Ergonomics – An Update

I’m entering my fourth year of using standing desks and this winter and spring will be the ultimate test. I’m on sabbatical leave and will be working on an intense animation project so I’ll be at my desk a lot.

During a regular semester my day is broken up with:

  • Some office time – at my standing desk
  • Meetings – sitting
  • Class – standing mostly, but fairly mobile – I walk around in the classroom
  • A daily walk (or more if I have meetings in another building)
  • At home in the evenings a mix of movement and sitting on the couch

During the summer (especially the last two), I stay away from my computer as much as possible. Instead I’m outside working or in my garage/workshop building something. Standing most of the day, but with a lot of movement.

So I’m not really at the desk 8 hours a day. For the next few months, however, I will be doing work on the computer most of the week’s working hours. There are a few key things to making the standing desk work:

  • Wear sensible shoes. In my last post I mentioned some running shoes I liked. Over the last year I’ve been wearing some Army-style boots that are super comfortable with thick soft soles and a gel insert.
  • Get a good anti-fatigue mat. I think those who try standing and then give it up quickly probably don’t take this part seriously. I’ve used kitchen-style mats and they suck. They fail by sinking within a few seconds and I feel like I’m just standing on the floor. A couple of years ago I switched to industrial mats and they are great. They don’t sink, but instead give you a springy feel. I’ve got two full size mats linked together to go the length of my desk in my home studio and I cut one in half with a utility knife for my office (gave the other half to my wife for her office).
  • Make sure your desk is the right height. This is where I’ve had a couple of problems:
    • When my office desk was too low I found myself putting pressure on my wrists, which over time caused me enough discomfort that I do stretches and try my best not to bend my wrist much. For instance, I do pushups on my knuckles now because it hurts to do them with my palms flat to the floor.
    • My home studio desk is currently too low, but I keep my keyboard arranged so it is behind my drawing tablet so I am not putting pressure on my wrists. Instead I get a little lower back discomfort because I am slouching or compressing my upper body. The desk will get raised ½ inch this weekend and all will be well. I cut small squares of MDF and slide them under the feet.
    • Why is my desk the wrong height? When I changed shoes and mat I got taller, but my desk didn’t. If you get a desk or desktop device that is adjustable then you are good to go. My next desk design will be adjustable.

In the summer of 2015 I built a standing sewing table for my wife, who is a costume designer and expert seamstress. She likes it much better than sitting and hunching over the sewing machine (and cat stuff fits underneath).

standingsewingtable

I’ve seen a few desktop stand/sit devices, but I recently learned about one coming up from a company called Standable. Their device looks pretty cool. What I like:

  • Simple elegant design
  • Easy to adjust the height with no motors and weird looking mechanical parts, which can be an eyesore on desktop devices compared to whole desks.
  • Designed to separate the screen and keyboard of a notebook computer (something I do at work), which is key to working healthier with a notebook computer.
  • I’m assuming the price will be accessible due to its lack of motors and the like – and low-cost seems to be part of their mission.
  • Most of my friends and colleagues have notebook computers as their office computers so I see this as being something they could try without being intimidated by some of the industrial looking devices that are out there

My concerns:

  • In the looping video the keyboard shelf seems to wobble as he types. That’s one of my many pet peeves (I have too many). I’ve removed sliding keyboard trays and other cool looking devices from desks because I thought they moved too much. Larger motorized devices are probably stiffer. Other people might dig it since it is almost like a suspension system and shock absorber.
  • Curious about maximum height of the user so he can still be in the ergo range for viewing the screen. Not an issue for me since I am under 6’ tall, but I’ve got friends who might be tall enough that this device may not be for them. We’ll know when the Kickstarter campaign is underway.

Standable has a nice web page on work health tips and highlights a number of ways that you can use Kickstarter projects to be healthier at work – including, but not limited to, standing.

They also have a guide for getting healthier at work for both sitting and standing (scroll down on their main page).

Finally, some more info about the Standable project:

team-pic-5_fb

We know that the best way to stand is with your eyes straight ahead and your arms at a 90 degree angle to your keyboard. Our goal was to create a desk that accommodates people of all heights, shapes and sizes. Most affordable solutions have a single tray, causing T-Rex syndrome (arms too close to head) or worse, the Mummy syndrome- a big old pain in your neck from looking down at where your screen is. Those that do have a second tray, don’t allow you to customize the distance between where you are typing and looking. For all the good that standing can do, we just couldn’t understand how no one took it across the finish line and made it easy to adjust based on where your arms fall.

Standable is the first desk that is designed to give you the most natural stance while you stand at work. The key is this – eyes straight ahead and elbows at a 90 degree angle. We created a 2 shelf system that does not require any expensive electronics or complicated reconfiguration to allow your eyes and arms to be in the right place. Once we figured out how to solve for the issue, our designer set out to make it as easy and beautiful as possible.

Other desks assume all bodies are made the same – Standable knows they are not!
Join us…..www.thestandable.com

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