There’s a reason why this blog is called Tech Neck Nick. This week, we take on ergonomics.
1. Orthopedic Memory Foam Seat Cushion
I’d always felt these “butt cushions” looked a bit ridiculous in the past. I mean sure, I’d seen the occasional mesh lumbar support in offices, but very rarely any seat cushions.
It’s just a cushion, I thought. How big of a difference could it really make?
As it turns out, a lot. One day when I was experiencing an excruciating amount of neck and shoulder pain, I turned to Google. Appearing consistently on lists of products promising ergonomic benefits were seat cushions, promising a plethora of health benefits.
This list of 11 reasons to buy one (from a seat cushion seller, of course) seemed a bit too good to be true. These included:
- reducing pressure on the tailbone, hips, and back
- improving posture
- increasing comfort and energy levels
- assisting with spine alignment
- improving blood circulation
- reducing pressure points
- supporting digestive health and
- reducing sleep apnea and snoring
The bold points did appear consistently in other search results as health benefits, and that was enough for me to secure a purchase to see for myself. The answer is a resounding yes.
Sitting for extended periods of time places a lot of pressure on our tailbone (coccyx), hips and back. The cut-out shape and memory foam material helps reduce the strain on these body parts and provide back support.
The increased comfort and assistance with aligning your spine also helping prevent potential chronic health conditions. Better posture also increases overall comfort and ability to focus, since you don’t spend as much time readjusting your sitting position when working.
If I were to only recommend one item on this list, it’d be this one. Per dollar spent it’ll yield the most health benefit. You can put it on any chair to instantly improve your sitting experience.
2. A Gaming Chair
From the moment I first sat in a gaming chair, I knew that I needed one of my own. I was visiting a friend, and the moment I entered their abode my eyes were immediately drawn to its unmistakable silhouette (inspired and based off racing car seats).
To understand the difference in comfort I experienced you must visualise my old chair, which had a much lower chair back that didn’t reach the shoulders. Without any proper upper body support, it contributed no small part to back pain.
It wasn’t until I sat in my friend’s chair that I realised the vast ergonomic improvements it offered: the taller chair back provided complete support of both my shoulders and head. The racing car seat design wrapped around my body, curving around the shoulders and upper legs on its base. The adjustable tilt function also allowed more comfortable inclined positions (90 to 150 degrees).
When I decided to get my own, I settled for a more generic-looking and affordable (at $140AUD) option on Amazon: the ALFORDSON Volger Gaming Chair. The chair also includes two additional cushions: a head cushion and a lumbar support cushion (height adjustable).
In addition to the price and 5-year warranty, it also offered a lesser-seen feature on most gamer chairs: a retractable footrest. While a bit flimsy and awkward to pull out, its inclusion really makes a difference when fully reclining the seat (especially great for micro-naps).
The reinforced steel base is also hilariously touted as ‘explosion-proof’ – which I’m sure comes as a relief to anyone purchasing an office chair. I realised today the updated product listing now includes a massage function in the lumbar cushion. According to the FAQ, only 5% of chairs include this massager (at random) and it consists of a tiny ‘vibrator’ that is attached to a relatively short 60cm USB power cable.
For hardwood floors, I’d recommend purchasing a separate 5-set of ‘glider wheels’ (the same wheels used on roller blades: larger and made of soft rubber). Gamer chairs are arguably some of the largest and heaviest chairs you can get, and it’s better to get these wheels instead of a mat because of the better build quality and greater mobility around the room.
3. Keyboard Wrist Rest
While likely the most common piece of office equipment on this list, it may come as a surprise that there’s debate surrounding the ergonomic benefits of using a wrist rest.
The reason why there’s no clear-cut answer is because it depends on a variety of factors surrounding your overall desk setup: things like desk and chair height, your height and the position and angle of your hands (and wrists) when typing or resting.
While there’s points for and against the use of wrist rests (I won’t go into detail in this article), I personally stand by using one. In fact I have not one but two rests on my desk: my keyboard includes a ‘palm’ rest. When not typing my hand will rest on both rests – when typing, my wrists are lifted above the rest and only my palms make contact with the keyboard’s palm rests.
From personal experience I’ve felt the effects of resting wrists on the hard edges of a table at awkward angles: I’d much prefer to use one than not (for typing, at least). When used correctly, rests will reduce fatigue and the chances of carpal tunnel plaguing your hands.
4. Rear View Mirror
The inclusion of this item on this list may appear confusing, but hear me out. I actually adopted this practice (placing a blind spot mirror at a workstation) from another colleague in the same office.
The most likely purpose was probably to literally see behind them without turning their head. At least, that was the reason I adopted this practice (it was also to let me practice finger tuts at my desk during stretch breaks).
I soon found a third use for it at work: facing a small mirror allowed me to spot myself sitting with poor posture. While the mirror does not include any ergonomic features, it increased awareness of my own body positioning. If I was holding my head in a certain way, slouching, leaning or hunching over, I would quickly realise with a glance at the mirror and correct my posture.
Fun fact: putting a mirror at your desk (or office) is detrimental to your “Chi” (Feng Shui energy) because it supposedly reflects the negative energy of those around you.