setup, an AT101W is good too, and actually has a super key.

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard (2)

dhammond (953711) | about 3 years ago | (#37725572)

This is an obvious suggestions, since it's the first keyboard that comes up if you search for "ergonomic keyboard". It is really a great all-around keyboard. I bought one a few years ago after having broken my right wrist. It was very painful to type with my wrists rotated inward, and this keyboard allows the wrist to be at just enough of a tilt to make it very comfortable. I can type on a regular keyboard now, but wouldn't think of going back.

For the chair, as others have suggested, don't get a super cushy chair that encourages you to lean back. A simple task chair is best to encourage you to keep proper posture while working. Also as others have suggested, make sure to build frequent breaks into your routine.

Similar to the keyboard, an ergonomic mouse that tilts slightly will help. When my wrist broke, incidentally, I switched to using a left-handed mouse and have also never gone back. The only problem is that there are very few ergonomic mice made for the left hand.

treadmill desk and/or sit-stand desk (1)

LDiracDelta (800865) | about 3 years ago | (#37725598)

http://www.treadmill-desk.com/ [treadmill-desk.com] log the miles _while_ working. Build one yourself on the cheap http://www.extremehowto.com/xh/article.asp?article_id=60365 [extremehowto.com] Or get a height-adjustable desk http://www.geekdesk.com/ [geekdesk.com] http://diy.stackexchange.com/questions/1928/how-do-i-make-a-height-adjustable-desk [stackexchange.com]

No netting (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 3 years ago | (#37725600)

Avoid chairs with "netted" style seat and/or backing. This wears out fast, and it can be rough on your clothes, like sandpaper. It's a dumb fad that should die.

Adjustable lumbar support on the chair is also helpful in my opinion.

Re:No netting (1)

yellowcord (607995) | about 3 years ago | (#37725784)

How long does that take? I have a netted chair at work that I've been using for 2+ years and haven't experienced any problems that you describe and haven't heard anyone else complain at the office. I think you might just have had some bad chairs?

The basics (1)

ThreePhones (1878176) | about 3 years ago | (#37725612)

Get a chair in which you can sit straight upright comfortably. No springy back, no ergonomic curves that your body will never fit perfectly. Every degree of recline will take one painfree year off your career. Trust me! You want the weight of your head balanced over your spine, look straight forward, shoulders relaxed while typing/mousing. Your eyes should be aligned at 1/3 of the way down your monitor because we have more visual resolution in the lower half of our field of view. A professional keyboard/mouse/trackpad tray is best to get the right alignment. You want the keyboard almost in your lap so you can type without tensing your shoulders. I prefer one big monitor with multiple desktops and possibly a KVM if you need to work on machines that are required to have air-gaps. With 2 monitors, you are always looking to the side, which isn't good over the long-haul. Keep your active work directly in front of you with secondary things to the side. Also get a second seat of either a ball or knee stool for some variety. Set an alarm every hour to switch seats. Just getting up and moving the seats is good for you. When the second seat gets uncomfortable, switch back until the next alarm. Keep lighting off to the side instead of overhead where it causes reflections and makes you need to crank up the monitor brightness.

Dont be a pussy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725648)

Only Tec guys have these concerns.......

Don't use a chair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725656)

Seriously. I work in front of computers most of the time since nearly 20 years, often 12 hours a day and more. And if I have any chance I always sit on the floor (on a large, flat cushion) with my legs crossed in front of a very low table (similar to how you sit in a traditional Japanese restaurant). Never had any back troubles in all those years. Another advantage is that your ellbows can rest on your legs with your hands naturally hovering over the keyboard. That means that you don't have to keep your arms raised a bit all the time and the hands awkwardly resting on the table in front of the keyboard. Force me to sit on a chair for a few hours and I will feel extremely uncomfortabe. All you will have to deal with is some stupid remarks by collegues until they got used to it and maybe vistors asking if your company didn't give you a desk and a chair;-)

Kneel don't sit (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | about 3 years ago | (#37725662)

I did my back in some thirty years ago in a car accident.
The result is that I can't sit in a conventional chair for very long.
I use a kneeling chair at home and in the office. Google for them.
They have improved my posture.

