Workstation Tips

One week into MED4051, I have finally cleared up my desk. Initially, my workstation had serious ergonomic problems. By January 2009, I was messing up my lower back and was even starting to stand with a slight slant to one side. So I made real efforts to improve the ergonomics of my workstation. The final phase of my plan was just completed last weekend well within the $200 budget set aside for it. The keyboard tray and monitor arm are the latest additions to the workstation and it pretty much clears up all the space on my desk (picture of old workstation at the end of post). Now I can actually open a book and read without a keyboard getting in the way.

It took a year and a half for my desk to become what it is today. Here's what I have learnt.

Things To Consider When Setting Up A Workstation:

1) Computer: Always make sure your elbows are greater than 90 degrees when typing/mousing. Your keyboard should be low so you dont place strain on your wrist. Your chair should be adequately adjustable for comfortably typing (relatively high) and reading books on the table (relatively lower).

2) Books: Yes, a computer is great and all but in the end you still need books! Make sure you have space for books. Last year I spent alot of time in the library precisely because of that. I had a desk, but no space for books!! And my chair was so high I had to slouch just to read a book on the table.

3) Keyboard: Keyboards must be easy to touch-type with minimal effort. Forget gimmicky media buttons you'll never use. Go for a keyboard that has a comfortable keystroke. If you are a touch typist like me, notebook style keys are ideal.

4) Mouse: Your mouse should be light and precise enough to be accurate without having to move your wrist too much. Touch your palm on the table and hold your mouse with three fingers. Set your mouse sensitivity such that you can move your mouse pointer diagonally across the screen (and back) without moving your palm? If you could, then could you also perform daily tasks at that sensitivity? Some mice simply arent accurate enough at high sensitivities. Heavier mice tend to be fatiguing. Go for a light, sensitive, yet accurate mouse that's under 80g.

5) Lighting: This is very very important. There must not be any glare when you are reading, yet the light must be bright enough for you to read comfortably. The trick is to angle the lamp such that it is never in front of you. Notice how my reading light is positioned way to the left? That is intentional. It means that when I am reading a book in front of me, there is never any glare as the light is coming from the side. Placing the same lamp in front next to the speaker (where it would logically go) looks good in movies but doesnt work in real life. If possible, an additional soft lamp (I have one on the right) will reduce contrast and ease eye-strain over the long run. It also looks good.

6) Clutter: A cluttered desk can be distracting. Not only will you not have space for books, but it reduces focus on whatever you're doing. Keep your workstation clear (that includes your windows desktop).

7) Backup: All your files (Pictures, personal videos, work related documents and songs.) _MUST_ exist separately on two different hard drives. In other words, get an external hard disk and make a mirror copy of everything every few months. That's what the small black thing beside my computer is. It's there just to keep a copy of things.

8) Refreshments: Water and some nibbles within grasping distance. It's not in the picture, but I pretty much have a pantry right next to me. A sufficiently-large-so-you-dont-need-to-refill-it-every-two-hours, spill resistant, water container comes in really handy too.

I love my new workstation. That said, it still has it's kinks.
- The mouse doesnt really fit under the keyboard tray (too tall)
- The Kensington gas arm is superbly solidly built (it weighs 8kg *phew*) and is rated for 17"-21" 1996 (when it was released). I hadnt checked when i bought it and apparently in 1996 monitors those monitors weighed over 8kg. Fast forward to 2008 when I bought my panel and it's a measly 5kg. So now I cant lower my monitor as it's not heavy enough. Im thinking of tying some fishing lead weights to the back or something...
- The chair is too high for reading (even at the lowest setting) if the roller wheels are attached. Hence I took them out but now the chair is a pain to move around. I need to find some sliders to put on the chair leges.

Ezra's 2009 workstation


Anonymous said...

This is fascinating....

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