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Taking advantage of ergonomic devices

Working at the office typically involves sitting at a desk for several hours at a time while working at a desktop or sometimes a laptop. Spending hours at a time doing repetitive and tedious work comes at a cost. It makes you prone to several musculoskeletal disorders. These problems may stem from improper posture and the repeated use of badly designed computer accessories. 

Ergonomic devices can help alleviate or avoid these problems altogether through ergonomic principles. In this article, we discuss the advantages of using ergonomic devices, such as ergonomic mice, desks, and monitors.

Ergonomic devices prioritize function over form 

Remember when Apple released its wireless Magic Mouse? The public reaction was quite negative. Numerous users were unhappy with it or even tried to resell it almost immediately after purchase.

Why? The mouse was a triumph of form over function. Despite looking sleek and cool, the Magic Mouse simply was not convenient to use and was literally a pain in the wrist and arms.

These complaints were based on the fact that the Magic Mouse was simply not designed ergonomically. The material used, for example, was glass, which is not well-known for its comfort of use when it comes to computer accessories. 

Users complained about its lack of precision and discomfort and pain in the wrist when using it. 

Computer-Related Injuries

The Magic Mouse is not the only mouse guilty of these flaws. However, it stood out because its high price and beautiful outward form made its ergonomic performance especially disappointing. Most mice suffer from a lack of ergonomic function. This has led to several conditions among computer users, including office workers and students, that are known as computer-related injuries (CRIs).

This refers to various injuries that one can get from overusing and/or not properly using your computer or laptop. It has been estimated that up to 1.8 million people suffer every year from various computer-related injuries. These injuries can take various forms. Here are a few:

  1. Student syndrome. The scientific name for this condition is posterior cervical dorsal syndrome. The condition is characterized by an arched back in a convex outward shape starting from the lower back and ending with excessively round shoulders.

  2. Eyestrain. Staring at the screen for lengthy periods of time may negatively affect your vision.

  3. Compression issues. This results from your nerves being compressed from peculiar body movements. The most common nerve compression injury is carpal tunnel syndrome.

  4. Tendon injuries. Sitting too long at your desk can lead to inflammation of tendons, otherwise known as tendonitis

For our purposes, we will consider two major conditions that can be solved with the right ergonomic mouse: mouse arm syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome. So, what do they entail?

Mouse arm syndrome. The repetitive use of a mouse can lead to a variety of injuries. One of the most common is called mouse arm syndrome. One study indicated that using mice not designed for ergonomic use leads to "extreme discomfort" in muscles and tendons, especially in the arm and shoulders.

Carpal tunnel syndrome. According to the National Institute of Health, this condition "occurs when the median nerve, which runs from your forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist." The symptoms include numbness, weakness, hand and wrist pain, swollenness in the fingers, and at worse, loss of use of one's fingers.

1. Ergonomic mice

Carpal tunnel syndrome and mouse arm syndrome occur because of the peculiar motion of repeatedly using a mouse. When using a mouse, you move your dominant hand from the keyboard. Also, your elbow and shoulder rotate out during that motion. 

Other motions such as twisting your arm to maneuver the mouse and wrapping your fingers around it put tension on your wrist and other joints. Such repeated cation leads to carpal tunnel syndrome or mouse arm syndrome.

An ergonomic mouse reduces the range of motion needed to operate and maneuver a mouse and enables you to stretch your hand and arm out more naturally. Ergonomic mouses do not look like ordinary mice. They often have peculiar shapes, designed for the specific purpose of allowing your hand and arm to rest naturally while using them, with some of them even being vertical.

An ergonomic mouse can make you more efficient in your academic writing. Working pain-free means you work faster and feel less fatigue. There is a wide range of ergonomic mice that you can choose from and they come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. So, take your time to shop, look around, and choose the one that best fits your needs and taste.

Best ergonomic mice to use in academic writing

Here is a list of the more popular and high-performance ergonomic mice that can help you during your academic writing. When choosing the right ergonomic mouse, you should consider the following:

  • Tracking precision

  • Comfort

  • Button design and placement

  • General quality

Taking this into account, here are a few ergonomic mice that we recommend:

  1. The Logitech MX Vertical wireless mouse

  2. Anker 2.4G wireless vertical mouse

  3. Logitech M570 wireless trackball mouse

  4. Logitech MX Master 3

2. Ergonomic standing desks

An ergonomic standing desk is, well, a desk that allows you to do your academic writing while standing. Many standing desks are adjustable. This means their height can be changed from sitting to standing positions.

They have become quite popular recently and are seen as productivity hacks in academic writing and in the office. Some swear by their standing desk. They claim they can't do without it and stand most of the time while working.

However, most people simply enjoy the convenience it provides. In particular, they like the option of breaking up the monotony of sitting for extended periods. This involves them sitting the majority of the time and taking occasional breaks by standing.

