The Keys to your Working Comfort

Khail Mechanical Keys
Khail Mechanical Keys

Now that we are spending more and more time in front of our keyboards, the more comfortable you are, the better your experience will be. The more pleasant the time spent, the better the standard of work will be, and the more productive you will become. All of this is easy to conclude, of course, but how do you make your typing experience as wonderful as possible?

The answer lies in your own fingertips!

Your Fingers do the work.

The point of contact between you and the keyboard work that you are doing, or the global internet as a whole, are your fingertips. These incredibly sensitive body parts are actually pressing the keys on your keyboard, so if you are trying to find a better typing experience, then start here. There are more choices than you would think about what to use, so start thinking about what makes you more comfortable. Because the act of typing is so automatic to us, we don’t generally think about what can change in the micro-second between you pressing a key, and the symbol appearing on the screen, but the answer to that is the main reason for the selection of key-types available today. So, how does it feel to press those keys? What changes can you possibly search to make the process of typing ‘better’ for you? Here’s some history:

Rubber, Silicon, and Mechanics

For those of us that started out on typewriters, we know how much easier it is to type on electronic devices: Remember the force required to hit that typewriter key so that the metal arm threw itself at the paper with enough force to print on paper? Today’s keyboards don’t have to use that kind of pressure – now all you have to do is press the key with enough force to make two contacts meet each other under the keypad. Most keyboards are mass produced, so the cheapest way possible to manufacture these keyboards is the one that most well-known names go for.

 

The vast majority of keyboards on the market today feature a Rubber or Silicon dome that sits directly under the key that you see, and connect to the ‘works’ that lie under the keyboard. The visible part of the key is called the Key Cap. These are relatively expensive items that must deliver a long life. However, it is the switch below it that receives all of the trauma and shock of being pressed – or hit! – repeatedly over the life of the product. A much more cost effective method is to protect this switch with a simple rubber dome that sits under the Key Cap, and suffers the repeated shock of action time and time again. While the differences in the shape and thickness of the domes that the mass producer of your keyboard uses determines the travel distance, resistance, and tactile feedback of the switch, they are all built to eventually fail.

If you are looking for a better experience, there are keyboards that have mechanical switches: Rather than based on one contact pad below the keyboard, these switches have individual mechanisms underneath each key-cap, and require much less force to produce a result. Are these more expensive than rubber-domed switches? Of course, you are looking at buying a much more up-market product, with a longer life and better working action. If you are spending a lot of time writing, gaming, or communicating every day, then why not make the investment to create your best possible working environment?

 

How the Mechanics work.

Let’s get a little technical, here: In most cases the mechanical key is actuated (the keystroke is generated, and the message sent to the computer) halfway through the key travel distance. For example, the key may be capable of traveling 3 mm before hitting the bottom of the key-well, but the keystroke is generated after 1.5 mm, by the action of a lever next to the key. This is a double-edged sword, however. The user may experience a learning curve getting accustomed to these keys. They are used to a ‘full stop’ to their typing action, where the key ‘hits bottom’, and sends a signal to their fingers that the signal has been received by the computer. There is also a sound generated that also tells them that the action is complete: No-one wants to stare at the screen to see if the message has been correctly received, we just expect that it has. However, we have gotten used to this sound, so the choice of where the key bottoms out and the sound that it makes when that is finished is completely up to the operator. In other words, your decision to move to a mechanical key-operated keyboard is a personal one based on what you are accustomed to (I.e., one that feels and sounds like a regular rubber-domed switch), or – at the other side of the spectrum – one that has a ‘click’ sound, and has no push-back to your finger action.

Your preference will be somewhere on this spectrum, somewhere, so in our next post, we will discuss the different types of mechanical switches, and what they offer for you on that spectrum.

Choosing the Best Ergonomic Keyboard

Truly_Ergonomic_Mechanical_Keyboard-227In the days before electric cars were as common as they are now, many Automobile manufacturers would jump on the ‘Green bandwagon’ by stating that their gasoline consumption was so slight, it effectively made their models greener than others. The same can be said these days for ergonomic keyboards. Although there are plenty of keyboards available today that state they are ‘Ergonomic’, for the most part this is purely Marketing. While manufacturers can claim that their keyboards a ‘more ergonomic’, this really means that they are better for you to use than their competition. It is a business claim, not a health claim. So how do you know that stating that a keyboard is ergonomic is a fact, rather than a cool design and hype?

