I evaluated an office yesterday where the staff has pushed the keyboard to the limits of their reach in order to have more desk space in front of them for their paper files. This is a busy medical office where the staff writes on the patient files and uses the computer to schedule appts. They use the computer frequently but for short duration. Many complain of neck and shoulder discomfort. I am trying to find a way to bring the keyboard/mouse closer – but so far they have rejected document holders as being to cumbersome to use for their files.
I looked through some old notes and came up with an interesting but short discussion on proofreaders:
Subject: Proof reading
From: “Proactive Therapy Services” < [email protected]>
Date: Tue, 28 May 2002 17:36:17 -0600
I have a questions for the listserve. It is for the job of a proof reader.
The proof reader sits at a workstation with keyboard/mouse directly in front
of her and on top of desk. In front of this is the slant board where she
positions her documents for proofreading. Directly in front of this is the
monitor. She is complaining of daily headaches and neck pain. Her primary
activity involves reading and jotting down written comments on the document
on the slant board (has a hard paper tray and is not soft). She uses the
computer minimally but this is an essential component. She only puts in a
few keystrokes for each page. She rarely types an entire line. The problem
I observed is that her forearms are never supported when using the slant
board since it is so far away from her. If we bring the slant board close,
then we lose the space for the keyboard. If we put the keyboard on a pull
out tray then she is repeittively going in/out to the workstation to access
the desk. I had thought of a sliding surface above a keyboard tray for the
positioning of the slant board with soft wrist support on it then she would
just be pulling the slant board surface towards her and not the entire chair
into place. I wondered how the slant board surface would ever become firm
enough to support her weight without moving during use. Any thoughts on
this one? Thanks for your help. Fran Robinson, Occupational Therapist, New
Subject: Re: Proofreader
From: =?iso-8859-1?q?Colin=20Hardman?= < [email protected]>
Date: Mon, 03 Jun 2002 18:10:35 -0500
Re the proofreader, who >”sits at a workstation with keyboard/mouse directly in
front of her and on top of desk. In front of this is the slant board where she
positions her documents for proofreading…”>
What about one of those split keyboards? Put half each side of the slant board,
so that the keyboard pieces and the paper copy are all at the same radius from
the proofreader’s shoulders? You could also try lowering the steepness of the
slantboard: a steep slope may be better for reading but it may also force the
hands to be higher in the air and offer less possibility for support.
Colin Hardman P.Eng.
Anyone have any other ideas? I don’t know if the idea of split keyboard will fly in the office environment that I am dealing with.
– Maureen Anderson, M.Sc., CPE
I have found that using an L-shaped desk can help with the problem that you described. It allows the keyboard to be in front of the person and a writing surface at their side so they can alternate between handwriting and keyboarding. Of course, it’s important that the L-shaped desk be set up to the advantage of their dominant side, with right handers having a writing surface at their right etc. A second option is for the worker to use a keyboard with built-in touchpad or trackball. This opens up desk space next to the keyboard for writing or placement of a document holder. They can access the document without reaching, but their arm is still unsupported when using a document holder. A third option is to get a keyboard with a detachable 10-key pad as well as a built-in touchpad or trackball, which shortens the keyboard. The 10-key pad can be moved to the opposite side or placed next to the keyboard only when needed, opening up extra desk space for handwriting. These keyboard options are much less expensive compared to separating keyboards and are more easily accepted by the user.
When workers must switch frequently between handwriting and keyboard tasks, as with the medical office workers you mentioned, it is best for both hand tasks to be positioned in-line, one in front of the other. The problem with most computer document holders is that they are positioned behind the keyboard, which positions the handwriting task beyond the functional reach zone. Workers faced with this dilemma tend to push the keyboard away and keep the papers close, or put the papers to the side. In either case, neck and shoulder complaints are common.
There are some new products that address in-line handwriting and keying tasks. Check out the Microdesk (http://www.microdesk.info), the FlexDesk (http://www.ergobrain.com/uk_fd_1.htm), and the Docuglide (http://www.officeplus.de/DOCUGLIDE.121.0.html?&L=1). I only have 1st-hand experience with the Microdesk, since I distribute it in the USA for the New Zealand PT (a colleague of mine) who developed it . The Microdesk is simple to use, has an adjustable slope, and can easily be positioned to overlap the keyboard a little, or alot, depending on the task at hand.
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