Home Office: Ergotized Part 6 “Ergo-Hot and Ergo Nots”
In Home Office: Ergotized Part 6 I will review some of the best-known office ergonomic options people ask about regarding keyboards (KB) and mice/input devices.
I will make this disclaimer to my comments below: “You can do what you wish in your office. You can listen to anyone, buy or use anything you want to use in your home office. The comments below are based on my experiences and the anatomy/physiology of the working body that I have observed. If you have special needs or have seen and worked one on one with other health care professionals, I will defer to that personal interaction and the problem-solving recommendations made for you.”
#1 When a personal computer is purchased/installed, it will come with a keyboard (KB). Whether it is built in or a separate unit, you will get a device to input characters. The standard KB will generally be the classic 17”-18” long unit with the 10-keypad attached. However, the trend is moving away from a desktop computer with separate Visual Display Terminal (VDT), and KB. In its’ place is the Laptop, and Tablet models that are trending. They have built in KB’s. Some popular keyboard options are:
Standard: These are made by many companies. They are inexpensive and easy to make. That is the primary reason it is provided with your computer. For many people who have used them, they do not create any problems. There is a slightly positive slope that can force increased wrist extension. However, it is probably too wide for right-handed mouse users. This forces them to place their mouse out to the side. The further to the right side the mouse is positioned, the greater potential for injury to the right shoulder from over reaching. In addition, the hands must bend outwards to use the KB, potentially causing stress to the wrist and fingers.
It is common for users to shift the Standard KB off center to the left to make up for this size issue. That will cause an increase in twisting of the trunk to the left to compensate for that reduced reach and increases the right wrist bending outwards. It can also cause the user to bring their right arm across midline during character input. This type of KB should also have a palm rest in front of the characters to keep the wrists in a neutral position.
Ergo HOT for cost
Ergo NOT for posture risk factors. The wrists outward bending and compression of the palms on the desk surface plus the wrists extended posture.
Apple has a KB version with the 10-keypad missing in order to make the KB more compact. It has a much lower profile and has a shorter keystroke range. It is more costly than the Standard KB. However, it has most of the same problems as the Standard KB for Posture risks to the wrists while keeping the hands close together during keying. The reach is reduced from the missing 10-keypad giving more space for the input device. It has no slope to the KB.
Ergo HOT: Softer key touch, more space for input device. 10-Keypad purchase option.
Ergo NOT: Cost, Wrist Posture Risk Factors, No slope adjustment available.
Microsoft (MS) Natural KB: This moderately priced cordless KB has the same keys and 10- keypad as the Standard KB. However, it was designed with Ergonomic considerations for the “Gaming Population.” It has a split but is a fixed KB setup. The design: places the hands in a generic hand/wrist neutral position, it has a wrist-palm rest, and a multitude of switches and controls that add to options that the general user, may not need.
MS Natural KB:
Ergo HOT: Ergo split KB, Wrist/palm rest, Price.
Ergo NOT: Wrist Posture Risk Factors, 10-keypad on the right side. A positive slope.
MS Sculpt KB: This KB is a moderately priced cordless KB that is a redesign of the MS Natural KB but without the extra gamer features. It also has the detached 10-keypad and offers an Ergo style mouse that could be purchased as an option and will add to the cost.
MS Sculpt KB:
Ergo HOT: Moderately priced KB, soft touch KB, built in wrist-palm rest. Good hand posture design. Detached 10-keypad.
Ergo NOT: Fixed wrist position with positive slope.
Kinesis Freestyle KB: This moderately high-priced KB has a unique presentation. The KB is set up like a standard KB but without the 10-keypad. The pad can be purchased as an option. Where this KB offers the most flexibility is that the two halves are separated by a short wire cord and has a connector that allows the two halves to split to the exact angle needed for a person’s wrist angle. This is also helpful for individuals with broad shoulders or for the plus sized worker. It provides for greater distance separation to accommodate the physical needs of a larger person.
The KB has an optional accessory that can angle the KB vertically and can be split up to 20” if needed. Or it can stay tethered at an angle needed for the worker. Tear-dropped shaped palm wrists should be used with this KB to achieve the neutral wrist positions.
Ergo HOT: Moderately priced KB, soft touch KB, good hand posture design, able to be separated to fit the body type of the worker. Detached 10-keypad.
Ergo NOT: Needs wrist support to level hands onto the KB. User has to determine the best position for their hand placement.
The correct input device/mouse is also a challenge due to the incredibly large assortment of options. I will go over several of the most common types of mice and their features. There are many other types of devices and they will be reviewed in a future article. There are many features that have to be considered. The first features to assess are fit, cost and the functions that serve your purposes.The most basic issue is: Do you use your right hand or do you use your left hand for fine motor tasks? Many left-handed people have adapted to the right-handed world and function well with either hand. It is no wonder that there very few left-handed people suffering from MSD’s of their dominant hand. However, there are left-handed mouse users and their need for a cheap input device has to be met.
