Monday, May 17, 2010

Ergonomics for Educators

Educator Work Spaces

Educators spend a lot of time at their desks: grading papers, lesson planning, printing, or doing office hours. Unfortunately, most teacher work spaces aren't ergo-savvy. The result is that once planning and classes are finished, your work space has taken its toll on your body: from you neck and shoulders, to your back, all the way to your wrists and hands. Many educators feel this stress throughout their bodies and even develop repetitive stress injuries, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If you're on of those teachers, check out these ergonomic tips and solutions so you can decrease stress and stress-related injuries, while also increasing productivity.

A few work space tips for educators

Look at your work space design. Is it set up for ergonomic comfort and ease of work? Consider the following factors:

  • Your neck feels tight because you strain to see your monitor, which should be at eye level.
  • Your keyboard and mouse should be on the same surface as each other, but not on the same surface as your monitor (the exception being if you raise it). Additionally, your mouse should be next to keyboard (not far away from it or in front of it)
  • Your body should always feel relaxed and positioned neutrally . You should never cock your wrists or have to angle them to type or reach the mouse (see above for keyboard and mouse placement).
  • Your feet should rest comfortably and flat on the floor. This is usually an issue of a poorly positioned desk and chair.

Bottom line- you should not have to overextend your reach to get to anything!

Ergonomic solutions for comfort and productivity

Just rethinking your work set-up can help you be more comfortable and even more productive. Try a few of the following solutions to resolve your ergo issues.
  • To get the very best ergonomic advantage, many workers and educators alike use an ergonomic desk and/or chair that facilitates easy and comfortable reach of all essential items, while still providing the structure and support you need. Adjust-ability is key here. Being able to raise and/or lower your chair and desk will enable you to get the best position for your body so that it can be relaxed and neutral. Even adding back support to your current chair will ease back discomfort.
  • If an gonomic desk is not in the budget, try redesigning the space you have. One of the best things you can do is get your keyboard and mouse lined up correctly. You can use a left-handed keyboard (which puts the rarely-used number pad on the left) or even a mini keyboard to free up some space to allow you to pull your mouse in closer.
  • A wrist rest is a simple and affordable solution for wrist or forearm discomfort, which allows you to type in a neutral position by resting your palms at the same time, thus alleviating strain on the actual wrists.
  • White noise generators create peace and quiet during office hours or a planning period (or even when giving a quiz, test, or exam). White noise generators (aka sound machines) provide a low-level hum so that you can tune out otherwise distracting noises and just feel more relaxed. The result is less stress and increased productivity.
Just by reworking your space and implementing some new resources, you can get more done in less time, and feel better doing it!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Choosing & Using a Wrist Rest

There has been some debate over wrist rests and whether they do more harm than good. The question really comes back to proper usage, as do most ergonomic questions. If, for example, you buy a a travel pillow and then cock your head awkwardly to use it, it's not really the pillow that is at fault- it's your usage.

The purpose of a wrist rest

As more and more workers type for long stretches at a time, the number of complaints about RSI, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, has gone up as well. That is because most people do not know how to type ergonomically: they drop their wrists to the desk surface, cock their wrists to type, keep the mouse too far away, and do any number of things that put strain on their wrists, hands, and forearms. A wrist rest is a padded strip of material meant to meet your wrists and heels of your hands so that they don't have to drop down to rest. Essentially, a wrist rest catches the heels of your hands so that you don't feel pain in your wrists.

How to use a wrist rest

Ergonomic studies tell us that wrist rests should be used between periods of typing to rest your wrists. So, line up the wrist rest in front of your keyboard so that there is not a drop off between it and the desk. Then, as you type, try to float your hands over the keys and not cock or hyper-extend them. As you pause, rest your wrists on the wrist rest.

How to Choose a Wrist Rest

When choosing a wrist rest, look for the following features: