Our computers are killing us and the office is my last hope
Having spent nearly half my life struggling with computers in one form or another, I’m going to take a chance and challenge that old adage – “a poor workman blames his tools”. In my humble opinion, a poor worker is someone who cannot afford to upgrade their tools. What do I mean? That I can’t stop these repetitive stress injuries (RSI) from working anymore. Much of my time has been spent examining the sweet spot of productivity, let me state that we can’t send the computer mouse to the grave soon enough. Sure, you can get an expensive one with Teflon-coated feet, drag it across hard carpet, and end up with tired hands. At one point, all of my former colleagues sported calluses on their wrists. I’ve heard of people quitting their jobs because they couldn’t handle the pain of RSI. My two cents to knowledge workers in their early twenties: don’t wait until things get bad to take action.
I’ve had my share of RSI related ailments in the past, they made FPS and RTS games a spectator sport for me. Not that I think trackpads and touch input are better. Trackpads are a poor substitute, especially if you need to make graphical changes to them. How much longer do we have to wait before we get a Minority Report style calculation? Personally, I’d like to scroll through web pages and documents by waving gestures in the air.
But even though I despise the mouse and the carpal tunnel syndrome that flares up every time I use it too often, there’s a place for the desktop PC in a technician’s arsenal. In most Indian cities, power cuts make desktop computers extremely unpopular compared to contemporary laptops which have an 8-10 hour battery life. But a desktop computer has its charms – a full-size keyboard with a numeric keypad makes accounting and math tasks easier. Each part can be upgraded, which makes its life cycle much longer than a laptop. With repairability ratings for most mobile devices that fall down the toilet, a desktop computer might be the best investment you can make. A laptop feels suboptimal ergonomically, by comparison. With the hinged screen on the keyboard, the head and body are usually bent and bent. The ideal sitting position would have the viewing angle of the screen on the same plane as the head.
(Also see: Tablets don’t kill laptops – Laptop makers are killing laptops)
The human body wasn’t really designed to be planted in a chair for long periods of time – research indicates that sitting is the new smoking, contributing to increased risk of breast and colon cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Even staring at the screen for too long is bad for the body – there’s an app called Time Out that alleviates eye strain by taking control of the screen every 10 minutes, advising you to take a break fast.
Standing desks improve workstation setup – there’s an inexpensive Ikea hack that makes a $22 standing desk, with a bit of jugaad you can make a similar setup inexpensively with a cardboard box.
Ultimately, there is no permanent solution to deal with RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome. The best you can do is take regular breaks, learn keyboard shortcuts, switch the mouse between hands every few hours, and invest in a good workstation setup – if you buy a computer chair, make sure it has neck and lumbar support, except for adjustable elbows and height. Now, if you’ll send me my two cents via Paypal, I’ll put them in my Emperor 200 trust fund.
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