Ergonomics and Mobile Workers

“Increasingly, work is something people do rather than a place people go.”

This common saying probably doesn’t surprise you. Many of us are already using technologies to work away from the office.  In fact, many of us don’t even have offices anymore!  The laptop, tablet, and smartphone have revolutionized the way we work. 

But with these changes new problems have arisen.  Terms like Text Neck, Smartphone Elbow, and Blackberry Thumb have entered our vocabulary.  New ways of working have introduced new ways of injuring ourselves.

Ergonomics explores the boundary between people and their environment.  The application of ergonomic principles helps fit the workplace to the worker.  In the realm of mobile workers, ergonomics is even more important.  The most common mobile devices are laptops, tablets and smartphones.   Here are some hints for using these technologies:


Separate input from viewing by using an external keyboard and mouse.  Prop up the monitor at eye-level.  To transport a laptop, use a backpack style bag that distributes the weight over both shoulders.   


If possible, don’t hold a tablet for more than 20 minutes of continuous use.  Use a stand with an external keyboard if necessary.  Three common ways of gripping a tablet are clipboard, flat palm, and thumb grip. Alternate between the grips every few minutes.



Think about head posture!  To keep your head upright hold the device at chest height or slightly higher.  This will fatigue your arms, so cross one arm over your chest to support the weight of your arm holding the smartphone.  This fatigue is also a good cue to take a break.  Keep interactions with the smartphone short but sweet – under five minute durations.  Save those longer interactions for your desktop computer.  Also, use text alternatives such as voice input to reduce the motion of the thumbs. 

For more information on this subject, join us for Ergonomics and Mobile Workers, a free webinar for MEMIC policyholders on Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.