• Sijin Xian

Setting Up an Ergonomic and Healthy Office

In the second half of 2018, after three years in business, I finally achieved that steady flow of projects I'd always desired. In fact, except for my planned vacation days, I have hardly had any day where I don't have tasks to work on since. As I happily and gratefully waved goodbye to the feast and famine cycles of workload, I began to notice something else: computer-induced malaise--sore wrist, stiff shoulders, and eye strain in particular--that became increasingly frequent and bothersome in early 2019.

Since this was something I didn't take adequate measures to prevent, I had to quickly adapt and think of ways to solve this problem. Now that I've been using and perfecting my system for over half a year and seeing incredible improvement, I want to share some products and office setups that benefit me and hopefully will help you as well.

Ergonomic mouse

I use the Logitech MX Ergo multi-device trackball mouse, and it's been a godsend. The trackball is great for minimizing your wrist movement and thus reducing wear and tear of your joint.

External keyboard

My previous setup was having my laptop on a stand so that the top of the screen was at my eye level, but I was still typing on the laptop keyboard itself with my elbows elevated. It's beyond me now how I even survived on this arrangement all those years in graduate school and the first few years of my business. I use Apple's Magic Keyboard because I happen to love shallow, un-clicky keys.

Voice to text

If you are a Mac user like me, you can go to the Accessibility option in System Preferences and turn on Voice Control. You will be able to select your language and dictate whenever you need to. The output is not always accurate and does require some manual correction, but I can't begin to tell you how much typing this has saved me.

Adjustable standing desk

I'm sure everyone is aware of the harm of a sedentary lifestyle, but the opposite side of the coin is that standing all the time is not beneficial, either. Alternating between standing and sitting is what we need. That's why I swear by the Defy Desk height-adjustable desk I got from Amazon.

Eye rest app

I have been wearing glasses since high school, so the ship has sailed for me to have natural 20-20 vision. However, I am committed to protecting my eyesight and not needing a stronger prescription year after year. I had heard about the 20-20-20 rule (looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen), but I wasn't able to smoothly incorporate that into my work until I chanced upon this app called Breaks For Eyes for Mac. It essentially hijacks your screen every 20 minutes, forcing you to look away, and then beeps 20 seconds later so that you don't need to do any counting on your own. (You do have the control to override it if you are presenting or watching a webinar.) Additionally, I use it to track how many hours I work every day and as a reminder to adjust my standing desk to switch between standing and sitting.

There you have it. I hope my recommendations are helpful and that you all have a sustainable office setup that enables you to do what you love for a very long time.

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