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When Technology Tries to Tweak You

Posted by on December 15th, 2009 Posted in: News From NNLM PNR, Technology

Many of us spend the majority of our work day sitting at our desks, typing away on our computer keyboards, and looking at our monitor screens.  When we’re not doing that, we are on our cell phones, often balancing it between our shoulder and our ear while rummaging through a purse or backpack.  Of course, we can also multitask by text messaging on the bus, at the airport, or just about anywhere else.  While technology offers convenience and mobility, our bodies are simply not designed for sitting at computers or  looking down at a small screen for long periods of time.

We need to acknowledge that we must interact with technology on a daily basis in the current work (and home!) environments.  After all, there’s a whole generation now that’s being described as “born digital” or “digital natives.”  But we mus also remember to take care of ourselves in the process.  There are some simple steps you can take to maintain your ergonomic health so that you can continue to be productive well into the future.  Some of the tips below are drawn from a post on  Lifehacker.com and on the UC Riverside Library’s web site:

  1. If it hurts, don’t do it! Pay attention to how you’re feeling, how you’re sitting, and what hurts.
  2. Keep moving – Stretch, wiggle, get up!
  3. Invest in a real mouse and keyboard – Invest in the tools on which your hands spend thousands of hours every year.  Don’t simply go with the “default” issued with your computer if it is uncomfortable for you.
  4. Find your chair’s instruction book and adjust your chair. Learn how the controls work.  If your chair does not adjust, work on getting a replacement.  Alternatively, get a seat that positions you correctly.  I sit on a fitness ball that helps me align my hips properly, but also allows me to move around naturally throughout the day (plus it makes a great conversation piece!).
  5. Put your monitor (or laptop) at eye level – You can raise or lower your monitor screen or get a stand for your laptop.
  6. Don’t stick your neck out – literally.  Your head weighs about 15 pounds.  Keep it balanced over your neck and spare your neck and shoulders.
  7. Use exercises to avoid Repetitive Stress Injury – There’s a video linked from the Lifehacker site with some suggested wrist and hand exercises.  Also position the mouse as close as possible to you, and use two hands to type combination keys (such things as CTRL and F7) instead of one-hand stretching or clicking.
  8. Avoid eye strain – There are some easy eye fixes, like keeping your monitor slightly below eye level to bring less glare into your retinas.  And, simply using a darker desktop theme is a way to avoid staring into a bright light all day.

Your host institution may have an ergonomics specialist with whom you can consult.  The best thing, however, is to simply take a quick break every 30-60 minutes by getting up and changing position as well as giving your eyes a rest.

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