Then get your monitor heght adjusted properly. The middle of the screen should be at the same height as your eyeballs.

Then, as has been suggested, get a decent keyboard. I'm currently using a SteelSeries 6Gv2. Don't skimp on a KB. the keys need to give your finger proper feedback.

Oh, and I've been programming since 1972 and so far (touch wood) I don't have any RSI.

you won't regret taking care of your back, eyes and hands.

You become uncomfortable in any position (1)

bunbuntheminilop (935594) | about 3 years ago | (#37725666)

There is no comfortable position, because people move around constantly. What's bad is having a chair that doesn't allow for you to move around. I remember at my work place, the truck drivers were made to wear seat belts, and after a couple of weeks, the numbers of drivers complaining of back pain increased by a factor of 10.

Seiza? (1)

jernejk (984031) | about 3 years ago | (#37725668)

Funny, I was just exploring alternative options for my office.

I hate chairs. There is no way anybody use chairs "as intended", e.g. straight back etc. It just doesn't work. Sooner or later you'll crumble in one way or another.

I'm 34, but I've been working with computers for 16 years. Right now I have pain in my left arm, and tickling in my fingers. Probably injured nerve in my neck or sth.

Besides, posture is very important also for the mind. Good posture = better concentration. Buddhists, zen-Buddhists and yogis have figured that a long time ago.

  This seems an interesting alternative: http://www.zafu.net/zenoffice.html [zafu.net] Not really expensive. I might just order it and try it. I find seiza position quite comfortable, but haven't found any studies on long term health effects. It could slow down blood circulation in legs, which again is not very healthy.

Rfu3k!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725682)

that FreeBSD is of America (GNAA) UseNet. In 1995,

If you use a Mac (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37725690)

I use the Magic Trackpad, which I find ergonomically so much better than a mouse. Even after a long workday (it is not that unusual for me to work 12 hours or even more), my wrist no longer hurts.

Also, there is an OS X program called Time Out, and a free version called Time Out Free, available from the Apple App Store. It has repeating, adjustable timers you can set to remind you to take short breaks. I think the default settings are a minute or two minutes every 15 minutes, and 5 or 10 minutes on the hour. But the times are fully adjustable as are the reminder tones and whether you want a pop-up.

Re:If you use a Mac (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726072)

And if you use GNOME a similar program comes free with the system. System-> Preferences -> Keyboard -> Typing Break (tab). I've got mine set for 3 minutes every 45.

Best Ergo Keyboard: KeyTronic E03600U2 (2)

Lost+Found (844289) | about 3 years ago | (#37725704)

I found out about these keyboards from an old Slashdot post [slashdot.org] about "Das Keyboard". Das Keyboard was revealed by a commenter to be a KeyTronic keyboard with the key labels removed. Aside from the "blank key" gimmick, there was one thing the Das Keyboard had going for it which it had inherited from the KeyTronic: five different spring weights for the keys, based on which finger is used to engage the key. That way your pinky doesn't have to work as hard hitting tab as your thumb does on space. After switching to KeyTronic keyboards on all my PCs, I never looked back. In fact, traditional everyday USB keyboards hurt my fingers after enough use, but I never have that problem with the KeyTronic.

Re:Best Ergo Keyboard: KeyTronic E03600U2 (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 3 years ago | (#37725788)

If you're having trouble with your fingers hurting on a modern USB keyboard, consider that you might be pushing the keys too hard. You don't need to push hard on a modern keyboard, but if you do, you'll end up pushing something with no give, and all the force will be transferred into the ends of your fingers (and the plastic body of the keyboard, of course). That hurts.

Re:Best Ergo Keyboard: KeyTronic E03600U2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725972)

Hah damn blank keys been done already.
I was toying with this idea over the last couple of days.
Probably still going to do it though.

