5 Essential Ergonomic Tools and Tips For Graphic and Web Designers
To the average computer user, an ergonomic work environment is a nice thing to have. To Graphic and Web Designers, however, it’s critical. For those of us that spend countless hours glued to our screens, our hands clenched as we conjure up the next great illustration or webpage wire frame, good ergonomics can mean the difference between a long career and one cut short by debilitating pain such as carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, and other repetitive strain injuries.
To avoid going down that path, commit to adopting the best ergonomic practices ASAP. Here are 5 essential ergonomic tools and tips to make a graphic and web designer’s work space more comfortable, productive, and safe. Lets get the ball rolling.
1. Break Every 60 Minutes
This is one of the pillars of good ergonomics, and it doesn’t cost a dime to implement. Take a break every 60 minutes or so. The human body wasn’t designed to stay stationary for prolonged length of time. Recent studies have shown that sitting for too long can actually drastically decrease our life span. And for those of you who just don’t have the time to peel yourself away from the computer periodically, consider this: Productivity experts argue that the best work to rest ratio for optimal productivity is 52 minutes work followed by 17 minutes rest. So no more excuses not to chill out regardless of where you’re coming from.
2. Optimize your Mouse and Keyboard
As a web designer, the two devices I’m literally in constant contact with are the mouse and keyboard. It goes without saying then the importance of ergonomics with these two items. If you’re using a cheap $10 mouse, ditch it for a more ergonomic one. For the keyboard, a split keyboard is generally more ergonomic for most people, as the inward facing design aligns more closely to the natural resting position of our hands. My personal favorite is the Microsoft Sculpt Keyboard.
3. For Graphic Designers, get a Pen Tablet
For Graphic Designers that are constantly making micro level changes on the screen, consider supplementing your mouse with a pen tablet for increased comfort and accuracy with certain tasks. A pen can be held with less rotation of the wrist compared to a mouse, with tension spread across more muscle groups. Multi Touch features found on many tablets also offset many tasks normally performed by mouse clicking to your fingers directly, such as rotating and scrolling. The variation in muscles used all help lesson the chances of repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
4. Change Up Your Sitting Posture
I’ve already covered the dangers of sitting for too long above. Even if you have the best ergonomic chair, it only goes so far in keeping you in an ergonomic state. When working, alternating your working posture can go a long way in keeping you healthy, by promoting blood circulation and the use of different muscle groups. Invest in an adjustable height desk and/or kneeling stool to enable you to switch between various postures when working.
5. Rest and Take Care of Your Eyes
Long hours starring at the screen is common occurrence these days, and that’s especially true for us graphic and web designers.To make matters worse, we’re often fixated on the same area of the screen for a long time, increasing the damage to our eyes. The eyes are the window to our souls, and it to the world. No job is worth damaging them.
To ensure healthy eyes, start by making sure the monitor distance and height is optimal. Ergonomists will tell you the monitor should be placed around 20″ in front of you, or at arm’s height. The top of the screen should be at just below eye level, so you’re not straining your neck, by looking up or down:
One of the most important things to do to reduce eye strain is to take frequent rests throughout the day. The popular 20-20-20 rule is advised by many doctors- For every 20 minutes of work, pause and look away at a distant object for 20 seconds. By varying the focal point of your eyes from time to time, you reduce eye strain and the chances of developing myopia.
Beyond giving your eyes frequent breaks away from the screen, ensure your screen and work space is well lit, so you’re not straining to see things. Consider a “flicker free” monitor and blue light computer glasses that filter out blue light to further minimize eye strain and fatigue.
Graphic and Web Designers spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the computer. When it comes to ergonomics, the good news is even small changes to your workspace can have profound effects on your body and health. Start by implementing 1 or 2 of the tips above as you slowly integrate the rest into your work flow, not just for the benefit of your career, but life as well.