Ergonomics: It’s not us, it’s you.


Sure, there’s a beautiful pyramid out there… but that dead, barren tree is what’s actually in your immediate future. Wow, that got dark. Pics via Assassin’s Creed Origins.

After what happened on Friday, I’ve realized that I’m going to have to change the way I write posts.

Until now, I was drafting in WordPress, trusting it to save as I went along. Mostly, that worked out well. Occasionally, there would be a problem, and I’d get a nice red notification at the top telling me that a save had failed for some reason. I’m kind of a spaz, so I check frequently to make certain that my posts are being saved as I go along.

Last Friday, I wrote a post, checked it a billion times, previewed it a bunch of times, and then hit publish just before I sprinted out the door. Normally, I’d pull it up on my phone first thing, just to verify that it looks ok, but I needed to gtfo. An hour later, I did my usual phone check, only to see a post that had a featured pic, a title, and nothing else. Nine hundred plus words apparently disappeared after I clicked on “publish”. The history? Empty. I don’t know where all the previously saved versions went. And since I’d been drafting in the blog, there’s no backup. Because I’m an idiot.

I briefly considered trying to reconstruct it – I mean, I know what I was writing about – but ultimately, that doesn’t really work. You can’t get the words back once they’re gone. Oh, sure, maybe you remember a few choice phrases, but really, you’re writing an entirely new post. It just wouldn’t be the same.

And that’s sad, because trust me, it was the best post ever written by anyone ever. Really. You would have laughed. You would have cried. It would have changed your life. (Ok, I’m making that up, but you already knew that.)

I’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut lately, and this didn’t help.

On the one hand, going into battle armed with a Q-tip is the definition of “set up for failure”. On the other hand… how embarrassing would it be to have your ass handed to you by a guy wielding a Q-tip?

It’s a bit of a conundrum. When I’m busy, I get stressed and tired, and that’s when I need the downtime to write. It’s a stress reliever, it lets my brain play, and it gets my mind off whatever is causing me to be busy, stressed out, and tired. But being busy means there’s no time for extracurricular writing… unless I forgo sleep. Which leads to being tired. (More tired.) Which leads to stress.

American business culture is the new circle of life, and it’s vicious. It wants all of your time, focus, and energy. While HR is busy telling us that we’re less stressed out – and thus, more productive – when we exercise, or have outside interests, some kind of work-life balance – the culture is telling us that we need to be on top of things 24/7. Outside interests? Pah. You must not want to get ahead at work, then. Not all companies are like that, but then… they always say that, don’t they? It’s like telling you that there really truly is a unicorn out there… somewhere. Except very few people seem to find it.

Maybe it’s your fault. Maybe you don’t deserve a unicorn.

Recently, I decided to try (for the third time) to get someone to actually deal with the fact that my work station is so un-ergonomic, it might as well be made of stone. I spend so much time twisting and turning and trying to get into a comfortable position that I now have constant pain in my back.

A few months ago, they brought in brand-new workstations. Newer, cooler workstations. It’s a sit/stand desk! You can sit! You can stand! It’s awesome!

Except for all the stuff that’s not. Like the fact that the screens are tilted away from me, not toward, and can’t be adjusted. Like the fact that it’s physically impossible for me to bring the monitors down to the correct height (remember – top of the screen even with your eyes?) because they’re welded to the frame, or something, and they’re about eight inches too high. Like the fact that it’s impossible to adjust my chair height so that my arms/wrists are aligned correctly with the keyboard and mouse. A footrest doesn’t alter the fact that the keyboard tray is too damned high (and can’t be adjusted).

But I heard that there’s a new, cool ergonomic self-assessment from HR. You answer some questions, they come up with a plan to mitigate the issues, and voila! No more pain. Sounds great! Let’s do this!

Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Come on in, the water’s fine!

The “assessment” is in three parts. The first part is a bunch of videos that show you how things should be, and it’s heavily implied (and sometimes stated outright) that it’s probably your fault that you’re having issues. You’re not doing it right. And also, have you considered how your non-work web browsing might be contributing to the issue? Or gaming? You should stop doing those things. I walked away from those videos with the distinct impression that I was being told that having work-life balance is bad, because that’s why I have wrist pain/back pain/eyestrain. It’s not the 40+ hours a week you spend at work, it’s that other stuff. If I just quite writing this blog, everything will be fine…

You know how much eyestrain/back pain/wrist pain is added during a weekend of terrible gaming, web browsing, and writing? None. Zero. Zilch. Ok, maybe that’s unrealistic, but I’m pretty sure that stuff isn’t the bulk of the problem. You know why? Because I set up my stuff at home so that those things aren’t a problem. I have a chair, desk, TV, etc. that all work together to create the correct heights, angles, distances, and so on. If I spend the weekend gaming, the pain ramps down. By Monday, I feel almost normal. Then I have to go back to work.

When I’m paying for it and setting everything up, I don’t have to put up with this stone-age crap. Heck, I take week-long staycations and do nothing but game, and by the time I go back to work, I’m almost pain-free. Once, I took two weeks off (only once), did nothing but game, and it was like I was a whole new person! (Really, the solution is obvious. I just need to stop doing this work thing.)

The second part of the evaluation asked me about my various levels of pain and discomfort. Ok, maybe that first bit was just the stuff they want you to be aware of. This is the part that will get some action!

Except not. Tell them that you have back pain, and they regurgitate all of the stuff from the video about adjusting your chair, monitors, etc. They then move you on to the third part, which tells you to go away for three weeks, try all that stuff out, and then come back and tell them that everything is better now. Ok, they didn’t say that last part, but again… heavily implied.

I can’t actually accomplish any of those things, but, you know… it’s still my fault. Somehow.

It’s obvious that this whole ergo-assessment is, in polite terms, a crock of shit. Not once did they ask a practical question. It was, “Adjust your monitors! Did that help?” when it should have been, “Can you adjust your monitors?” But that would have implied that maybe I wasn’t at fault, and that would be bad. I guess. Then they might have to do something awful, like… like… like spend money to fix stuff!

The sands, they will bury us all. (I think it’s fair to say that I’m a bit discouraged.)

Given how insistent they were, I’m thinking that I need to pack very carefully for work tomorrow. I need a screwdriver, a wrench, and a hammer. Maybe a drill. Possibly a saw. Maybe if I just “proactively take the initiative” (side note: Do they not realize how stupid that sounds?) and bring the right tools, I can figure out a way to make my workstation fit me.

Wouldn’t that be great? “Well, the video that you made me watch said that I had to lower the monitors, but they can’t be moved, so I just… you know… sawed eight inches of the stand off and then used duct tape and superglue to put it back together… … … what?”

And then I’d be fired, and all of my ergonomic problems would be solved.

Until I get another job.

See? Circle of life.

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