Another question is: what is the sensitivity for your needs? Do you play games or photo edit, on the computer or just use it for normal work tasks? If you need more or less sensitivity, you may be interested in being able to change it by having the ability to adjust the DPI. (Dots Per Linear Inch). In general, the standard mouse DPI is from 400-800 DPI. You can get a mouse that goes to 10,000 DPI if needed.
In a nutshell, DPI is sensitivity to motion. The standard settings will get you from the top of the page to the bottom with a mouse motion of about 1.0” to 1.5”. The lower the DPI the longer your arc of motion. For office work, rarely would you need more than the standard settings. However, if you work on a tablet or a small screen a higher DPI may be needed. The ultimate choice depends on you and how you handle the mouse.
The mice above are a representation of the different styles of mice. All are available in wired or wireless models except for the Switch Mouse which comes only in a wired model. Some models have DPI switch options. For our purposes, I am showing basic models and standard DPI’s.
GOLDTOUCH: The Goldtouch comes in left or right-handed models and with or without a connection wire. This mouse has a slight slope that moves the palm away from the full flat position that the Standard flat mouse produces. This mouse is a little longer and wider which promotes a relaxed posture while holding it. The rest position is much like holding half of a softball. It allows for support and control without needing to pinch/grip to control it like using the Standard mouse.
Ergo HOT: Moderately priced, comfortable left or right-handed, good hand posture design, easily fits on a KB tray.
Ergo NOT: One size that is best for a slightly larger hand.
MS NEWTRAL Mouse: This mouse comes in left or right-handed models, plus Small, Medium or Large sized bodies. In addition, there is a removal magnetic outrigger that the lateral edge of the hand can rest on. This addition prevents contact/dragging the outside edge of you hand on the desk or KB tray. On most websites that sell this mouse, there is a diagram for how to determine proper size of the mouse needed for your hand.
Ergo HOT: Moderately priced with multiple size choices. Comfortable, relaxed hand posture, outrigger easily added or removed.
Ergo NOT: When the outrigger is attached it takes up slightly more room on a KB tray. This is generally not a problem if the DPI is adjusted for your needs.
Evoulent Mouse: This was one the earliest mouse models to go Vertical. It is hefty but the grip is relaxed and comfortable allowing it to move easily around. This mouse also comes in left or right-handed versions, as well as a standard and a small size model.
Ergo HOT: Moderately priced with multiple size choices. Comfortable, relaxed hand posture in a totally vertical configuration. Especially helpful for Carpal Tunnel issues if hand dominance cannot be changed or during recovery of other MSDs.
Ergo NOT: Some people find the mouse slightly too thick. The common problem for all vertical mice is that when beginning to use a vertical mouse after using a flat model, there is a tendency to forget that it is high and Karate Chop the mouse off the desk as you swing your hand to access the mouse. This is generally a quick adaption to make.
Sharkk vs. The Anker Mouse: These are two different Vertical mice that seem to be made by two different companies. They look nearly identical except one has a Mat finish while the other is Glossy. They do have a different array of buttons but they are shaped the same. My interest is strictly in the posture they produce and usability aspects. I am not commenting on the batteries, DPI or looks. However, I did want to let you know that they are two different units.
Sharkk or Anker Mouse:
Ergo HOT: Both of these units are low priced ($20+) They are comfortable if you need a narrower profile unlike the Evoluent. The relaxed hand posture found in these vertical mice is especially helpful for Carpal Tunnel issues or during recovery of other MSDs if hand dominance cannot be changed.
Ergo NOT: Just as we found in the Evoluent mouse some people forget the mouse’s vertical profile and Karate Chop the mouse off the desk as they swing the hand to access the mouse.
Switch Mouse: This wired only mouse (at one time was called the “Whale Mouse” for the color and shape of the unit) has a couple of unique features that warrant attention. The first is that it is an Ambidextrous Mouse by virtue of a plastic angled flange on the bottom of the mouse. The flange allows the mouse to be left or right-handed depending on the placement of the flange. Otherwise it is nearly flat.
The other feature that is noteworthy is that the unit “telescopes” in length and is easily adjustable for people with long fingers. There is a wide, padded area for the heel of the palm so that it supports the hand up and off the desk top. This is a very comfortable feature.
Ergo HOT: It is ambidextrous and adjustable for long hands. It has a slight slope angle to the unit to relax the wrist.
Ergo NOT: This unit comes in a wired only version. It has a history of wearing out faster than other mice (I have one and used it for over a year without issues). The cost is also on the higher end.
These are only a small sample of available products. I see these devices and the ones in future discussions as tools that you will use for long periods of time and they should fit you well, immediately. They are like a good pair of shoes. When you put them on, they should fit and feel good. You really don’t “break in” this kind of equipment. You may need to adapt to the shapes and functions but they should feel good when you get them.
You can view our past Home Office Ergotized! blogs HERE.
Have any thoughts on ergonomic keyboards and mice? let us know in the comments below!