One side effect of Covid-19 has been the impact on traditional office working.
In 2020, 37 per cent of adults worked from home, and a report from the Office for National Statistics suggests 85 per cent of remote employees want to adopt a hybrid of home and office work.
A potential problem with this is workers setting up home offices without due consideration for sound ergonomics.
RSI (repetitive strain injury) and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) are no laughing matter: the TUC reports RSI costs the UK about 5.4 million work days a year.
Fortunately, if your office is still insisting you work from home, there is plenty of high-end ergonomic tech to help alleviate this issue…
It’s in the middle of the letters keyboard where the cool ergonomic design lives on most split keyboards.
Divided into two angled halves with a rise in the middle as if tectonic activity has made a small hill, this design ensures your wrists remain angled outwards to prevent injury.
I tested two of these. The first was the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard (£47.99, amazon.co.uk). Measuring 49cm x 26cm, this wired bit of kit takes up quite a bit of desk real estate. It has decent build quality, though, and lots of shortcut keys built in.
The Bluetooth Logitech Ergo K860 Keyboard (£109.99, logitech.com) is similar in design to the above but takes up less desk space. The wrist support padding has a quality feel to it too.
Both are solid offerings but the Logitech is my fave. It’s a sleeker model and the key depression is pleasingly soft.
While we’re on the Logitech love-in, a brief word on its MX Vertical Advanced Ergonomic Mouse (£92.99, logitech.com). This places your hand in a vertical ‘handshake’ position rather than a palm-down horizontal one. A textured surface aids gripping, while a scroll ring and two click buttons — where your index and middle fingers rest — provide the functional aspects.
Logitech claims advanced optical tracking means users move the mouse four times less, while the 57-degree side angle means decreased pressure on the wrist. It’s a beautiful-looking item and regular use eased my normal pains. It also feels surprisingly natural to hold it. I am a fan.
While we’re on the animal theme, the Posturite Penguin Ambidextrous Vertical Mouse (£80.34, posturerite.co.uk) is one of the quirkiest things I’ve had on my desk.
Front on, it looks like a toy penguin with a flat base. In the hand, it feels like a chunky fixed joystick, which the user operates using a handgun grip.
The transition from using a normal mouse to this was easy.
The grip means operating it places the arm in a different position to a traditional mouse so different muscles are employed. In a post-pandemic world, its construction also features an antimicrobial material to reduce bacterial transfer.
I’d happily p-p-p-pick up this penguin. That is a joke for Metro’s older demographic.
The Kensington Orbit Fusion Wireless Trackball (£51.55, amazon.co.uk) was the device that took me the longest to adjust to. The whole point of a trackball mouse is that it remains stationary while users roll the ball with their digits to move the on-screen cursor.
With a scroll ring also positioned around the trackball, I did use fewer hand and wrist movements. With a slightly angled build, it also places my wrist into a side-on position that feels more supported.
It’s quite a funky and futuristic-looking thing. And as it doesn’t move, it takes up less space than a normal mouse and mat.
When it comes to sitting at work, I’m a lazy sloucher. Fun fact: this is also my Tinder name. Less fun fact: it means I occasionally suffer from back aches.
I’ve tried several office chairs to break this habit and Ikea’s Markus Chair (£179, ikea.com) is one of the better examples of these.
This is a high-backed swivel chair with armrests. Mechanics underneath the seat allow users to adjust the angle and height, while a mesh fabric backrest lets air through so you never suffer ‘sticky chair back’ on hot days.
But I need a more radical solution and this is provided by the Yo-yo Ergo Stool (£340.15, sit-stand.com). Arriving flatpacked, its base, column and seat take about 15 minutes to assemble. The base comes with an anti-fatigue mat, which encourages foot movement as you sink slightly into it when standing on it. The column the seat sits on extends in height from a seated to a supported standing position, while the seat features a curved edge and no back section or arm rests. This forces users to correctly align their posture.
I could feel my back muscles working to ensure I retained an optimal posture whenever I was using the Ergo Stool, and my usual back aches eased through prolonged use.
I needed to very quickly get out of the habit of leaning backwards. But this product has revolutionised my home office. It’s not cheap but it is good. It may also mean my Tinder nickname will change to Mr Upright. Which may work better for that audience.
Accompanying the Yo-yo Ergo Stool is the Yo-yo Desk Pro 1 (prices start at £255.95, sit-stand.com). All the clever electrics come pre-wired and the most complicated thing buyers do is connect a few plugs into sockets.
Assembled in under an hour, this motorised desk rises from a height of 72.5cm to 122.5cm at the press of a button. This allows users to alternate between seated and semi-standing positions while working.
With robust steel legs and a support frame, it’s stable without looking cumbersome. The top has a solid feel and the motor driving the height adjustment has a smooth and silent motion. This may not get returned once the review period is over…
We can work it out: Six top tips for safe homeworking
Ed Milnes, from Guildford Ergonomics, has given us these handy hints for comfortable remote working:
1.Keep moving: Take frequent breaks to stand and move. Even better, do a few stretches.
2.Establish good desk posture: Make sure you keep your forearms horizontal and your upper arms relaxed beside your body when typing and mousing. Ensure your back and feet are supported too.
3.Screen safety: Ensure that your screen (or screens) is not in a position that causes neck bending or twisting.
4.Chair care: If you can’t use a decent adjustable office chair at home, get a seat support such as the MEDesign Backfriend.
5.Dodge drawers: Avoid buying a desk that has drawers underneath the surface at the seated position.
6.Don’t struggle with discomfort: Make changes to your set-up. If things don’t improve, let your employer know so they can give the support you need. Visit the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors at ergonomics.org.uk.
This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.
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