With the start of a new year, many of us will make resolutions to improve our health.
Something that often gets overlooked is the effect our workplace can have on our well-being.
As photographers in the digital age, it is easy to find ourselves spending hours at a time with our editing process. While this can produce gorgeous works of art, it can also wreak havoc on our bodies.
We were meant to be mobile beings and spending extended periods of time in sedentary positions can lead to an injury. As a physical therapist for the past ten years, I have treated countless individuals who have sought treatment for workplace related pain. Many of these injuries could have been avoided by having a properly setup workspace.
The following are some ideas for how you can achieve this whether your office is at home or at a studio. These are general suggestions which may not apply to you if you have an existing injury. If that is the case, I recommend speaking to your healthcare professional for an individualized assessment.
1. Eyes Straight Ahead
When considering the position of your monitor, the top edge of it should be at eye level. You do not want to have to tilt your head up or down to see the screen.
It is also vital that your monitor be placed directly in front of you. In some offices it is conducive to have the monitor located off center, but doing so results in having to turn your head to see the screen. This type of rotation stresses the structures of your neck, potentially leading to an injury or a headache. You want your head to be in as neutral of a position as possible, looking straight ahead to see your monitor.
2. Remember the Accessories
The placement of your keyboard and mouse is another important consideration when evaluating your workspace. They should each be placed so that you don’t have to stretch to reach them.
When using your keyboard, your elbows should be approximately at 90 degree angles. This can be more difficult to achieve with laptops, but they sell accessory keyboards and mice which make it easier to maintain the correct position.
3. Sit Comfortably
Chair selection can make a big difference in your comfort and safety while editing. The seat height should be such that your knees and hips are both at right angles. You also want to ensure you have adequate lumbar support while seated, meaning your lower back comfortably maintains contact with your chair.
If you have an L-shaped workstation, you may want to consider a chair that swivels to avoid rotating your body repeatedly. An adjustable chair would also be recommended if you share a workspace with someone of a different height, so you can each achieve a safe position.
Finding the right chair is often a trial and error process but it is a worthwhile investment for the amount of time you will spend in it!
4. Switch It Up
If you are anything like me, you’ve accumulated a good amount of heavy gear that you travel with. The weight of your equipment can put a significant strain on your neck and shoulders as you are carrying it.
You may find that you tend to carry your bag with the same arm due to our natural tendency to have a dominant side, but try to avoid this! If you have a shoulder bag, try not to carry it on the same side all of the time. I recommend alternating sides as much as possible.
All of these suggestions would be implemented in an ideal world, but I understand life isn’t always ideal. (I am writing this with a sleeping baby on my lap. Insert bashful emoji here!)
You may find yourself lacking the resources to set up a workstation like above or that you are having to edit while traveling. If this is the case, always remember our bodies were meant to move! Take frequent breaks away from your computer to stand up and stretch.
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. If something does not feel right while you are working, address it quickly! To do otherwise may only lead to bigger problems. If you have pain that persists for more than 2-3 days, please contact your healthcare professional for treatment.
If there are two things to remember, they are: posture and movement. Always try to maintain good posture and avoid staying in one place for a long time. Taking a break every hour is a good rule of thumb (and will let you refill your coffee or chocolate!).