The word ergonomics is thrown around a lot in the working world. Although it can seem like little more than a marketing buzzword for standing desks and awkward-looking office chairs, the term ergonomics actually comes from the idea that work should be tailored to the worker.
Scientists studying ergonomics suggest changes we can make to improve productivity and reduce injuries in the workplace. As a freelance writer, you can use their research to improve the quality of your life and your work.
Ergonomics and the Freelance Writer
Anyone working as a freelance writer can attest to the many pros and cons of working from home. One of the biggest benefits of freelance work is the ability to maintain complete control over your work environment. Freelancers choose when, where, and how they work, allowing for complete customization of their workspace.
However, most freelancers are far from ergonomics experts. If you find yourself exhausted and aching after a few hours of work, you’re certainly not alone. An unergonomic workspace can affect everything from your productivity to your overall happiness with your work. Luckily, with a few simple changes, you can make any workspace suited to your unique needs.
Work Comfortably Anywhere
Ideally, you should feel completely comfortable in your workspace, and this typically means that most of your muscles are relaxed. To achieve this, your body needs to be as aligned as possible. When you’re sitting in your primary workspace, your shoulders should rest comfortably above your hips, your arms should be supported at a 90-degree angle, and your legs should rest comfortably on the floor or a footrest. The tips below should guide you as you find a comfortable, relaxed working position in any environment.
Pay Attention to Small Aches and Pains
One of the most important parts of working ergonomically is to pay attention to your comfort level. Your work should be suited to your body, so your comfort can guide you through the process of making changes to your workspace. Be as selfish as necessary in your pursuit of the ultimate comfortable writing setup.
If you start to feel small aches and pains after working for a few hours, you can use them to make necessary adjustments to your workspace. For example, if your neck is sore, you can change the position of your laptop or monitor and pay attention to any changes in the pain over the next few days. Making changes while the discomfort is minor is important because small aches can turn into serious concerns after weeks or months of repetitive stress.
Make Your Workspace Work for You
The most iconic ergonomic workspace features ergonomic furniture, but you don’t have to go out and buy new furniture in order to make your workspace fit you. Ordinary objects around your home can be turned into ergonomic desk upgrades, and the way you organize your space can dramatically change your comfort level while you work.
For example, a few well-placed books under your monitor can alleviate the neck and shoulder pain that comes from sitting hunched over at your desk. You can move a floor or desk lamp into your workspace to provide glare-free or task-focused lighting as needed. If you use multiple monitors, make sure you either have a primary monitor that is directly in front of your chair or that you split your time equally between two equidistant monitors.
When making these simple changes to your workspace, remember to pay attention to how you feel while you work. As long as you let your comfort guide you, any changes you make will only improve your freelance writing work.
Get Up and Move When You Can
One of the most insidious causes of work-induced injuries is repetitive stress. Even freelance writers, who spend most of their time working at a computer, have to pay attention to the actions they repeat throughout the day. For instance, typing for hours each day, especially on a keyboard that isn’t in a comfortable position, can lead to carpal tunnel, neck pain, and other problems.
The simplest way to prevent repetitive stress injuries is to regularly change up your work environment. For example, if you usually work on a laptop at your kitchen table, you can move to a desk, the public library, or an internet cafe after a few hours of work. The change in location will change the relative position of the keyboard to your body, and any movement it takes to get there will alleviate stress and tension.
For writers who are confined to one space, taking breaks to get up and move or do some stretches can alleviate or prevent pain and injuries. The National Institutes of Health has exercise recommendations that can help you add stress-relieving stretches to your new ergonomic writing routine.
Work Ergonomically — Work Better
Creating an ergonomic writing space at home doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming, or expensive. With a few simple changes to your work environment and routine, you can prevent repetitive stress injuries, improve your productivity, and find greater satisfaction with your freelance writing career. Take advantage of the control you have over your workspace by making it as comfortable and ergonomic as possible.