From Standsome Worklifestyle via Unsplash

Are standing desks beneficial to your writing?

So, are there any health or productivity benefits to a standing desk when it comes to academic writing? There are some proven health and productivity benefits to using a standing desk while you write or conduct scholarly work.

However, it would be best to include the use of a standing desk in a wider range of productivity habits instead of relying on it alone.

In this post, we discuss the possible health and productivity benefits of standing desks and how you can incorporate them into your work routines.

What are the health benefits of an ergonomic standing desk?

The most significant study done on the health benefits of standing while working was carried out by Creasy et al. (2015). Their study measured and compared the amount of energy spent during acute periods of sitting, standing, and walking. Results showed that:

  • Sitting burned 80 calories per hour

  • Standing burned about 88 calories per hour

  • Walking burned 210 calories per hour

So, standing at your desk does burn more calories than sitting. Not much more, but it's something. Eighty more calories being burned might not be able to lose you extra weight; however, there are other subtle health benefits of weight loss.

It reduces the risk of the following conditions and diseases:

  • Diabetes

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Obesity

  • Cancer

  • Back and shoulder pain

  • Premature death

So this extra 80 calories, although seemingly small, accumulate to larger and long-term health benefits.

Do standing desks make you more productive?

Standing desks can be seen as having a number of productivity benefits in addition to their health benefits. There is not much reason to believe that your writing is directly made easier or more efficient by standing.

However, research has shown that alternatively standing and sitting while working may lead to energy boosts. These energy boosts, in turn, can improve productivity.

One study among call center employees found that employees who used standing desks were 45% more productive than those who did not. The fact that standing can liven your mood and energy probably means that it also increases productivity.

Alternatives to standing desks

The principal idea behind a standing desk is to allow you to type and stare at eye level at your computer. As a result, there are alternatives that can do the job: namely, table-top risers and standing chairs.

Table-top risers. These allow elevating your keyboard to a comfortable position as you stand. This means you can alternate between standing and sitting while typing. However, they can be somewhat bulky and take up much space on your desk.

Picture of man standing at a standing desk.
A standing desk

This is especially inconvenient if you have limited space in your home, your lab, your office, or wherever you work. However, table-top risers are a cheaper and more convenient option compared to standing desks.

Standing chairs. Standing chairs are chairs or stools that are tall and peculiarly shaped at a high angle. This is to allow the person sitting to be half-standing and half-sitting. Often, such a chair can only work with a desk that it is already high enough to stand while working. Other chairs are adjustable and can be changed to suit the height of an adjustable standing desk.

Things to consider when buying a standing desk

Before you buy a standing desk, there are a number of factors that you should take into account.

  1. Your height. A standing desk should be adjusted to suit your height while standing. The ideal height allows you to access the keyboard without arching or bending your back. It also allows you to stare at the screen at eye level.

  2. Stability. Any standing table that gets too tall will likely suffer from some wobbling that may affect your work. To reduce wobbling, think of getting a table with crossbars at the bottom or with four legs.

  3. Standing fatigue. Perhaps sitting all day at your desk is unhealthy. However, standing for too long periods might also lead to leg soreness or injury. It is best to alternate between standing and sitting with your standing desk. Maybe begin with shorter intervals of standing, such as fifteen to thirty minutes.

  4. The noise of standing desk. An electronic standing desk makes a whirring electronic sound when working. If you have other people with you in the lab this might annoy them.

  5. It's not an alternative to exercise. Standing desks might be a little better than sitting all day. However, it's not better than actual physical activity, such as exercise or walking. Try to make easy and regular exercise such as walking or jogging part of your daily work routine.

You should probably try out a standing desk

A standing desk can likely help in boosting your productivity and health if you work at your desk writing for long periods. An adjustable standing desk allows you to switch between sitting and standing. This ability burns a few more calories than merely sitting and makes long periods of work less boring. It also provides a chance to flex and stretch your muscles.

But that alone is not enough. Healthy routines like taking regular exercise breaks from work might be needed to dispel the monotony and boredom of simply sitting at your desk. This can also ensure that you protect yourself from the health dangers of an overly sedentary lifestyle.

3. Dual or multiple screens as a productivity academic writing hack 

Using more than one monitor is often seen as an unnecessary and nerdy extravagance. However, anyone can benefit from using multiple monitors in their work, including research or academic writing. 

Dual monitor use can be seen as a productivity hack. It is a system that can help you work smarter and faster and increase your overall efficiency. The benefits of using a dual monitor setup include:

  • The ability to use programs simultaneously

  • Referencing important information while doing your tasks

  • Its ease of Use

  • Enhanced communication and collaboration

  • The ability to incorporate mobile devices

Image of dual monitors
Dual monitors

1. Multi-monitors allow you to use programs simultaneously

The biggest advantage of a multiple-monitor setup is the ability to run and view more than one application at the same time. For instance, on the left-hand screen, you can have a PDF of a research paper opened, while on the right-hand screen, you work on the Word document writing your essay.

