The Look-Up Trick
The demise of the bulky desktop computer and the proliferation of laptops has led to a plethora of aches and pains for those who work at a desk. Laptop screens are lower and require the user to lean forward and look down, causing neck and back strain.
Ergonomic experts advise raising up a laptop so that its screen is readable at the same height as a PC monitor, just above eye level. There are a few good looking stands out there, such as the adjustable ENHANCE ErgoPROP Ergonomic Laptop and Netbook Display Desktop Stand (sale priced at $9.99, AccessoryGenie.com). It sure beats the low-rent option of boxes or books as props.
Of course, you won’t be able to type on an elevated laptop, so you will need a separate keyboard. The wireless Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop (Microsoft.com, $119.95) features an ergonomic mouse and a wave-shaped keyboard with a padded wrist rest that keeps the hand, wrist and forearm in a more natural, neutral position. The large-sized mouse is designed for use with the hand comfortably resting on its side. Short-cut keys on the panel get you quickly to email, Internet, or your favorite websites. The mouse and keyboard feature controls to zoom and enlarge test, so you can sit back farther from the screen to read.
There is a short learning curve to get accustomed to the spacing of the keys and the angle of the keyboard, but then it’s smooth typing. One trivial complaint is that the USB plug sticks out about an inch and a half, sometimes getting in the way, and the mouse lacks an “off” switch to conserve batteries. Overall though, this keyboard has lots of great user-friendly features, all with comfort in mind.
If you don’t have the space for a large keyboard, the Verbatim Wireless Mini Slimboard ($44.99, B&H Photo, Amazon, Newegg and Buy.com) has an ultra slim, compact design and comes with an integrated wireless mouse. It also features an on-keyboard media console so that you can play, pause and otherwise control your media from your keyboard. The key size and spacing feel similar to a laptop keyboard, so transition is easy for new users.
One problem this reviewer encountered was occasional loss of wireless connection for no apparent reason. Also, each time the computer is restarted the number lock engages by default, which can be annoying when entering passwords upon boot up. Mostly this keyboard is for those who don’t have a lot of desk space or want to take a keyboard on the go.
Look Boss, No Hands
Cradling a phone between your ear and shoulder is a sure way to neck pain, but heavy headsets or annoying ear pieces have their downside too. For those multi-taskers who want to move about and talk on the phone handsfree, the Gigaset C610A and L410 bundle ($119.99, gigaset.com, Amazon, Bestbuy.com) is a great solution. The clip-on L410, which can be fastened to a shirt collar, offers clear sound quality even while you walk and talk, up to 164 feet from the base. Calls can be accepted or ended on the L410 or transferred from the C610A with the touch of a button. If you don’t want your calls broadcast on the speaker, you can easily transfer the call to the handset. For work-at-home parents, the set also functions as a baby monitor.
Good ergonomics means proper posture from head to foot, so don’t forget to support for your legs and feet under the desk. Varying the height and position of your legs and feet can reduce back pain and lessen fatigue. The Fellowes Heat and Slide Footrest ($79.99, Office Depot) is adjustable from 4-1/4″ to 5″ and features a sliding platform to help increase circulation in the legs and feet. It has the added bonus of an energy-efficient low-wattage heat source for chilly days, to warm the tops of your feet. The heat turns off automatically in eight hours in case you leave it on. For those who work without shoes, the bumpy surface of the footrest offers a stress-reducing massage.