Thinking about ergonomics & overall wellness – Part 3
In part 2 of this series I talked about making work & life balance which I think is a good lead in to this topic of ergonomics & wellness. This has been a concern of mine for many years because I started having pains that were eventually linked to repetitive stress. Since I am not going to stop spending 12 to 20 hours a day in front of a screen I needed to figure out some ways to manage my self better.
I mentioned some of the gear that I use in part 2, specifically the Logitech Ergo K860 keyboard and MX Master 3 mouse which are both ergonomic, but I did not talk much about the rest of my ergonomic setup. Let’s dive into some of those details now.
For years I used a glass top, L-shaped desk which served me well but was not very ergo friendly. I retired it 3 years ago but kept it as a storage table for my home servers until COVID turned my house into the Himmelstein Academy of Home Based Academia and my older Dude claimed it for his bedroom based classroom.
When I retired that desk I searched far and wide for the work space I wanted. I had long envisioned myself sitting behind a beautiful desk of rich mahogany surrounded by many leather bound books… wait that was a butchered line from Anchorman… in all reality I had no idea what I wanted but I figured I would know it when I saw it. I had a few criteria:
- sturdy & would last a long time
- no drawers to hide clutter in
- no keyboard tray under the desk
- ability to use as a standing desk
- no reflective surface
I ended up getting a Jarvis standing desk from Fully. I chose the 78 x 30″ Bamboo desk and it has been serving me very well. I opted against the swooped curve at the front and take full advantage of the surface.
Standing at my desk vs sitting
I get antsy if I sit for too long. The idea of a standing desk was very appealing to me, but everyone around me told me that it was a fad thing and that I would not use it nearly as much as I thought I would. Cut to 3 years later when I stand at my desk numerous times a day and I am thrilled with my decision.
I find that I sit when I am doing highly focused activities such as writing, creating, learning, or coding. The times that I consistently stand are for meetings where I am going to be leading discussions, 1-on-1s with team members, and when I am trying to get something done in a shorter period of time than I think it will take. I flex between sitting and standing during longer meetings or when my Apple Watch buzzes to tell me to get up off my ass because I have been sitting for too long.
It is important to think when you want to be standing vs sitting so that you drive yourself to those behaviors. At the beginning it is not a natural shift so you have to be mindful about the action. These days I do it and don’t really notice that I am doing it. My team members used to comment when I would shift in the middle of a meeting but after a while they got used to it and it is just a normal thing now.
Helping with my standing
When I bought my desk I opted to purchase a standing mat at the same time. I did my research and was pleasantly surprised to find that my desk vendor also sold the Topo Comfort Mat by Ergodriven which was my top choice. This mat has different terrains that I use on a daily basis to stretch my legs & feet on.
I can say that half of the reason I switch to standing mode is to help stretch my legs & back. I struggle with back pain & as a runner my legs are always problematic. Getting up and using my Topo mat is something I look forward to because it helps relieve pain & get some of the lactic acid out of my muscles.
Add to all of this that with the wireless headset that I use I find that I can easily pace around my office to keep myself stimulated without needing to go back to the kitchen for an afternoon coffee.
DISCLAIMER: I am super fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive & patient wife, Jilly, who puts up with my need to over engineer my world which inevitably means I spend way too much on gear. She is amazing and I appreciate her more than I can ever say.
I burn through home office desk chairs. The longest I have ever had a home office desk chair is about 2 years. Keep in mind for the past 5 years I was on the road roughly half the time and working from home half the time. This does not say good things about the chairs that I have owned.
Yes, I am a big guy. I stand 6’2″ and weigh between 250 & 270 depending upon the quantity of candy & carbs in the house during any given season. Luckily I have stayed on the lower end for the past 2 years thanks to being more active, but that is another blog post. I put stress on seating and I like comfy chairs. My one big requirement over the years is has been the ability to recline and set the angle of the recline at any point.
My last chair finally became no longer viable for me because Nate the Cat had ruined the seat with his claws. Just a side note, it is now his chair in my office as I don’t have the heart to take it away from him since he is getting older and less mobile. I told my awesome wife that I was going to finally invest “real money” in a replacement. I am pretty sure that she was only half listening when she said ok, but I ran away and ordered my new chair.
I got the Herman Miller Aeron. When you look up ergonomics in the dictionary I think that this chair is what comes up in the picture. I have had the good fortune of having one for my desk in the offices I have worked at in the past and missed it terribly. There is no comparison to it, but it is horribly overpriced. I am not putting a link to it here because I do not want to be the reason anyone else gets in trouble for spending this much on a desk chair. I justified my purchase because the Herman Miller warranty is 12 years and with how I burn through chairs, I will come out ahead… right?
Mouse ergonomic aid
I used to use a mouse pad with an wrist rest built in, but everything seems to have moved to fabric for the wrist rests nowadays and I severely dislike them. I found the Innovera Softskin Gel Wrist Rest to be just the right thing for me. So much so that I own 3 of them. One is on my desk and the other 2 are in the backpacks that I most frequently travel with to ensure I am never without one. I also keep extra mice in those bags as well because I am far more efficient with a mouse than a trackpad.
One thing about these wrist rests is that TSA is not quite sure what to make of them. After years of getting questioned by the same TSA agents at my local airport I started pulling it out of my bag and putting it with my cell phone and keys so that I don’t have to deal with the extra screening time, even though I am TSA-Pre. 1 out of 3 times the agent picks it up out of the bin, looks at it, gives it a squeeze, I tell them what it is and they let me go without a fuss. The other 2 times they don’t even bother picking it up. Huge time saver.
This is a very personal topic area because it is all about what makes & keeps you well, not just physically but mentally also. Getting up and moving around is part of how I keep myself well.
Pre-COVID I was going to Orangetheory Fitness 3-5 days per week regardless of where I was in the world. I was feeling great, sore but great, and then the pandemic hit. My last class was March 16th, until the weekend before Labor Day but I haven’t been back again… yet.
I started running outside when COVID hit but I knew that wasn’t sustainable because I live in Texas and during the summer it is almost like running on the surface of the sun if you try to run outside. I invested my company health benefit in a NordicTrack 1950 treadmill and have put 250 miles on it between May and the first week in September.
I schedule my day around getting to run before family dinner, and it is the best thing for my wellness. I put in my AirPod Pros and just run. The rest of the world disappears for 45 minutes to an hour as I clear my head, get a feeling of accomplishment, and am generally a happier human when I sit down to dinner with Jilly & the Dudes after I run.
Finding that mental and physical outlet is critical and you won’t find it sitting at your desk. Make time for you, it doesn’t cost anything which is the only time I can say that in these recommendations 🙂
Wrapping it up
In this post I talked about ergonomics & wellness both through gear & self care. Remember that you are investing in yourself with all of this and you get out what you put in. That was cliché I know, but truth is truth.
On to the last post in this series!