Carrie Schmitz, Office Ergonomics Consultant and Engineering Publications Manager @ Ergotron
Choices are available to us in almost every segment of our lives – but until recently, cube life has meant sitting at a computer for up to 8 hours a day, five days a week for three or more decades of one’s adult existence. True, our mind is engaged while at work, but too often our bodies have been side-lined until it’s time to go home. Is that how you want to spend a major portion of your lifetime?
Working at a computer shouldn’t be like a game of statues where the object is to freeze in one position for as long as possible. That’s what ergonomists call “static loading” and it’s a contributing factor to a number of computer-related disorders that can creep up on you unaware.
Sitting in front of a computer for extended periods without a break can cause your eyes to blink less often, making them dry and blurry. Your breathing becomes shallow, and your muscles stiffen or cramp. After a while, your head begins to sink, your chin thrusts forward, your shoulders cave-in and your back curls forward. As the mind concentrates on its work, the abandoned body has taken the path of least resistance. It’s almost as though your body and mind are acting separately instead of as the team they’re meant to be.
Now contrast that to a game of tennis. Imagine yourself with knees slightly bent, head balanced over your shoulders, shifting your weight from one foot to the other, your hips rotating, left forward then right forward. You gaze ahead, ready to take whatever comes across the net in your own time and on your own terms. This is much closer to the way I feel when I’m at work, since I opted for a Sit/Stand workstation. It was simple to accomplish, but saying good-bye to the traditional desk and chair configuration seemed revolutionary at the time.
My desktop is positioned 39″ above the floor – roughly equivalent to my elbow height when standing. In this arrangement, my forearms are fully supported, which means my shoulders can remain relaxed and open, fostering deep breathing. When typing, my elbows are tucked close to my body to give me a full, effortless range of motion in an arc across the desk surface. I use a palm support to keep my arm, wrist and hand at the same level. For optimum productivity, I use two monitor screens (one from my laptop) which are both suspended above the desktop on arms which lift, pan, tilt and rotate.
There are still times when I prefer to sit, so I keep a tall chair near my desk. And it is important to note that not everyone can stand when they work. Whether for health or safety reasons, you should discuss the possibility of a Sit/Stand workstation with your health care provider and work supervisor. If the Sit/Stand approach is not compatible with your situation, don’t despair. There are many ways for you to avoid the perils of static loading. Everyone, regardless of the position they are working in, should incorporate periodic movement and rest into their work routine.
Playing “statue” is okay for kids in the school yard, but if you’re an adult working at a computer for prolonged periods throughout the day, you need to consider mixing it up. Sit/Stand desks are preferred by one out of three employees in my office, and our ranks keep growing. It’s a real game changer if you’re game for a change!
So get your head in the game, and while your at it, why not your feet, legs, back, shoulders, arms, well, you get the picture.
Joel Hazzard – CEO Ergotron
Back in November of 2007 I was interviewed by Beth Ewen of Upsize Magazine. In addition to the article, Beth also published an editorial that she titled “Install Your Own Products”. She wrote “That in a nutshell is Joel Hazzard’s answer to my question: How does Ergotron reach its goal of launching 20 significant new products for the mass market every two years?” and she went on to write “I thought his answer would be from the vantage point of 30,000 feet, not from two feet away from the customer”.
At Ergotron, we work very hard to create a culture of innovation because we understand the power of an entire organization waking up in the morning with ideas and solutions to problems versus excuses. To me it’s pretty fundamental, engage the Ergotron Team to go out and install our products directly into the hands of end users because this process will provide us with not only very meaningful feedback about our products but it will also inspire many new Innovative ideas.
We often joke within the walls of Ergotron that if you were a young person just graduating from college full of passion to become the next high impact entrepreneur you most likely would not choose Ergonomics as your market focus, yet interestingly enough that is what drives our passion and why it is so important for us to have a culture of innovation. Our core mission at Ergotron is simple, We are committed to greatly reducing the cost of ergonomics and bringing it to millions of people because we understand that by doing so we will make the lives of millions of people better – A very noble mission and from 2 feet away these are not just words.
Back to Beth Ewen and her editorial for a minute, she ended her editorial with this question, “How many ideas for new products would you get if you watched customers using what you make?” and my answer to her question is – A LOT when everyone is engaged, in fact we call this our proliferation of innovation. A perfect example is our recently launched WorkFit C-Mod sit-stand family of workstations for computers which are direct descendants of our Neo-Flex Mobile WorkSpace family. Sit–stand capability should not just be part of the work flow in hospitals, it should be in every home and office throughout the world because simple and affordable sit-stand workspace solutions will make the lives of millions of people better and it is our job at Ergotron to make this happen.