5 ergonomists = 6 answers (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 years ago | (#37725712)

I'm convinced that there isn't an ideal setup. I will say that in my current setup, I have an expensive chair (Steelcase Leap) and that it is most definitely more comfortable that the common $100 office chair, and I have not had any back/leg issues from it since I started using it a year ago. I won't lie that it's a cool looking chair, and there's something nice about a pleasant aesthetic, but the real advantage is that it offers adjustments to the seat (depth, primarily) which properly supports my legs. The back is nice, but I'm glad I didn't get a head rest - I tend to sit upright most comfortably and it would have been a waste. I rest my forearms on the desk so that I'm not holding the weight of my arms in the air while I type. I use a wireless mouse that is a bit larger than normal and has a high-dpi count so that the entirety of my three screens (yes - two 1600x1200 20" portraits flanking a 2560x1200 30" center on a single Ergotron stand) can be traversed without the pad of my thumb/palm ever moving from a single spot.

Note that I've tried using a balancing-type chair, but find that they lack the ability to "sit back and relax" for short periods every so often. Also, I tend to get up and walk around every hour, two at the most. Whether to answer natures call, grab another drink, chat, or grab a bowl of munchies, it helps give me a physical reset.

I have toyed with a standing desk, but haven't really tried it as the monitor stand I have is about 9" short of what would be ideal.

10 years of managing CTS has taught me... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725730)

I first developed carpal tunnel syndrome in 2001. I've been managing it for 10 years. I still work at a computer 10 hours a day. Here is what I have learned:

1. You must keep moving
There is no perfect ergonomic solution that will allow you to sit for 10-12 hours without damaging your body. Our species evolved to move all day long, so you're going to have to incorporate movement into your daily activities. Not just exercising 3 times a week, but daily. Low impact aerobic exercise is critical. Every day. Yes, every damn day. Treadmill in front of a TV, WoW-biking, swiming, running, stairs, whatever. Every. Damn. Day.

(For me, I've fallen in love with barefoot running. Do it right, and there's virtually no impact on the body. I'm 37, 6'1", 230 lbs, and I can run with no knee, hip, or ankle pain. I suggest reading 'Born to Run' by Chrisopher McDougell for motivation, and 'Barefoot running Step by Step'by Ken Bob Saxton for a great guide on learning to run barefoot...transitioning to barefoot running takes about a year. If you can run in shoes without pain, do that.)

2. List of items that keep me going
2.1 -- RSIGuard. I've used this program for years. It tracks a ton of metrics about keyboard use and can be configured to lock you out of your computer for a set amount of time. It will show you stretching videos too.
2.2 -- A modest chair. As some others have pointed out, chairs are not the end-all solution. A prefer a simple chair. It is straight backed. I was in Steelcase 'Leap' chair, and I think it contributed to my problems. I have broad shoulders, and I think after using it for 8 years it exacerbated problems in my shoulders.
2.3 -- An articulating keyboard tray. I use a Cobra sit-stand. it's expensive, but allows me to go from sitting to standing easily.
2.4 -- Moveable monitor arm (don't know the brand). Also facilitates standing easily.
2.5 -- A big monitor, without tiny type. I run my monitor at its highest resolution, but I use web browsers to increase font size. Increase the damn font size. Small fonts will cause you to stretch your neck in to see. Everyone's eyes fatigue, and everyone's eyesight deteriorates with age. Make it easy to read, not hard.

3. Think more, type less.
Hacking is a great skill; but it shouldn't be your only skill. Learn to research, learn to read, and do it in a different position. Give your body variety.

4. Listen to your body.
It's natural that when your 'in the zone', you ignore the signals that your body is giving you.
4.1 -- having a hard time concentrating? maybe your body needs a rest
4.2 -- bored with the project? maybe you need some cardio-exercise
4.3 -- DON'T EAT SHITTY FOOD. Sitting all day is already a full-frontal assault on your body. At least give it the nutrients it needs to fight back.

greybeard inventory (1)

epine (68316) | about 3 years ago | (#37725736)

The rule of thumb is for the top of your screen to be at eye height sitting erect. Any higher causes your lids to lift (so I once read) and can lead to dry eyes.

