Monday, June 1, 2009

The Importance of Having a Workspace.

It's funny that for the 3 years I've been putting myself through art school, I've never had a proper designated place to work. My freshman year I had an iMac and a desk, but the kind of work I had to do freshman year was a cakewalk compared to what I go through now. 

I put that iMac through hell and the logic board failed me. Bought a Macbook Pro at the end of my sophomore year like most of my peers and from then on, my workspace consisted of wherever I chose to sit: the couch, library, Cass Cafe, various coffee shops, or tucked up in bed. The downside to this is the amount of time I spent doubled over a laptop put an insane amount of stress on my back, neck, and arms.

A lot of people don't realize the dangers of working on computers all day every day, and that goes double for laptops. Repetitive strain injuries and carpal tunnel can develop overnight. I realized this one night, after having been at work all day and school all night with hardly a break, working late into the night on a final project for my interactive class...My right arm began to feel numb. I realized the next day that it was hard to grip things. Someone went to hand me something and my fingers didn't close all the way, so I dropped it. There was a faint numb pain running from above my elbow to my wrist and fingers that wasn't going away. I did some research online and everything I read told me to give my arm a rest, which was impossible. When your job and classwork revolves around the computer, you can't afford to take a break.

Along with arm stretches and taking breaks every hour I discovered small ways to improve my posture and the ergonomics of my desk at work, but working at home on my laptop...There was no way to improve it. My tiny flat didn't provide me with the appropriate space for work, I didn't have a desk, and my entire life revolved around this thing. 

Now that summer's here and I've moved into a more accommodating space, I plan on doing things different next semester. Time for a desk, a supportive chair, and no more crouching uncomfortably over my laptop. I found this website with instructions on how to build your own cardboard laptop stand which I happen to think is pretty fabulous. Your eye level moves up so that your head is no longer pointed down and putting strain on your neck, you can attach an external keyboard and an ergonomic mouse, and it's altogether a drastic improvement.

I don't know whether or not other designers keep these things in mind, but if they don't now then I think it's important to educate yourself. Repetitive strain injuries and carpal tunnel can severely affect your life and the way you work.