Firstly, what makes a keyboard ergonomic?

Ergonomics is defined as: “a science that deals with designing and arranging things so that people can use them easily and safely”: says the Merriam-Webster dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ergonomics). From a keyboard point-of-view, this means a tool designed to avoid any movement or positioning of the hand and wrist that is awkward, cocked, or causes any discomfort.  By working in a position that is comfortable, users can help avoid Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) in the first place, and relieve any current symptoms they are experiencing. In fact, simply keeping the wrists flat, and ensuring that the hand is extended comfortably over a keyboard, makes it ergonomic.

Until the day comes when all keyboards promote this simple working, gaming, and communicating posture, there are actually very few ergonomic choices on the market for you.

How can you see an Ergonomic design?

The major difference between ergonomic keyboards and regular ones are the staggered alignment of the keys. Look at the keyboard in front of you, and if you have to flex your wrists to either direction to reach keys, then it is not an ergonomic keyboard. Even a millimeter from straight will cause your wrists to bend in awkward ways and users are forced into an unhealthy posture putting strains on their body when used repeatedly. So why are keyboards laid out in this uncomfortable fashion?

The regular keyboard’s staggered key layout is based on 19th century Typewriters. Originally typewriter keys had to be offset due to the position of the levers that the keys moved and operated the hammer onto the carbon roll.  Originators of the typewriter (Which goes back to the 1860’s!) found that it was impossible to have these levers on a grid format, so designed space in between them, which led to a staggered keyboard. This easily mass-produced design became the norm, and soon everyone just accepted that this was how keyboards operated. In fact, even today, keyboard users are simply accustomed to twisting their wrists to operate a regular keyboard, which leads to discomfort, injury, and pain over a working lifetime.

A flat keyboard, therefore, with a straight format of keys is the only purely ergonomic tool that users should be looking for.

‘Different’ Employees require an Ergonomic workspace

businessman-wheelchairThe workforce for many companies has become extremely diversified over the last few years. What started as ‘telecommuting’ taught employers that not physically having a worker at their station from 9 to 5 (with an hour off for lunch.), isn’t so much of a bad thing. In most cases productivity is up, and those empty work-stations can be filled by contract, or other short-term workers, fulfilling tasks for specific projects, or other assignments. This is a great reason to look at ‘different’ employees that can also help local Non-Profit organizations.

Veteran Work-force

Who would have thought that – in these enlightened times – there would still be Armed Forces veterans desperate for work? These incredible personalities have been drilled in an array of marketable skills that may be able to help your company: Either on a short term, or more permanent basis. In fact there are many Governmental financial aids that help businesses employ Service Veterans. Don’t automatically think of strictly older men, there are hundreds of young, intelligent, committed veterans that are looking not only for work, but a career, now that they have paid an incredibly high price for their Service to the rest of us: Sad to say that it looks like this work-force will only grow in the near future, too. Check with your own Department of Labour, or Human resources or more details on how you can help them, as well as your company.

Many are trapped within a broken body, even though you can count on a perceptive and exciting outlook from these Heroes, who are usually going to waste in a business atmosphere that doesn’t value their intelligence:

Down syndrome Work-force

Many people feel uncomfortable facing a person suffering from Down syndrome. Once an employer gets past this natural aversion, however, it is obvious that these sufferers are not mentally ill, but rather are a positive to most work-forces: Incredibly focused, with an almost Savant-like attention to detail, and a creative streak that defies the usual formulaic workplace rubric, Downs syndrome workers are- for the most part – desperate to escape a lonely life, and show their talents to the utmost. US Pharmacy giant Walgreens has enjoyed the benefits of recognizing these special abilities. Its South Carolina distribution Centre is over 20% more efficient than any of its others – and almost 50% of the full-time workers there have a physical or cognitive disability, including Down’s syndrome.