There is one very important step in our innovation process that I failed to mention previously, which is: we must use our own products so we are the experts and not just words during a sales presentation. Everyone at Ergotron uses our products every day, at home and in the office. I happened to be lucky enough to have one of the first WorkFit C-Mod Combo sit-stand workstations installed in my Ergotron HQ office. OK, I might have used my influence as CEO to make this happen, but from 2 Feet Away, I can tell you this, I’m making my life better every day because of my recently installed WorkFit and I can’t wait to tell everyone all about it!
Check out our short Video – CubeLife 2.0: The Uprising to learn more!
And to all those past installs out there – THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR GREAT FEEDBACK ON OUR PRODUCTS – FROM 2 FEET AWAY
Pete Segar, SVP Product Innovation & Chief Technical Officer, Ergotron
OK- I may be overstating it just a little- but I really do think that my computer workstation is one of the best in the world. My computer workstation combines sit/stand ergonomics with dual monitor productivity all for <$1000. It is an amazingly simple and convenient workstation that is perfect for the laptop road warrior.
My workstation uses an Ergotron Neo-Flex Mobile Workspace cart fitted with a Combo Dual Monitor bow. This allows me to position my 20″ Dell monitor next to my open laptop screen for a very nice dual monitor workstation. When I come in the morning, I dock my notebook to the Dell docking station that is permanently mounted to the laptop tray of the cart, and open up the screen. Then it is perfectly positioned for dual monitor productivity. I find this provides a huge improvement in my effectiveness and prevents errors. In my job, I am afrequent spreadsheet user, and the ability to have an email open in 1 screen, a spreadsheet in the other, and the ability to enter data into a spreadsheet without opening and closing windows is much faster and I am much less likely to make an error.
The cart has a 20″ vertical lift so I can easily sit or stand at any time. I find that it really helps prevent back and neck problems to frequently reposition myself. Plus, research has shown that you burn calories much faster standing vs sitting. There are many sit/stand worsktations that are commercially available, but they tend to be very expensive ($1,500-4,000) and difficult to use. Motorized lifts need power, and take roughly 20 seconds to raise from sitting to standing-that can be very irritating. Cranks are slow and very inconvenient. The “Constant Force” lift technology is a smooth counterbalance that makes the lift very easy, simply pull up, it moves in place immediately, then it stays where you leave it. Very intuitive and convenient. Because it is easy to move- you WILL move it!
Finally, because this cart has nice smooth casters, it is really easy to reposition in the room. I frequently pull my workstation out away from my desk, and over to the table in my room so I can share my displays during meetings. We show presentation, meeting notes, etc, and then push it back to the desk when it is not needed. This is really great.
The standard Neo-Flex Mobile Workspace cart works with either a notebook computer or else a flat panel monitor with a CPU. I have a prototype configuration that uses the combination monitor/notebook mount from our new Neo-Flex Combo Stand to mount the monitor and notebook side by side. I am very interested in seeing how much support there is for this type of product- so please provide feedback to my blog if you would like to see this product become available.
I am issuing a “Dare to Dual” to you: combine a flat panel display with your docked notebook screen to achieve a cost-effective, efficient ergonomic workstation that will change your life!
Denise Luther, Sr. Graphic Designer @ Ergotron
I switched my workstation from a seated configuration to a sit/stand design this winter. I had found my muscles becoming increasingly “frozen” from hours of sitting. I would get up at lunch or for a meeting and feel noticeably stiff, especially in my legs. Then I had the great fun of finding out at my 50-year physical that I was well on the way to the family malady of osteoporosis (thinning bones). Something had to change.
I’m a graphic designer, so I have been using an LCD/notebook combination for some time. The dual screens speed things up and I can grab the notebook each night to check email or finish up work projects at home. Dual monitors mean less clicking/toggling between screens/applications. Designers put in a lot of “mouse time” that can aggravate wrists and forearms. I also have a very cool wrist/elbow support that clips onto my desktop. This helps alleviate pain from an old repetitive stress injury to my right arm.
To create the sit/stand workspace, we measured my elbow height when I was standing, in my shoes, and raised the desktop to that level. An industrial floor mat was added for comfort, plus an adjustable drafting stool that includes a footrest. To be ergonomically correct, I should be using a small footstool when I am standing (to rest each leg, alternately), but I haven’t added that yet.
It did not take long to notice the difference standing made, especially since I didn’t order the drafting stool until a couple months later (standing all day is not recommended for people with hypertension or varicose veins). I found that I was using all of my muscles more, not just my legs. Joints feel more flexible, strength is added to the legs and feet. I even use my arms more because they are no longer propped up on armrests. It’s easier to meet with people when they come to my desk; we are both already standing and conversing at eye-level. Co-workers can walk right up to my monitor and we can discuss the design that is previewing on the screen.
Once the chair arrived, I noticed more benefits. The stiffness that develops from standing is eased when sitting, and the stiffness that develops from sitting is eased in standing. So it’s a great symbiosis. It will be interesting to see if there is an appreciable difference in the bone scan I have next year.