If you spend most of your day working in front of a desk you need to pay attention to your environment to prevent illnesses and injuries. It goes hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle and good habits. How is your work well-being?
The purpose of this article is to offer a sneak peek into our remote culture where people come first and to provide some useful suggestions to improve your work-life.
On March 8th, madewithlove attended an introduction to office ergonomics presented by Erik Van Den Hoof, an IDEWE occupational expert for prevention and protection at work. This was the first time I attended a company meeting that discussed our job environments.
But what does work ergonomics mean? Work ergonomics is the scientific study of our interaction with the environment, specifically to preserve our well-being. It also includes the design characteristics of an object resulting especially from the application of the science of ergonomics.
On average, a person spends around 13 years of their life working. That’s a lot of time! We only have one body so you need to take care of it.
Implementing great office ergonomics is a part of madewithlove’s commitment to building a culture of excellence in workplace health.
The remote factor
Madewithlove is based in Belgium but many of our software engineers are spread across the globe. So how do we manage our work environments? Some people like going to a shared workspace or a coffee shop while others just stay at home in a dedicated office space.
No matter where you are physically, here are some things to keep an eye on while working:
Conventional mice can lead to discomfort when used for prolonged times. I strongly advise trying a mouse that supports your hand in a fully upright handshake position for eliminating the arm twisting required by ordinary mice. I have been using the Evoluent Vertical Mouse for the past couple of years and it’s been really easy to get used to.
Wrist rest / Mousepads
Wrist rests and Mousepads with soft wrist support lift your forearm slightly to help align it with the hand and reduce pressure points. Here’s some information on wrist rests with quick tips, potential hazards, and possible solutions.
There is a myriad of different options on the market. Here’s what to look for in an ergonomic keyboard:
- Split keyset design that helps to position wrists and forearms in a natural and relaxed position
- Cushioned palm rest to support and promote a neutral wrist position
- Domed keyboard design to have a relaxed angle
- Separate number pad to have greater flexibility in your workspace setup
If you have to look at the keyboard when you type, extending your keyboard feet can be good. If you can type without looking at the keyboard, however, you’re ergonomically better off ignoring them. Extending the feet can put your wrists at risk if they are angled back too far, causing unnecessary tension.
To work while laying in a bed or on the couch, although it may be comfortable for some time, is not good for your body. There are many excellent working positions but using one for long periods of time can be harmful. Try switching them often throughout the day.
A good chair provides the necessary support to the back, legs, buttocks, and arms while reducing exposures to awkward postures, contact stress, and forceful exertions. Some quick tips for your chair setup are:
- The backrest should conform to the natural curvature of your spine, and provide adequate lumbar support.
- The seat should be comfortable and allow your feet to rest flat on the floor or footrest.
- Armrests, if provided, should be soft, allow your shoulders to relax and your elbows to stay close to your body.
- The chair should have a four or five-leg base with casters that allow easy movement along the floor.
A couple of years ago I changed my conventional office chair for a kneeling one. I am so used to it now that I miss it when I’m not at home. Here’s a list of its benefits:
“OK Vicky, I have this already.” Good for you! However, that’s not enough. There are a couple more things to keep in mind while working:
Well rested folks
Getting enough rest is very important to perform at work and be productive. That’s why we at madewithlove aim to deliver a maximum of 38 hours per week.
With such a diverse timezone range (UTC-05:00 and UTC+03:00), we respect resting periods and time away from work. Although we have an overlap of 4 hours, we still aim to work async and sometimes we are even completely unreachable throughout the day.
Getting a good night sleep is also a very important factor. The National Sleep Foundation recommends having an average of 7 to 9 hours rest, this way you will not be sleepy at a client meeting.
Get up, stand up
Your body needs to get up and regularly move to regenerate and stay stimulated. For every hour you are sitting, it’s imperative you get up, walk around, and fully stretch out the body for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
Drinking water frequently can help prevent you from sitting for long hours in a row and also keep you hydrated. Where I am from, people drink a lot of mate which is a South American infused drink. Anyways, no matter the drink, it will force you to stand up.
Another good idea to help you remember your break time is a browser extension. They are free, very easy to install, and configurable to your needs. Here are a few:
- Water walk (Google Chrome extension)
- Take a Break by Eye Care Plus (Google Chrome extension)
- Anti-Sedentary Desktop Reminder (Google Chrome extension)
But why not make it more fun? Take on the 10.000 step challenge. Encourage your colleagues to take 10.000 steps per day. No steps, no glory!
This picture is from a workout session during our company retreat in Kos, Greece.
When I was at Leuven last year for our company retreat, I noticed most of our team commutes by bike when they choose to visit the office. So you are not only getting to work, but you are also exercising on the way there. I was very surprised that the whole city was designed for cyclists. After working from home for over 5 years now, I completely forgot about the ride-to-work experience, (PS: thanks Yannick!).
But if you are like me, also working remotely from home, you need to make some time to work out. Physical activity guidelines advise that we need at least half an hour of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise per day. Some people like mornings because they wake up filled with energy. Kaio, our amazing mobile engineer, usually works out before lunch. I am trying to get more active too so I started jogging in the afternoons. With my new Forerunner Garmin watch, I can track my running metrics including a personal coach that bugs me to get out and move my skeleton. So find out what motivates you and make it a routine. Skate, swim, play, walk, run… just move!
By having a healthy lifestyle, people feel better about themselves. You are feeling happier; ergo, you will be more productive and perform better.
Do a check-up with your doctor every year to make sure your machine is running well.
Be conscious of what you are eating and drinking while you work. Perhaps you are too focused on the awesome feature you are building that you skipped lunch or are eating too many unhealthy snacks. If you are working from home, try making smart decisions while shopping for groceries. There are fewer temptations when these things aren’t on your shelves or in your fridge.
Sharing is caring
I hope that by reading this article you become more conscious about your work environment, implement these useful tips, and spread this across your organization.
Bibliography & useful links (in Dutch)
More interesting reads
- Public speaking by madewithlove
- Working remote and how to do it
- How to organise company retreats
- Guide on Hexagonal architecture
- The work we did for Gearjot