This is a Godsend for those of us who get quickly tired of closing and minimizing tabs on a single screen. With one monitor, you need to be pressing Alt+Tab or clicking pages manually to switch between programs. With multiple monitors, you have the luxury of a whole screen dedicated to a single task or program, while the other screens can be used for other tasks.

I don't know about you, but I remember getting dizzy and even headaches from switching from one tab to the next on a tiny laptop screen. Switching to more than one monitor increases your productivity and makes your work easier.

2. You can reference critical information while writing

With dual monitors, you can have important information on one screen for reference purposes, while performing tasks on the second. For example, you can use Screen 1 to watch a video demonstrating step-by-step how to run data for analysis, while Screen 2 is used to actually run your data.

Now, this is the type of power that should be used with care and responsibility. For example, watching YouTube videos and Netflix while writing your manuscript may not be the most productive use of dual monitors.

Using a vertical monitor

Researchers and academic writers can benefit tremendously from incorporating vertical monitor use in their multi-monitor setups to reference critical information. A vertical monitor is one designed for "portrait mode," that is, a long and narrow view of a screen. This is ideal for working on Word documents.

The ergonomics of a vertical monitor is designed for an application such as Word. Your vertical monitor can be dedicated to your Word document, while your other screen can be used for reviewing your data or reading your reference papers.

3. It is easy to use

Multiple monitors can look quite fancy and complicated. And for that reason, the average academic writer and scholar can be intimidated by them. They think that only the biggest computer nerds, gamers, and computer coders could possibly have any use for something like that.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Multiple monitors are quite easy to use. Often all that is needed is a simple HDMI cord, that is, a cable to connect your computer or laptop to a second screen or monitor. Sometimes, that's not even necessary and you can even use software to stretch out your laptop display to your cellphone, second laptop, or iPad. This, we will talk about later.

In short, using more than one monitor is little more than dragging an application or program from one screen to another. Most modern computers, laptops, monitors, and iPads have been designed to allow for configuration for multiple-monitor use. And the equipment and software required to do so is relatively cheap or even free. So, no. You don't need to be a computer nerd to take advantage of multiple monitors.

4. It is ideal for teleconferencing

We now live in the age of remote work and online meetings, which is ideal for dual or multiple monitor use. Now, instead of looking at a printed-out file or Word document while talking to someone you are in a meeting with, you now have the indulgence of staring at a nearby screen directly in front of you.

While using conference applications such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Meets, you can peruse or reference documents or PPTs while engaging in discussions or doing a presentation. The shared screen option in most, if not all, online conference applications means that you can simultaneously stare at your PPT presentation while looking at other documents.

So, with dual monitors, you can listen to your adviser while following the PDF article that he is talking to you about. Alternatively, you can watch Netflix while they talk if you find the talk too boring. As I said, use the power of multiple monitors wisely.

5. You can incorporate your laptop and other mobile devices

Dual monitor setups often work via an HDMI capable. This is a cord that connects your computer display to that of your monitor. However, there is open-source software that allows you to connect mobile devices, such as your cellphone or your iPad.

This means you can take advantage of multiple screens while on the road, sitting in a cafe, or sitting in the library of your university. It also means that you may not have to buy extra monitors or extra equipment for your dual monitor setup to work.

How to set up a dual monitor system

To set up multiple monitors, you need an HDMI cord and at least one other monitor. It is simply a matter of connecting one end of the HDMI cord to your laptop of desktop and connecting the other to your dual monitor. Here is a video providing a tutorial on how this can be done.

In addition, as mentioned earlier, to add an additional screen through a cellphone, iPad, or tablet, you can use software. There is a wide variety of software to choose from, but I personally prefer SpaceDesk. With SpaceDesk, you can connect your laptop or to your cellphone, iPad, or tablet with little to no effort.

How many monitors can you set up?

Multiple-monitor systems allow you to set up more than just one extra computer. You can have up to as many as you like. But don't get too carried away. The law of diminishing returns suggests that the efficiency and productivity gained from having more than one screen will quickly decelerate after a certain number of monitors is used.

In my personal experience, three monitors are ideal. One monitor in the middle to focus on work. A second monitor on the right to include reference information, and a third monitor on the left to engage with social media or more trivial tasks or distractions. However, choose what's best for you, but you need to start experimenting to discover what suits you best.

Final thoughts on ergonomic devices

Ergonomic devices shouldn't be dismissed as weird and fancy devices. They can make massive contributions to improving your productivity and ensuring the general health of your workers. They might take some getting used to, however. Think of how you can incorporate the use of ergonomic devices in your office today.

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