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Top tips and tricks for ergonomics at work

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Asus South Africa recently spoke to industry experts to share some practical ergonomic tips and tricks for computer users.

We all know that we have to sit properly, a certain distance from a screen and type at a specific angle. It sometimes seems impossible to have an ergonomic workstation due to space and financial restrictions. However, by adapting to your environment and making changes you will realise the effect it can have on your life. After all, you probably spend more time in your office than out of it.

Asus South Africa decided to get the insights of industry experts to share some practical tips and tricks for computer users:

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Eyes and View-Points
First and foremost, if you wear glasses or have glasses to wear behind a computer screen, wear them! Often we sit behind our screens for long periods of time causing us to blink less which leads too dry, itchy and scratchy eyes that feel like raisins.

Try to position yourself between 40 and 76 centimetres away from your screen (most users find it most comfortable to sit between 50 and 65 centimetres). Among many things this will help your eyes maintain their blink rate.

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When positioning the monitor or screen, set it up on your eye level or slightly below your horizontal eye level. This can be done by purchasing an ergonomic stand. Alternatively, you could improvise and use phone books or reams of paper. Just make sure that the surface is stable and strong enough.

Pay special attention to the surrounding areas of your monitor or table, avoid spaces closes to windows and bright lights as this may cause distracting reflections and additional strain on your eyes.

“Not only are we more dependent on electronic devices but technology can also improve your quality in front of such a device. Anti-reflective lens coatings have been tried and tested and research shows that it can help to eliminate up to 80% of eyestrain and fatigue. Optometrists make use of the newest lens technology to ensure clear and comfortable vision in front of electronic devices”, says Carina Janzen, Optometrist from De Jongh Optometry in Pretoria East.

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Seating and Posture
The chair that you sit on is just as important as the computer you use. When purchasing a new chair, always make sure that it is fully adjustable to ensure the support that you require. “It is important that the chair is the correct height relative to the desk”, comments Tracey Palay from Ergotherapy. If purchasing a new chair is not an option, you could look at using an inflatable pillow or a towel roll which should provide you with lower back support when placed behind your lower back against the chair.

Position yourself behind your computer in such a way that your spine is able to align with a neutral posture (forward curve in the lower back and forward tilted pelvis), try to avoid leaning forward. Allow your shoulders to be relaxed and not hunched or rounded and your feet resting on the floor/ foot rest. Your elbows have to be close to your body (put away your wings), the ideal position for them is at a 90° bent angle with your wrists and hands remaining straight, forearms resting on the table (not the wrists). Avoid bending the wrists backwards too far when working on your keyboard and mouse.

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It is important to consider your posture, as your body adapts to the position you spend your working day in and can have an effect on your wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, upper back, lower back, gluteal area and lower limbs. Frequent positional changes are key to prevent adverse health effects and muscular weakness.

The therapists from Therapy In Action have been working in the Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy industry for over 20 years and recommend that computer users pay special attention to the position of their upper back and neck, as poor posture can lead to trigger points, muscle imbalances and lack of stability, which can cause headaches, neck and shoulder pain. “We have noticed over the past year alone an increase of 8% in people complaining about neck tension headaches and upper back pain due to poor ergonomics”, Liezet Basson, Partner and Senior Occupational Therapist with Therapy in Action added.

Sitting vs Standing
“Recent studies have shown that standing while working on your computer, have major health benefits. Standing facilitates a decrease in fatigue and musculoskeletal discomfort, especially in overweight office workers. The research has also shown benefits in heart function and blood sugar levels. Weakness and muscle imbalances develop according to your prolonged preferred postures, which can lead to discomfort and pain due to lack of optimal stability. Standing for the entire work day might also have some negative effects on your health, thus a healthy balance between sitting and standing is ideal where possible”, added Therapy In Action.

Regular Breaks
It is recommended that breaks are taken every 30 minutes but sometimes it isn’t practical. Try to take your eyes off of the screen and let them rest on another focal point in the distance, like a watercooler in the office or the trees outside your window. If you’re able to get up from your desk try to walk around stretching you back, arms, neck, shoulders and legs at least once every hour or two as this will get the blood flowing again.

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As with almost all aspects in life, there are various Apps that can be downloaded to remind you to take regular breaks. On Android there are a few apps like Take-a-Break or Water Drink Reminder.

Setting up an ergonomically friendly workspace is of benefit to the employee and employer, by reducing ergonomic risk factors costs can be reduced over time and employee productivity should increase. This will also show employees that their employers value their health and safety.

Yolandi Venter, ASUS’ Marketing Manager for System Products focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa, said that ASUS has a variety of products available which accommodate ergonomic needs. “Recently ASUS announced the ZenBook Flip UX360 and UX560 which feature a gently backlit keyboard with full size keys and long key travel for comfortable typing in any lighting condition. The large glass-coated touch pad allows smooth and accurate navigation”, Venter added.

“All of our models come with some sort of ergonomic design. For example, all models come standard with ICeCool which keeps the palm rest of laptops and notebooks cooler than your body temperature”, said Werner Joubert, Product Head (ACZA). “ASUS Monitors come standard with Eye Care technology which smartly adjusts the computer screen brightness based on the environment you are in. These monitors are designed to prevent symptoms of CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome). Symptoms include Headaches, Burning Eyes, Red Eyes, Eyes Strain and Fatigue, should you, a colleague or an employee have these symptoms its highly recommend to seek medical attention. Furthermore, the Monitors have Low Blue Light, are Flicker-Free, have Anti-Glare and are designed to meet ergonomic requirements”, Joubert added.

Asus South Africa would like to thank De Jongh Optometry, Therapy In Action and Ergotherapy for assisting in the construction of this story.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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