What do binoculars and ergonomics have in common – more than you think. Field and Stream wrote a great piece on using binoculars safely and it got me thinking about combat ergonomics in the work environment. Here’s a few strategies for avoiding those painful injuries in the concrete jungle:
Clear Your Route
I literally have conducted thousands of ergonomic evaluations over the years and the majority of workstations are a disaster. Papers piled up, keyboards nestled in a small hole, staplers behind monitors, phones holed away in a corner and the printer acting as a shield from the imminent paper fight. The first thing a concrete jungle fighter needs to do is know their route. Seek to understand your workflow process and then clear your desk off. It’s a fact that messy desks are like a walking path covered in thick dense plant life, not only does it slow you down, but you have to move your arms 10 times as much (think of those jungle movies where they are hacking away at the plants with the machete) to clear your path.
Start with a clear path every day and put your tools at your fingertips. The less you have to over-extend your body the better. Reaching is good exercise, but only when you don’t over-extend your body.
Use The Right or Left Grip
There’s a saying that goes something like this “get the right tools for the job”. And while we all know what that means, we need to remind ourselves that the left-handed tool just might be the right tool. All too often we have everything piled up on the right side of the desk for our right hand to use. Sure this makes it easy for us to grab everything with our dominant hand, but we are overloading the use of the right hand/arm. Break out of your routine and learn to defend your self from the ergonomic enemy by placing things on the left side of the desk too.
But don’t stop there. All too often we are using the wrong gauge of pens and pencils and countless other tools. Get the correct sized tool for the job. Make sure that you don’t have to strain to hold the pen or pencil. Same goes for keyboards and phones. Sure those little keyboards are great, but they really wear on your tiny little muscles. Get products that fit well.
Full Auto Is Better in Combat Ergonomics
In this day and age, automation is getting easier. From software, to printing to stapling. Make sure office weapons come with full auto capabilities. Why use a manual stapler if you don’t have too? Slamming your hand on it a hundred times a day just places undue stress on your shoulders, arms and hands. Ask the boss for a folding machine if you fold a lot of papers and buy pre-punched 3-hole paper. Not only does this speed up the process, it reduces repetitive injuries.
Dilate Your Pupils
You look like a zombie. Not because your skin is falling off, but because your eyes never blink. Focusing in on a computer screen all day makes your eye muscles weak. Not to mention, it dries out your eyes. You can strengthen your eye muscles and keep your focus longer if you take a quick break. Close your eyes for 30 seconds to a minute. Let those pupils see the dark side several times a day.
The Thousand Yard Stare
The eye muscles not only need to rest they need to be worked hard. Again, focusing on your computer screen weakens your eye muscles. Learn to develop that thousand yard stare. Try to pick something out on your fellow troop’s desk and hone in on it. See if you can read the ingredient list on that candy bar or what type of pencil they use. Changing your focus from near to far will help strengthen your eye muscles and keep you locked on your target.
Avoid Direct Light
Too much light can not only leave us incapacitated in the field, it can cause serious hurdles for our mission. Bright sunlight from windows and overhead fixtures can create an immense amount of glare on papers, computer screens and from those dreaded cd’s lying around our desk. Keep the light levels in the appropriate range and use task lighting for specialize missions.