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Ergonomics for the Road Warrior

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
By Anne Kramer

For the majority of people in the workforce, a long commute has become a necessary evil. Furthermore, nowadays many employees’ cars double as their offices, as they spend a significant amount of time traveling. All this time in the car leaves people vulnerable to repetitive driving injuries. Those who spend twenty or more hours a week in the car are particularly susceptible to these problems, which can range from lower back pain to musculoskeletal injuries.

For those who work out of their cars, getting organized can be a considerable obstacle. Although the car does not represent an ideal office setup, it is possible to impose some order and give every item an appropriate, convenient place. One simple solution is to use an organizer in the front passenger seat. These include surfaces for writing or using a laptop, along with compartments for often-used files and writing implements. A tote provides a portable alternative for extra files and supplies, and stows easily in the trunk.

More important than organization are comfort and safety. In the car, these begin with proper posture, which prevents aching muscles and repetitive stress injuries.

  • It is important to adjust the seat properly. Arms and legs should not remain fully extended, and legs should be parallel to the hips.

  • Headrests are not optional. In addition to providing safety in an accident, they also support the head and neck, preventing aching muscles in the neck and upper shoulders.

  • Drivers should change posture whenever driving conditions permit. Merely shifting weight in the seat can eliminate stress on muscles and joints.

  • Taking frequent breaks is both mentally and physiologically beneficial. Just as it is important to take breaks from computer work in the traditional office setting, long-distance drivers need to stop frequently to stretch.
For those who spend a the majority of their time behind the wheel, more intensive measures are often necessary to ensure comfort and injury prevention. Ergonomics provides a simple solution to these issues.

  • A lumbar cushion provides additional support and promotes proper posture, reducing the chance for lower back ache and stress.

  • Laptop risers are just as important in the mobile office as they are in the cubicle. These ensure that the laptop is at the proper viewing height, reducing unnecessary tension through the head and neck.

  • Hands-free devices for cell phones and PDA’s, especially those with voice-command features, minimizes the need for dialing and eliminates the need to hold the phone between shoulder and ear. Thus, not only do they reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, but they also decrease stress to the head, neck, and shoulders.
The last step to creating an effective and safe mobile office is to make every aspect of the office truly and conveniently mobile.

  • Rolling bags make transporting files and laptops convenient, and they remove the stress of weight on the shoulders and back.

  • Ergonomic luggage handles provide extra comfort and reduce wrist motion. Since they rotate 360 degrees, the wrist and arm can rest in a more natural position.

  • Items like foldable keyboards are compact methods to reduce bulk. These products both make packing easier and decrease weight.
With the right posture and appropriate gear, even the most grizzled road warrior can bring organization, comfort, and safety to the mobile office.

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