I personally had back problems associated with using the mouse with my right hand on the other side of the numeric keypad. Changed to my left hand, which is less used for other things. This moved the mouse closer to my body line and reduces stress on the upper shoulders. If I really need precision, it's easy enough to reach across with my right hand for a few minutes. My left hand became automatic for normal cursor work a long, long time ago. My right hand still feels a bit more precise.

I just did a comparison drag selecting words with right and left hands. The right hand feels more interactive, but it was uncertain of the mouse velocity in the select motion and actually took longer. My left hand much more accurately sweeps the word length. Consciously, I don't sense this, but objectively there it is.

The colour temperature of your monitors can affect stamina and mood. This varies a lot from one person to another. Recently scientists are saying that a high colour temperature boost productivity. And office temperature matters, too.

Scientifically Proven Tips For a More Productive Office [grokcode.com]

I once had a set up where I was experiencing eye strain. When I illuminated the desk in front of the displays with a warm yellow desk lamp, the eye strain went away. Uniformity of illumination also matters. Glare from behind the monitors is a killer.

A seat pan with tilt is a nice adjustment. I don't see the need for stupidly expensive chairs. I've had a couple. You really have to try different chairs and find one that works. If you're big like me (6'4" 240) you'll need to supplement the cushion on most medium grade chairs. I'm not sitting in a cheap chair, but without the extra cushion I soon feel the nuts and bolts. Pay special attention to the lip at the front of the chair where it cuts into the back of the leg.

Pay attention to pain and try to do something about it. It's very easy to negatively condition yourself to associate work with pain. Then you have a psychological barrier to fight with, too.

I got myself a full-sized Thumper almost ten years ago. Never had a problem with it. It's nothing close to a professional massage, but it provides welcome relief on those long, hard days. My chiropractor has the newer Maxi Pro [thumpermassager.com] and it's certainly a step up. I think it's a complete joke that it recommends no additional pressure beyond it's seven pound size. Yeah, that works fine for my quads. When it hits the tightness in my low back, it just sits there and bounces without some manual force. The tightness in my low back is epic sometimes. For a while I was doing a back exercise program at a clinic with special back equipment. On some machines I started with just a few plates like the wimp I am. On the back extension machine, it was the whole stack from day one. How many of these should I do with my cords of steel? I was running out of wind before feeling the burn. Everyone has their own thing. One of the best investments I've made.

The best upgrade to a Thumper is a patient and willing GF (with sharp elbows). These are best acquired with skill in the kitchen (with the contents of the refrigerator! cooking food served on plates!!) Invest in a good set of knives, heavy bottom pans, and a traditional iron wok. Fill you spice cupboard. Experiment. It's 90% water and heat. Trade your Aeron chair for Modernist Cuisine [modernistcuisine.com] . I haven't gone quite that far myself, but my cooking skills are pretty good already.

Determine your caffeine tolerance level. More than one eight ounce cup every four hours is rarely optimal. If you get a headache when you miss your morning coffee, you're probably drinking too much. Regular meals become more important as you age. Keep an eye on the glycemic index.

Worship fat. Good fats lead to good health and much lower levels of metabolic syndrome. The flavour to calorie ratio of fat is actually pretty good. But don't blow your fat budget on bargain cheddar bricks with no real flavour. Pay twice as much for the good stuff, then eat half as much, with double the pleasure (share with the GF, she might share back). Avoid canned foods and sauces with excess sodium levels. High salt levels equate to low quality. Blow your entire salt budget on Italian prosciutto, wrap it in melon, and take short trips to heaven. Three drops of balsamic at $100/litre: priceless. I've had the same small bottle for two years. Never disappoints. Don't heat the good stuff, add it at the last second. Constantly add variety to your diet. Makes it easier to cast out the junk.

