It is common knowledge that a poorly set up office space can be hazardous to your physical health. However, some jobs depend more on computer work than others, and careers such as Medical Transcription/Healthcare Documentation require the highest level of comfort. For the home-based worker, workplace comfort is a real necessity; if you can’t transcribe, chances are you aren’t earning any money. Most home-based workers do not have any kind of health or income insurance to rely on so they must be able to continue producing work. At the end of the day, it all boils down to ergonomics at the office.
Ergonomics is defined as the applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. Sitting in front of a computer screen 8 hours a day (or more) 5 days a week (or more) can take its toll on your body. Tension in the neck, back, shoulders or wrists are some of the common problems that plague desk-bound workers. As all transcriptionists fit into this category, so it is important that you break any bad posture habits as soon as you can! There are simple and efficient ways to prevent these aches and reduce the risks of developing related health problems or injuries; the secret lies in adequate desk posture. Read on for ergonomic tips on making your workspace more ergonomically correct.
Chair and Sitting Position
- Adjust your chair height so that your feet rest flat on the floor.
- Sit as far back as possible in your chair. If you have a lumbar support, it should fit in the small of your back.
- Your torso should form a 95 to 110 degree angle with your thighs; adjust the incline accordingly.
- Sit with your thighs parallel to the floor and fully supported by the seat pan of your chair. You should be able to fit 3 to 4 fingers between the edge of the seat and the back of your knees. Your knees should be bent at a right angle (90 degrees).
- Adjust the armrests (if any), so they are at elbow level when your shoulders are in a relaxed position.
- Place your monitor at arm’s length (20 to 30 inches) directly in front on you.
- Adjust the height of your monitor so that your natural eye level is within the top 1/3 of the screen. Your head should not be tilted forward or back.
- Use an antiglare filter to reduce eye strain if your screen has a highly reflective surface.
- Avoid squinting. If you can’t see clearly try cleaning your screen, changing its resolution, or adjusting the brightness. If these steps don’t help, consult an optometrist.
Mouse and Keyboard
- Relax your shoulders and let your arms hang to the sides. Raise your wrists to elbow height until your forearms are parallel to the floor. Your keyboard should be positioned around this point.
- Keep your wrists straight; not angled up, down or sideways. If needed, use a gel or foam wrist rest for support.
- Choose a mouse that fits your hand; one that isn’t too big or too small.
- Place your mouse right next to your keyboard, as close to it as possible to avoid rotating your shoulder.
- Try using your entire arm when moving the mouse instead of just the wrist.
- Change positions throughout the day to give your eyes a break and clear your head.
- Rest your eyes regularly by looking at a distant object for a few seconds.
- Take the time to stretch your muscles during the day.
- Stay hydrated: always keep a bottle of water with you.
- Keep often-used items close to you (phone, notebook, etc.)
- Avoid crossing your legs so you do not cut off the blood flow.
- If you feel discomfort or pain after trying the above changes, don’t hesitate to consult an occupational therapist for an ergonomic assessment or a physical therapist for further treatment.
Sound is another aspect of the workspace that not many people think of when considering ergonomics and comfort. Seasoned medical transcription/healthcare documentation specialist know how important it is to have their surroundings as quiet as possible. No doubt this is sometimes impossible, either because you work from home and have small children to contend with or you are in a busy transcription pool with people coming and going. Fast, accurate transcription is the most attainable when you can concentrated on the dictated words and virtually nothing else. While you are able to transcribe with ambient noise, speed and accuracy are almost always adversely affected. If your place of work doesn’t have rules about a quiet zone, you may want to raise this idea with your supervisor or employer. Everyone will benefit from you being able to do your work in peace and quiet. If you work from home, you may find that doing work in the evening or through the night becomes the most productive time for you, if you can fit that kind of shift into your life.