Ergonomics

You may remember that back in 2011 I wrote quite a long post about ergonomics – you can still access it at http://cdevitttranslation.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/the-ergonomic-translator/. Now, a year and a half later, I’d like to follow up with a few more tricks I’ve picked up since then:

  • F.lux: this is a wonderful, free program that will do your eyes a world of good. Basically, it looks at your time zone and the current time and adjusts your screen brightness and colour spectrum accordingly. This means that at times when you’re likely to be working by natural light the brightness and colours will be very different from times when it’s dark and you’re using artificial light. You know how when you fire up your computer after dark it’s the brightest thing in the room, and your eyes start aching more or less immediately? F.lux solves that problem, for example. I would never have imagined that it would make so much difference. Of course, it can’t do that without altering the appearance of colours on your screen, so if you’re doing work that means you need to see colours exactly as they’ll be displayed or printed, you can deactivate F.lux temporarily. Tip: make sure it’s deduced your latitude and longitude correctly. You can download it at http://stereopsis.com/flux/.
  • Pause every 20 minutes: just recently I heard on the radio that being sedentary for more than 20 minutes can affect your health even if you take a lot of exercise. Now, of course this may or may not actually be true, but I decided to start taking very, very short breaks every 20 minutes. I’ve downloaded a program that generates an alert every 20 minutes, but I don’t want to name it here because I’m not quite convinced I’ve found the best program for me yet. Back in 2011 I said that an alarm clock ought to do just as well as a computer program, but the truth is it would be very fiddly and repetitive to keep resetting all the time, whereas a computer program will alert you automatically. Even if taking a break every 20 minutes doesn’t make any difference to your general health, it’s certainly no bad thing to get your body (especially your back) moving rather than sitting stock still for hours on end. The question arises of what to do when you take a break. I do exercises for my back every day anyway, so I’ve simply started doing them when I take one of these breaks. This actually makes it easier to remember to do the exercises every day. Also, some breaks will coincide with times when you want to put the kettle on, answer a call of nature, etc. At first I found that taking breaks so often threw my concentration off, but after a couple of weeks I got used to it and could take a minute (literally) away from my desk without losing my thread.
  • Change your screen height every couple of weeks: however ideally positioned your screen is, the fact is that sitting looking at it means you’re adopting an unnatural position for long periods. I find that just changing the screen height by a couple of inches every few weeks prevents my neck from aching.

I still stick by the points I made in my 2011 post, the most important of which were to reduce mouse use, position your keyboard and screen well and look after your back. I recommended shortcuts as a way to reduce mouse use, and this is a subject I’ll be covering in a separate post in a couple of weeks’ time. One thing I can’t cover is the ergonomics of smart phones, tablets, etc, as I don’t use them. Any suggestions you have for other readers, though, are welcome!

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