These two examples are the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to people within your city that are a wasted resource, based usually on the fact that the rest of us are unsure of how to communicate with them. Do some research on your community to find out where people’s needs and your requirements intersect, and find some ‘out-of-the-box’ answers to your problems, and theirs.

Of course, you may have to re-configure work stations: Wider entrances and exits, for instance, or ergonomic work areas and equipment that may be required to ease everyone’s working days and conditions, but these are small investment for a more committed, and talented work-force. Start with computer keyboards, seats, and wider doors to ensure that everyone in your office is as comfortable and productive as possible, and expand your work-force. The initial outlay will be more than worth it.

The ‘Eyes’ have it – eye strain at work.

eyestrainHow many of us have to wear reading glasses while working at our Computer? Actually, there are millions of us that are slowly harming their vision by staring at a bright screen for hours on end. There are steps you can take to alleviate ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’ (CVS), and while they won’t allow you to ditch the spectacles, they will – if instituted early enough – allow you enjoy a much more pleasurable time at your computer keyboard.

CVS is actually part of the family of Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) that plague most computer users, and can be lessened with a complete Ergonomic make-over of your work station. Computer Vision Syndrome is a result of your eyes must staying focused on text and images at a static distance from you. In a more natural setting, our eyes would constantly adjust to focus on objects both near and far away, tracking them as either you or the object moved. It is how our eyes have evolved over the millennia as part of our Hunter/Gatherer history. The movements necessary while working are completely different than our ‘inherited, natural’ skills, and the result can be uncomfortable and lead to problems like astigmatism or nearsightedness.

Think also of how you are holding your head while working. If your overall position at your keyboard is slumped, or twisted in any way, your head may be sitting at an ‘offset’ position that is putting strain on your neck. After all, the average Human Head has a weight of 10 Pounds. Next time you have the chance to pick up a 10 pound bowling ball, or large bags of sugar or flour, feel how much that actually weighs. You neck supports your head for your entire life, but what position is it sitting at? Your brain is very good at memorizing positions for your body as a whole to interact with the world, but if you are sending a message that this is the way that you sit every single day, it won’t change your position to a better one – it will simply give you pain messages until you change it – don’t ignore those neck strains, or headaches. They are big signs that your head is at the wrong position.

Although it is tough to offer a written solution to these posture problems, if you start at the other end of your body, it will help your overall posture. Sit straight up, support your back, and ensure that your feet are flat on the floor. Look straight ahead, and ensure that your head sits on your neck squarely, looking ahead. If you can change your chair, or desk, position to achieve this, then do so. Try not to place a book or another ‘prop’ under your keyboard – that should be flat and straight, just under your fingers when your elbows are hinged at a 45 degree angle from your sides.

When sitting in this position, reach your arm out straight, and try to lightly brush the screen with your index finger. If you can place your palm on the screen, or your arm doesn’t reach, alter the depth of that distance until it’s correct. You can safely tip your eye-line down between 15 and 20 degrees to focus on the screen, but don’t move your head down to match this.

Of course, you also want to ensure that the lighting around your work station is ample to give you enough light to match the very strong white light that your computer screen emits, and you want to rest on an ongoing basis to relax and exercise your entire body – perhaps for thirty minutes every three hours. You should also be looking for a comfortable and ergonomic keyboard to ensure that you are working in a stress-free and comfortable way.

Remember that Repetitive Stress Injuries mean more than arm and shoulder pain and injury, so get into the habit of working in a comfortable position – especially where your head and eyes are concerned.

Is your Keyboard making you Sick?

dirty-keyboard 2Generally, office environments can be the cleanest area of any business. After all, any kind of pollution found in the air of factories, delivery yards, and car parks would – you would think – be stopped at the door. However, new research from Health and Safety experts shows that office environments have their own health risks, and your computer keyboard could be to blame.

Illness-causing bacteria easily live on commonly touched work surfaces such as keyboards, computer mice and office phones, and the average shared desk is a prime breeding ground for infection. In fact an average keyboard can have 200 times more bacteria than a toilet brush!

The Reality of the Shared Office.

