Shame on me. I totally underestimated how much work writing a book would be, and despite working pretty regularly on it the last two years, I found the last twelve months required many days sitting at the computer for hours on end.
One day, I went to disconnect my phone from its charger and BAM! The muscles in my neck seized up with a massive cramp I couldn’t get out. I desperately searched for a chiropractor to see me right away. He stabilized it, but the damage had been done. It would take weeks to recover.
Despite the pain, stiffness, and lack of mobility, I decided to attend an event at a “unicorn” company I was invited to by a new and important network contact. I’m usually pretty transparent, but instinct kicked in that night and suddenly I felt like an injured animal in the Serengeti. If I showed any weakness, there was this irrational fear that somehow I would be devoured. So I told no one and pretended nothing was amiss, but boy did I suffer.
In retrospect, I realize that this ergonomic injury was completely preventable. In a way, I kind of deserved it. After all, I hunched over this small laptop and let my muscles slowly weaken over time. How could I be so stupid? This was probably an issue years in the making, only delayed by the fact that I previously worked in offices where I had a ton of meetings that required walking and time away from my computer. Let my pain be a lesson. I beseech you to raise your monitor to eye level, sit up in your chair (or better yet, get a standing desk), minimize any stress on your muscles, and take frequent breaks. Listen to your body—it will send signals if you are paying attention. My friend posted this on Facebook this morning: “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream.” That screaming--a.k.a. pain--is not just for old folks, people. Ergonomic injuries could happen to you. It’s just a matter of time.
Companies—if you care about work environment, help your employees practice work safely. Prevent work-related injuries from your warehouses to your offices. It will go a long way in creating a healthy and productive workforce, I promise.
Many of us have worked in offices that took a traditional approach to office planning—you have a desk, a chair, a cube or office, your printer, and (if you are lucky) maybe a window. Your space looks like everyone else’s, except for maybe framed pictures of your respective families and friends. The purpose of these designs is to squeeze in as many people as possible into limited physical space, with the occasional conference room for meetings. And guess how people worked as a result? You could probably describe it yourself. More and more now, there is attention being paid to workspace as a part of one’s work experience—how physical environment (and how people behave within it) could be strategically leveraged to encourage productivity, creativity, collaboration and innovation. The high tech companies figured that one out a while back (during the dot com boom of the 90s), as a way of differentiating their employee experience and getting results. It’s taking a while for other industries to catch up. “The coolest workspace” in Chicago, 1871 shows us what it could be—how these workplace designs are within anyone’s reach and can be used as permanent, or temporary environments to experiment with. Steelcase is also doing real research in this area. It’s an interesting concept to think about when it comes to your own workspace and may be an opportunity that could yield a big difference. Try it. :)
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