Someone I know – we’ll call her Miss X – told me a story a few days ago. This person’s best friend – we’ll call her Malingering Twat – has been swinging the lead on her job for years, claiming all manner of mysterious ailments that no medical practitioner can diagnose. She has been on full pay all this time. Miss X likes her friend but hates what she is doing. Actually, she doesn’t like her very much at all any more. Who would?
Malingering Twat is very obviously a lazy, psychosomatically-deranged hypochondriac. I have only met her once many moons ago and she was clearly barking then. That her employer has been kow-towing to her ridiculous whingeing all this time is down to unions and human rights and fear of lawsuits etc. I’m sure they would ideally just like to fire her. Or fire at her with a large-calibre handgun.
Attempts to bring her back into the fold culminated recently in a farce. Perhaps sensing she was nearing the point where her employer would sack her and to hell with the consequences, Malingering Twat had discussions with the HR people and it was agreed that she would come back if her workstation was made ergonomically-friendly to her so that her fantasy ailments might be alleviated.
Fine. Ergonomics are important. Having the correct physical environment to work in does ward off aches and strains and legal claims.
So, Malingering Twat went home and waited for her workspace to be redesigned and new furniture manufactured to her exact specifications. When she returned, however, there was a problem. The new desk chair she had ordered at great expense wasn’t right. The structure was okay, but they had covered it in blue upholstery. She had ordered purple. Blue made her depressed. She couldn’t possibly sit in a blue chair. She went home in a huff and the chair was sent back to the manufacturer to be re-upholstered.
Where the hell is a large-calibre handgun when you need one? Not just for her, for the idiot who didn’t just tell her to sit down and get on with her work before she was packed off to join the growing ranks of the world’s unemployed. Personally, I would have tied her to the damn thing until she decided to top herself. Good God, you can’t even see a desk chair when you’re sitting in it – it’s under your arse.
Purple upholstery is not ergonomics. It is insanity.
Despite this, I do have a lot of time for ergonomics. Freelance writers, and anyone else who sits at a desk for extended periods, must pay attention to their physical state and positioning. I don’t mean you need to avoid being positioned opposite a colleague in blue clothing. I mean you should create your best chance of being able to work your designated hours pain-free. Problems from poor ergonomics can manifest in just a few hours or they may take many years. Unfortunately, they very rarely disappear in just a few hours.
Last Easter, I had to work for two weeks at the dining room table on a laptop rather than at my desk on my desktop. My wife and daughter were away and I needed to keep an eye on our two new puppies downstairs. Seat height, table height, wrist and forearm angles etc were all different. At the end of the fortnight I had developed a severe pain and weakness in my right elbow and wrist from mousing – tennis elbow and its effects. My grip vanished. I could barely hold a cup of tea. I had felt its onset but thought it would go when I returned to working in my office. It didn’t. I had to make several ergonomic changes just to be able to work even in modest pain. I swapped my desk chair for a kneeling chair, bought a wrist rest, installed a roll-out shelf underneath the desk top for my keyboard and mouse, and used trigger point therapy daily. Now, nearly a year later, my tennis elbow is much better but it still troubles me.
Be careful. It’s no fun earning a living as a freelance writer when you’re constantly in pain.
One word of warning about the kneeling chair: falling asleep on one is marginally less dangerous than falling asleep at the wheel.