In today’s business world, open-space offices are more likely to be shared. Part-time staff often make up a high percentage of most offices, and they all share their desk environment. You could say that everyone in a working environment is sharing each other’s home and travel environment, complete with all of the bacteria and illness that total strangers are sharing.

Many workers that spend different times of day in the administrative work-space also bring food with them, and many more forego a lunch-break to eat at their desk, making keyboards a breeding ground for bacteria.  While washing your hands between ‘the outside world’ and the closed office area would no doubt help – and has become automatic for many workers – this doesn’t protect against droplets of saliva that inevitably fall on the keyboard during talking, sneezing, and coughing.

A recent study analysed swabs obtained from the keyboards of 30 computers and found microbes on all keyboards, examples of mould, yeast, bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Micrococcus and Enterococcus. In fact, past studies have found more than 3,000 organisms per square inch on a keyboard, and more than 1,600 on a computer mouse.

When did you last Clean Up?

You can still protect yourself in a shared environment very easily, so try to perform the following tasks on an ongoing basis – we can attest to the fact that they work:

When you first start work, clean and disinfect your desk area, including phone, calculators, and especially your keyboard. You can use swabs or Q-Tips to do this. In fact, bring some cleaning materials with you as a ‘gift’ to the whole office.

Use Compressed Air to blow out any crumbs and germs that are hiding throughout the keyboard – in fact, give all grilles, ports and spaces a blast too, it will help your computer run better.

Turn your keyboard upside down, and lightly shake it to dislodge even more debris.

When you enter the office, or return from a break, wash your hands to protect yourself from others’ dirt that has been rubbed against you, and never eat at your desk.

You can also give everything a quick rub down and clean when you take extended time from the office: A few days, or vacation, to make it clean for others.

Perhaps the easiest way to ensure a clean area is to purchase a keyboard cover to cover the board when it isn’t being used by you. This can help protect against passer-by’s sneezes, coughs, and coffee spills. Many high-end keyboards come with their own dust covers, and they aren’t provided to help during initial delivery – they are for everyday use.

Finally, if you move around a lot, consider buying your own keyboard with a USB connection that can be used on any computer. Not only will this guarantee that you are only using your own equipment, it gives you the opportunity to buy one that fits your own typing style, and ergonomic requirements to make your working time more comfortable. This way you can ensure that your working time is not only clean it’s also comfortable, less stressful and more productive.

Is it Time to ‘Switch’ your Keyboard?

Truly_Ergonomic_Mechanical_Keyboard-227The more that you investigate about keyboards, in order to find the ‘perfect one for you’, the more detailed info ration you will find. Pretty early on in this process, it will become obvious to you that a keyboard’s keys, and the mechanisms below them, tucked out of site of the users, are the most important components that you will need to learn more about. The real job is learning about the switches below those keys.

The Finger points

After all, these are the points that your body actually touches any keyboard. Your fingers are the conduits that your brain signals communicate through. It doesn’t matter if you write blog posts, specialist technical journals, or simple e-mails. If you are at all uncomfortable, it is your fingers that will feel it first. Any kind of pain or discomfort you feel at the contact point will soon grow into nerve pain through your palms, wrists, arms and back.

Whether or not you are investigating moving beyond the ‘off the rack’ keyboard that comes with your working or home computer, or interested on what different products are on the market, eventually you will look at the different kind of physical keys that there are on the market, and you will be faced with a decision: Do I buy Rubber-Domed or Mechanical switches?

The Rubber-Domed Switch

The vast majority of keyboards on the market today feature a Rubber or Silicon dome that sits directly under the key that you see, and connect to the ‘works’ that lie under the keyboard, and connect between action and the letter appearing in screen.

The visible part of the key is called the Key Cap. These are relatively expensive items that must deliver a long life. However, it is the switch below it that receives all of the trauma and shock of being pressed – or hit! – Repeatedly over the life of the product. A much more cost effective method is to protect this switch with a simple rubber dome that sits under the Key Cap, and suffers the repeated shock of action time and time again.

The differences in the shape and thickness of the domes that the mass producer of your keyboard uses determines the travel distance, resistance, and tactile feedback of the switch.

Being Mechanical

Mechanical key-switches are more elaborate and made in a better quality than other key-switch types.  In this system, each key has its own independent key-switch mechanism that will register when a key is pressed.

