Take a deep breath and listen to what your body is saying to you. Are you in pain anywhere? Are your arms forced to perch at odd angles? Are you sitting with your feet resting on the ground comfortably? Is your neck pinched?
If you’re uncomfortable, here’s what you need to do:
1. Rearrange your workspace
There are a lot of simple changes you can make, and a lot of guides are available online. Take a look at OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor, to get started, or do some simple google searching.
2. Arrange an ergonomic consultation
If you’re still uncomfortable a week after you’ve changed things around, then it’s time to bring in a qualified ergonomist. Talk to your Human Resources department to arrange this. Most companies will be willing to bring in someone to help you avoid computer-related pain, because it’s cheaper for them than losing your productivity, or paying health costs if you need to file a worker’s compensation claim.
3. Prepare for the consultation
Before the ergonomist comes, pay close attention to where you’re in pain, and when. You might just need a mouse that fits your hand better, or maybe you’re leaning against the desk in a funny way, and straining your arm or shoulder. If you’re aware of your discomfort, you’ll be better able to share your impressions with the ergonomist, and give them the information they need to rearrange your desk for your specific needs.
This is also why it’s important to set up your workstation before consulting an expert. If they see that you’re working in bad conditions, they might think a basic set-up is all you need. But if they see you’ve taken the time to set everything up properly, and you’re still in pain, then it’s obvious you need more individual attention and support, and they can make more customized suggestions.
4. Take care of yourself
If you’re really in pain, you should see a qualified doctor or physical therapist. Talk to your HR department to see if you can file a worker’s compensation claim, or go see your personal doctor.
If you’re just a bit sore, use an ice pack on the area when you get home from work every night. This will help cut down the inflammation and pain, and make it more managemeable. Make sure to keep getting regular exercise, eat healthy, sleep enough, and generally take care of yourself. But if you’re used to a hard work-out, take it easy — lifting weights if you’re injured can cause more damage and more pain.
In the next entry I’ll go over what to expect from an ergonomic consultation.