Pay attention to your flow state (engagement with your work where you cease to notice time). This can lead to career change. I discovered I get flow twice as often from writing as coding. I'm the rare breed of programmer who thrives with literature programming. Knuth says the main problem with literate programming is that you have to be good at two separate skills. My days go faster when I engage both sides.

Most of us are not in quite the right job, but when you discover your thing, it's usually not hard to make change.

Bad chair is the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725756)

Get a really bad chair that forces you to walk around. As crazy as this sounds, your back will thank you eventually.

The best (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 3 years ago | (#37725768)

The best, in my opinion, is a Lay-Z-Boy. I mean, can you really beat the Chill 2 Motor Massage/Heat Rocker with a built in cooler? [la-z-boy.com] . I don't think so. Get yourself some kind of swivel monitor/keyboard setup for easy access in any position and your day is golden.

Also, exercise, as others have mentioned. Otherwise your body will fall apart even WITH a 2 motor massage/heat rocker with built in cooler.

Keyswitches matter (1)

pingbat (1648191) | about 3 years ago | (#37725792)

I really don't think it matters how your keyboard is laid out. What I think does matter is that it has mechanical switches. This makes a huge difference in typing, allows you to put less strain on your fingers (you don't have to bottom out the keys) and also drowns out the sound of the guy next to you (and pretty much everything else).
Getting a keyboard with blank keycaps has really improved my typing speed. It forces you to touch-type which is another skill that will pay dividends.
I personally use a Das Keyboard Ultimate S since it was the only one easily available where I live. It is hands down the best investment I have made when it comes to comfort at work. If you prefer something different then look for Cherry blue switches which seems to be the favorite of most. If you really want to get into the keyboard porn thing then go here: http://geekhack.org/ [geekhack.org]

Get up often (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 3 years ago | (#37725830)

In addition to anything else getting suggested as far as equipment goes, make a point of moving around often. I know it's easy to forget, but if you tie it to another activity, it becomes much easier. I've only just started recently as well, but already I've noticed how much it helps.

For instance, the place I'm working at now stocks an entire fridge full of drinks and has a pretty nice coffee machine. We're welcome to have as much as we like, so I make a point of finishing a coffee, soda, water, or whatever every 1-2 hours or so, then going back for a refill. On the way to the lunchroom, I stretch a bit (pulling my arms across my chest is a favorite), look out a few windows (especially if the coffee is brewing for my single-serving cup), and generally just try to give my eyes, back, and arms a break.

The whole process only takes 2-5 minutes, but it definitely helps to work out a lot of kinks-in-progress before they develop into something worse. The other nice thing about drinking stuff regularly is that it also forces you to take a break of the biological sort a few times each day, which gives you another reason to get up and move around. Win-win. And if you're washing your hands each time (and why wouldn't you be?) you can help reduce the spread of germs on keyboards, which is a major vector for illnesses. Win-win-win.

And if I just don't feel that thirsty, I'll still take a mini-break from sitting every 1-2 hours, but I'll use it as an excuse to go ask a quick question of a co-worker or switch gears from one project to another. Those breaks help to break up my day into discrete chunks, making it easier to focus, easier to account for, and easier to manage.

Yoga ball chair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37725940)

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned this thing yet.

http://www.amazon.com/Isokinetics-Inc-Balance-Ball-Chair/dp/B000VK7CEG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1318711769&sr=8-2

trackball (1)

whistlingtony (691548) | about 3 years ago | (#37725964)

I can't use a mouse for more than an hour before I get problems. Yes, that's my fault... I rest my arm on my desk and move my wrist. Yes, that's bad ergo practice. Frankly, I think it's silly to expect me to hover my arm for more than a few seconds...

Trackballs are just as bad.

I DO recommend a thumb trackball.... you rest your whole arm, and the only part that moves is your thumb. Once I got used to it, my problems disappeared.

Tony

Don't waste your money, invest it instead (1)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | about 3 years ago | (#37725984)

Don't waste your money on all this "ergonomic" bullshit, instead invest what you'd have spent on it and you'll retire a few years earlier. Retirement is the best way to avoid wear and tear on joints, eyes and muscles.
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