To keep yourself healthy at work, be sure to:
- Take regular breaks: One of the most important features of a healthy workspace is regular breaks. However, it can be difficult to tear yourself away from your desk in order to take the breaks that you need, which is why I'd recommend installing one of the many free anti-RSI applications available.
Windows and Linux users should check out Workrave, while Mac users should take a look at AntiRSI. Both apps let you determine the time between short breaks and longer rest breaks, and Workrave even suggests workouts and stretches you can do during your break to avoid RSI. You should take at least a 5 minute break (complete with stretches and time away from your monitor) every 30-45 minutes, and take a brief 30 second stretch/relaxation break every 10 minutes or so.
If you do anything I suggest here, I'd highly recommend you install one of these apps, whether you currently have problems with repetitive stress or not.
- Set up an ergonomically friendly desk: Like taking regular breaks, we all know that we should have a healthy desk set up, but that doesn't mean we do. For much longer than I'm willing to admit, I sat with 3 pillows on top of my office chair because my desk was too high and my chair was at its limit. This is stupid.
Luckily, there are all kinds of resources dedicated to healthy and ergonomic desk setups, many of which we've posted before. The basics:
- Keep you hands in a relaxed position with your elbows at at or near 90 degrees so that you minimize how much you need to bend your wrists to type. Your wrists should be relaxed at the keyboard.
- Your keyboard and mouse should be as close as possible to one another, and you should not have to reach for them. They should be comfortably within your reach while your arms remain in the position described above.
- Good posture is very important. Avoid slouching, and avoid tensing or bunching your shoulders. Pinching nerves or straining muscles in your back, neck, or shoulders can cause problems throughout your arms and hands.
- Keep the top of your monitor at eye level or slightly below and between 18-28 inches from your face. Be sure not to crane your neck forward while you're working. It's easy to do when you're in the middle of an intense work dash, but it adds undue stress to your whole body.
For more detailed looks at the proper way to sit at your desk, check out this interactive slideshow and this post on healthy computing.
If you're already experiencing problems with RSI, don't take it lightly. Take active measures to curtail the problem, and if the problems persist, don't hesitate to see a doctor. If the mouse is your biggest problem, consider switching hands and mouse goofy.
A usable desk
Beyond the keyboard and mouse, I try to keep my desktop as clear as possible with the exception of one pen, one legal notepad, and a digital timer. Your needs, of course, may vary, but as far as organization and usability goes, I try to operate under one simple idea:
It's best to keep the things you use a lot within reach at all times, the things you use regularly within striking distance, and the things you use rarely out of the way.
With that maxim in mind, desktop organization is a fairly personal topic, since we all organize our worlds in different ways and use entirely different tools to get things done. However, we have looked at this territory a couple of times if you're interested in other takes:
- Keep your desk clean and tidy
- How to organize your desk
- Geek to Live: Extreme makeover, filing cabinet edition
- Hack Attack: The Cordless Workspace (sort of)
- Cordless workspace redux, the Gina edition
Thank you Lifehacker for this Superb Hack !