Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On Sitting

A few days ago at work all employees were given a talk about proper ergonomics when sitting at one's desk. For those people who have proper posture or for the most part sit correctly at their desks, the talk was likely informative and useful. But of course from the way I put quotation marks around correctly, you know I was not one of those people.

I sit at my desk at work in a very comfortable but non-traditional way, and my work area is organized to accomodate this seating position. On the front and right sides of my cubicle are desks which stretch across the length of the cubicle. I put my computer monitors in the front of the middle section of where the two desk pieces meet and sit facing the front of the cubicle so I can rest my arm on the right desk section when need be. I use a trackball because the placement of my second monitor doesn't give me a lot of room to move a mouse around on my desk. The desk area directly in front of me remains clear so I can rest my legs there. All my papers and books are on the right section of the desk for easy access, and things I don't need easy access to are to the left of my legs. My chair reclines further back than just about any desk chair I've seen, which makes it possible for me to rest my legs on my desk without slouching in my chair. I rest my keyboard on my lap so I don't fatigue my arms by reaching towards the desk. My chair's armrests extend back to the chair's backrest, which gives my arms proper support when I'm typing. It's a damn comfortable way to sit, and so far it's worked out well for me (except for the couple times I've fallen out of my chair, but that hasn't happened in over a year). Sit leaning back in my chair with my feet up, crank up some Muse, and I'm in coding Nirvana.

It's no secret I sit like this at my desk. Which is why many a co-worker looked at me once we started talking about ergonomics. And came the clincher near the end of the talk: I just wanted to address this because I've seen the way some of you sit at your desks, like Aaron. Shortly after, how I sit at my desk was demonstrated to the entire company by the person giving the talk, while commenting that it actually wasn't too bad a way to sit ergonomically speaking since my arms are rested on my lap. We all had a good laugh at the demonstration. It was all in fun, so I didn't care. If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

After the talk, I went to my desk and evaluated my seating position according to the ergonomic criteria discussed. The main idea was that each part of one's arm be below the previous part so blood flow to the fingers isn't fighting gravity. Based on that criteria, my seating position's not so bad. My wrists are slightly higher than my elbows, but that could be solved with taller armrests. And although my arms angle inward, I type with my hands at an angle on my keyboard so my wrists are straight. And of course there's research which suggests that sitting with one's back at a 135 degree angle is better than sitting with one's back at a right angle. Whether or not the research is credible I don't know, but it's certainly more comfortable for me to sit with my back at an angle than to sit straight up. Which is why I sit like I do in the first place.

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