In most cases the key is actuated (the keystroke is generated, and sent to the computer) halfway through the key travel distance. For example, the key may be capable of traveling 3 mm before hitting the bottom of the key-well, but the keystroke is generated after 1.5 mm.

As there is no requirement to travel the full key travel distance when being operated,  typists enjoy the luxury of not pressing keys fully down, reducing the constant jarring action on fingertips when ‘bottoming out’ and associated unnecessary muscle action. Additionally, the constant use if these types of keys offer increasing resistance after the keystroke is generated, encouraging the user to stop pressing down the keycap and instead move on to the next keystroke. Finally, keycaps snap back to the starting position (i.e. up) more quickly than other key-switch types, facilitating faster typing speeds.

Of course, Mechanical key-switch keyboards are more expensive when initially bought, but their working life is much longer. Together with the lowered risk of injury caused by repetitive stress injury, you may want to investigate a keyboard with mechanical switches for a more pleasant working experience.

Thanks to Truly Ergonomic Ltd. for the use of a picture of their ergonomic, mechanical keyboard

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Are you a Sufferer?

webmd_rf_photo_of_nerve_compression

For millions of people, working, playing and communicating on a computer keyboard is a daily reality. With this work comes a specific set of possibly painful symptoms – especially if you aren’t working in an comfortable position. Many times we hear of someone that is “suffering from Carpal Tunnel.”, and it is understood that this was because of ‘too much typing’, but how do you know if those wrist and hand aches and pains are due to this well-known complaint, and what can you do to ease the pain or stop getting it at all?

What is Carpal Tunnel syndrome?

The human hands and wrists have many nerves, joints, and muscles that allow them to turn and work in different positions. How do we know when we are performing actions that can cause something as serious as this?

What sets CTS apart from other, less serious, complaints is stress or damage to the Median Nerve. This runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, and becomes pressed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and, and controls impulses to some of the small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. The Carpal Tunnel is a narrow passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand, which houses the median nerve and tendons. It is stiff to offer support to the nerve and, when a sufferer’s median nerve swells, the tunnel narrows and causes the median nerve to be compressed. The result may be pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm.

How to tell if you have Carpal Tunnel syndrome?

Symptoms usually start gradually, with frequent burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the thumb and the index and middle fingers. Your fingers may feel useless and swollen, even though little or no swelling is apparent. These symptoms often first appear in one or both hands during the night, when your flexed wrists are relaxed.

As symptoms worsen, you may feel this tingling during the day. You may find it difficult to form a fist, grasp small objects, or perform other manual tasks. In chronic or untreated cases, people are unable to tell between hot and cold by touch.

How is Carpal Tunnel syndrome caused?

The condition is often the result of a number of factors that increase pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the Carpal Tunnel, rather than a problem with the nerve itself. You may have a Carpal Tunnel that is smaller than others. More common, though, is a trauma or injury to the wrist that cause swelling, such as sprain or fracture; work stress where repeated tasks in uncomfortable positions causes the nerve to rub on the interior wall of the tunnel. Writer’s cramp may also be brought on by repetitive activity, but this is not necessarily a CT injury.

Can Carpal Tunnel syndrome be prevented?

At the workplace, workers can do on-the-job conditioning, perform stretching exercises, take frequent rest breaks, and wear splints to keep wrists straight, but correct posture and wrist position is the most important. Ensuring that your wrists and palms maintain a natural position during working, and other typing, hours is the major proven way to ensure that you protect our wrists, so if you type for multiple hours, make sure that your wrists and hands are relaxed, supported and neutral.

 

The World’s Wackiest Computer Keyboards

If you have visited an office that in work in a specialized field, or have a friend whose home office is built around specific tasks such as coding, you may have gotten accustomed to seeing various different styles of keyboards with exciting and different-looking designs. If you have and think that you are missing something, here are a handful of recent keyboard designs that have come to the market and the reasons for their ‘Wacky Designs’.

 

Roll Up Keyboard

Roll up keyboard

Perhaps you are frustrated with inflexible keyboards? This fun, blue, flexible keyboard with the standard layout of 104 keys rolls-up for easy storage and portability. The manufacturer states that its dust and moisture proof, too.

