Ergonomics in the Workplace

Buzzwords to some, but a source of real pain to others – that’s ergonomics! For the last 6 months I’ve been using an Apple Magic Mouse and an Apple keyboard. How amazing I can hear you thinking. That’s very kind of you, however, that in and of itself is not interesting. The interesting thing is I’ve used an ergonomic keyboard and mouse for the last 18 years and I’ve recently switched. Here is a tale of shiny vs practical and the inevitable loss in the battle of me versus the world!

These are both pretty and functional pieces of equipment and like everything in the Apple ecosystem they tie together beautifully. I usually have problems with a standard keyboard – there is strain put on the tendons of my thumbs when I use one so I’ve typically avoided them. The Apple keyboard is very flat though and I don’t seem to get this problem while using it. The mouse on the other hand has been a source of joy to use – and a great source of pain. See this is what I have used for many years now:

The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop

But with my new MacBook Pro I went all in to the Apple Ecosystem. And now I have tennis elbow in my right arm. It’s very painful. The treatment (massage and dry needling) is also very painful. What have I learned?

When you think about the meta applications of how you work (and I do a lot) and a solid mix of hardware is decided upon, it’s good to trial something and then go back to what actually works rather than ignoring what your body is telling you and going with stuff that looks great but hurts you. For me, the Apple keyboard not so much, but the Magic Mouse has stuffed me. The way I hold the mouse is the issue. With the Microsoft one it fits comfortably in my palm and I allow my fingers to drape over it. With the Apple mouse my hand is like a spider sitting up above the mouse. It’s in a crappy position but I persisted with it. With my recent trip away I had two weeks off the desk and didn’t touch a computer, then came back, seized the mouse and thought “Bugger. This is the problem right here.” I have since gone back to the Sculpt Desktop and my right elbow is slowly improving.

The point of this post, as much for me as you, is a reminder that sometimes you have to stick with what works in favour of what is stylish, works and hurts you. the unrelieved black of the Sculpt Desktop isn’t as pretty but it is a very fine way to use the computer and allows for long periods of time at the keyboard – which is really a prerequisite of my job. If Apple made an ergonomic keyboard and mouse I suspect I’d be first in line to buy it, but they don’t. So the Microsoft hardware is the winner. For you it might be something different – an old boss of mine loved the mechanical keyboards and spent hundreds of dollars on them. I hated them – too much effort for typing and yet he was able to punch it without issue and a smile on his face. Assess how your keyboard and mouse make you feel – not just the happy feeling but the actual physical feeling. Oh and the blokes out there – don’t say “It’ll be right” for two months when it starts to hurt – take a proactive approach and find out what’s happening. I’m looking at potentially 6 weeks of intensive physio so I can pick up a water bottle with my right hand again. It’s pretty crappy.

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