Don’t get it confused with your Yoga Mat!

The Blank Keyboard

blank keyboard

Have you ever wanted to brag about your touch-typing skills? This is the ultimate bragger’s tool.

“I don’t need letters or numbers I know where everything is from memory!” Or perhaps it’s a test, or an office rookie hazing gag?

The Keyboard that isn’t there

Laser keyboard

This design features a laser tower projects a virtual keyboard on any surface, and reacts when you press a certain area of the light. I don’t think that working on a moving vehicle will be a popular choice with this keyboard.

 

The ‘Box’ Keyboard

Box keyboard

Although designed to ensure that those that work that numbers as well as alphabetic characters are always typing on a flat surface, doesn’t this look like a keyboard that 4 or 5 people can work on simultaneously – Kind of like Car-Pooling!

 

The Keyless Keyboard

keyless keyboard

 

A keyboard that looks like the front of your Mother’s stove! Slide the two dials into certain positions to trigger every keystroke you will need. We think it looks as if it belongs on the Navigation Bridge of a Starship.

The Wrist Keyboard

the wrist keyboard

Want to make a scene at the coffee shop while doing your Sunday coffee stop work? This will certainly turn heads. Of course you have to work out that arm before you can use it. It looks heavy to us!

 

The Tidy Typist

tidy typist keyboard

Now, this is something special: A felt ‘tablecloth’ that holds the keyboard, and then is decorated in a range of colors and designs. If Jane Austen were writing today, this would be her keyboard!

We wonder if it comes with the delightfully placed cup of tea.

 

We have had some fun in this post, with the very serious manufacturers of these specialist pieces of equipment. All of these designs are the results of long hours of research, testing, marketing and building. However, it is worth remembering that although there are lots of keyboards on the market to help you, not all will do the job for you.

Do your own research when looking for a Specialty keyboard. Think about its practicality and Functionality. It looks nice and thin, but does it do everything you need it to do?

It’s small and cute, but does that mean it is practical, and will it hurt you to use it?

It looks very fancy, but will it actually hurt your fingers, wrists, shoulders and back after a short while of using it?

When you do your keyboard shopping, ensure that you look for an ergonomic one first. Get one that is comfortable to use, and aids in a better posture. If you are comfortable first, the clever styles that you see could help you further in the particular job, but if you are comfortable for extended periods of time, the chances are you will become more productive.

An ergonomic design looks pretty cool, too!

Simple Workplace Exercises to keep you Pain-Free

Exercises

Good posture does not simply mean sitting up straight. Slouching over a computer keyboard all day can create a painful chain reaction throughout your body that can result in shoulder, neck or back pain, if not a combination of all three. Unfortunately, we don’t often feel the warning signs of this gradual wear-and-tear, we only feel the pain at the end of the process.

If sitting is part of your everyday, even if you try to lead an active lifestyle, then you should attempt to combine stretching exercises into your working days or evening: Stretching and Yawning don’t count! Browse the following list, and see if you can spare a few minutes daily to address your posture problems.

Back and Chest Stretching

To stretch your back muscles lie on your back, with knees bent at 90 degrees, and place your calves on the seat of a chair. Straighten your arms out from the shoulders with your palms up. Relax, breathing deeply, letting your low back settle into the floor. Hold the position for 5 minutes.

Ensure to stretch your chest: While in the same position. Lace your fingers, palms together, with your arms extended above your chest toward the ceiling. Extend your arms, keeping your elbows straight, over your head to the floor behind you. Repeat 30 times with a steady, controlled movement, and don’t forget to breathe.

Back to your back. Lie on your back with your feet on the wall and your knees bent less than 90 degrees (Your ‘glutes’ should only be about four to six inches from wall and knees almost touching chest). Lace your fingers behind your head to support your neck. Keep your elbows back while looking at the ceiling. Exhale as you use your stomach muscles to lift your shoulders, elbows and head off the floor then lower. Perform this for 1 minute.

Leg and Knee Exercises

The kneeling hip-flexor stretch: Kneel (preferably on a padded floor). Bring your right knee into a 90 degree angle and push your left leg back so it’s at an angle where you feel stretch in the front of your hip. Keep your legs parallel to each other and place your hands on your right knee and let your hips sink forward to the floor, keeping your upper body straight. Do not lean forward. Hold for 1 minute and switch legs.

Supine hip-flexor stretch: Lie on your back with your right leg bent and resting on a chair at a 90 degree angle. Place your left leg straight on the floor, keeping your toes pointed up so your knee and foot do not roll out. Place your arms straight out from your shoulders with your palms up.

Breathe deeply and relax your body. Remain in this position for 10 minutes, then repeat on your other side.

The ‘Air bench’: Sit against the wall with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent at 90 degrees, heels straight under or slightly in front (not behind) of your knees. Keep your feet pointing straight ahead, push your lower back into wall and keep pressure on your heels. Press your shoulders back, keeping your head up, and relax your shoulders, neck, arms and hands. Hold for 90 seconds.

Of course, if you start to feel any discomfort, gently move yourself out of the position.

The Right Equipment

You can always address pain and suspected injury due to stress and bad posture by investing in the right working equipment. Check into the right ergonomic keyboards and, if you are serious, search for ‘Mechanical Key keyboards’ to give your fingers a break from their own stress!

Is it Time to ‘Switch’ your Keyboard?

worker stress funny

The more that you investigate about keyboards, in order to find the ‘perfect one for you’, the more detailed info ration you will find. Pretty early on in this process, it will become obvious to you that a keyboard’s keys, and the mechanisms below them, tucked out of site of the users, are the most important components that you will need to learn more about. The real job is learning about the switches below those keys.

The Finger points

After all, these are the points that your body actually touches any keyboard. Your fingers are the conduits that your brain signals communicate through. It doesn’t matter if you write blog posts, specialist technical journals, or simple e-mails. If you are at all uncomfortable, it is your fingers that will feel it first. Any kind of pain or discomfort you feel at the contact point will soon grow into nerve pain through your palms, wrists, arms and back.

Whether or not you are investigating moving beyond the ‘off the rack’ keyboard that comes with your working or home computer, or interested on what different products are on the market, eventually you will look at the different kind of physical keys that there are on the market, and you will be faced with a decision: Do I buy Rubber-Domed or Mechanical switches?

The Rubber-Domed Switch

The vast majority of keyboards on the market today feature a Rubber or Silicon dome that sits directly under the key that you see, connect to the ‘works’ that lie under the keyboard, and between keying action and the letter appearing in screen.

The visible part of the key is called the Key Cap. These are relatively expensive items that must deliver a long life. However, it is the switch below it that receives all of the trauma and shock of being pressed – or hit! – Repeatedly over the life of the product. A much more cost effective method is to protect this switch with a simple rubber dome that sits under the Key Cap, and suffers the repeated shock of action time and time again.

The differences in the shape and thickness of the domes that the mass producer of your keyboard uses determines the travel distance, resistance, and tactile feedback of the switch.

Being Mechanical

Mechanical key-switches are more elaborate and made in a better quality than other key-switch types.  In this system, each key has its own independent key-switch mechanism that will register when a key is pressed.

In most cases the key is actuated (the keystroke is generated, and sent to the computer) halfway through the key travel distance. For example, the key may be capable of traveling 3 mm before hitting the bottom of the key-well, but the keystroke is generated after 1.5 mm.

As there is no requirement to travel the full key travel distance when being operated,  typists enjoy the luxury of not pressing keys fully down, reducing the constant jarring action on fingertips when ‘bottoming out’ and associated unnecessary muscle action. Additionally, the constant use if these types of keys offer increasing resistance after the keystroke is generated, encouraging the user to stop pressing down the keycap and instead move on to the next keystroke. Finally, key-caps snap back to the starting position (i.e. up) more quickly than other key-switch types, facilitating faster typing speeds.

Of course, Mechanical key-switch keyboards are more expensive when initially bought, but their working life is much longer. Together with the lowered risk of injury caused by repetitive stress injury, you may want to investigate a keyboard with mechanical switches for a more pleasant working experience.