Thursday

Work-Station - Considerations On Comfort

I was recently asked for a few tips in designing my work-station, which I prefer to call my "play-station." Following are a few pointers that I incorporated into my decision process when putting it all together.

 First of all, though "comfort" was key consideration into designing my work-station, the operative word was longevity and health. After a recent visit with my cardiologist I asked him how he stayed so thin. He promptly led me outside our room and took me to his workstation. There before me was nothing more than a tall tabletop. This was his secret - rather than sit behind a conventional desk to complete all his paperwork he simply stood. Even though he paces between patient rooms all day long, he viewed his time sitting to consult with them as being too sedentary. Therefore, he arranged his non-patient time so that he was not sitting. I simply took his lead.
 
My desktop now stands at 36", which is an ideal height for typing and pushing my pen around on my Wacom. It's 40" wide, which is ample space for my huge monitor, Wacom, keyboard, notepad (for the sudden "aha") and anything else I might need. It's 18" deep, also ample space, and is expandable to either 27' or 36", should I need it. http://www.furniturebuzz.com/detail.asp?model=HM5031-94C

This leads me to my second requirement of comfort: a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes. I typed "Standing Comfort" into Google and up popped a site dedicated precisely toward that end (http://www.standingcomfort.com). $90 was a small price to pay for maintaining happy feet.

Comfort, for me, also means uncluttered. It's a visual thing. It's darn near impossible for me to concentrate intently on the complexities of any image when there are too many objects vying for my attention. Therefore, I needed a station that was more than just a high tabletop. 

After much search, I finally located a desk that had two drawers and a shelf. The drawers are vital for keeping the clutter at bay, while also ensuring necessary tools are close at hand. As for the shelf, I actually needed two but could not find any units than included them. I purchased my unit with plans to build another shelf so that I would have enough space to accommodate and conceal a host of desk-cluttering items: external hard-drives, speakers, printer, working orders, etc. 

However, when my desk shipped, one of the shelves arrived with splinters and missing paint. After I received my replacement shelf, and while assembling my desk, it dawned on me that if could live with a less-than-perfec shelf, I already had one waiting for me in the trash. I quickly retrieved it, did a bit of sanding, used a couple dashes of black spray paint, drilled very precise holes in the legs (a real feat), and a second shelf was born. My desk practically fell together. I was stoked!

Were I to order this desk unit again, I would inquire as to possibility of purchasing a second or third shelf.

Another key comfort component for me was windows - and I'm not referring to an operating system. At my front left is a 15' wall - all but eight inches are widows. To my immediate perpendicular left is an eight foot wall with two floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors. Then, at my far left are two more windows, each at 4' wide. Right next to them is an large bay window. In other words, lots and lots of glorious sparkling light and rejuvenating fresh air. With an atmosphere like this, I create for hours on end.

Space was another integral ingredient for my comfort - not only room to move, but visual space to allow my mind to wonder. My desk sits basically in the center of three connecting rooms (family, breakfast nook and kitchen).  Generous windows offers me the pleasure  to be absorbed in my green environment (even better than indoor plants), while having tangible space affords me permission to roam about, both physically and philosophically.

Comfort also means having all the accouterments of the trade within reach. However, considering the goals of longevity and health are my primary concern, I realized that the desire for connivence could actually work against me. Therefore, I decided to place all non-essential creative tools at a distance from my desk - this forced me to move my body in order to access them. Items such a my appointment calendar, DVD/TV controls, telephone, etc, are all beyond my reach and requires that I walk and/or get off my butt to retrieve them. This may not add up to much at the end of the day, but accumulated over a week, a month or a year, it's that many more calories I've burned and consequently elevated my metabolism. I know all this may seem counterintuitive to efficient workspace models, but for me, any excuse to move my body, prearranged by design, will ensure many more years of actually being able to move it...

Entertainment is the next fundamental element for comfort. For me, this translates into music, movies and news. Therefore, my iTunes is loaded with my favorite artists, I've enrolled in an unlimited movie rental access with Netflix, and positioned a large plasma screen TV to on my right so I might keep abreast of current events.

Sound is also critical for me. Accordingly, I invested in an audio system where can either pump up the volume until I feel it pass right through me, or set it down low while not missing out on the nuance of sighs and whispers. All this gratification may seem a tad too self-indulgent, but for someone like myself, who can easily put in an eighteen hour day, a little enjoyment while I work goes a long way to feeling more comfortable throughout my entire day.

Comfort is also a function of endurance. As you know, the number one compliant of digital designers is neck and eye strain. It wasn't long before I too succumbed to both ailments. As "luck" would have it, my optometrist had the remedy. I discovered that both conditions can be alleviated by having the right prescription in regards to the viewing distance of one's monitor. Since I prefer to sit closer to my monitor, I was instinctually tilting my head back so that I could take advantage of the section of the lens where the higher power is weighted. This causes undue exertion not only only on the eyes, but on the back muscles, primarily on the neck and shoulders. The fix was simple - he fitted me with a pair of glasses where the up-close focus power was center weighted, therefore allowing me to maintain a level head position. Yes, I could have easily ran out to my local drugstore and picked up a pair of cheap reading-glasses, but considering I depend on my eyes for my vocation and self expression, I reasoned a professionally fitted pair of glasses was the least I could do for myself.

Lastly, and along the same line of endurance, the final necessity in ensuring comfort is seating. I have yet to complete my station in this regard, but it is the one element I am convinced will reap the greatest reward. Though I've been looking and have found a few stools that I believe might work, the combination of the price tag (some over a thousand) and not having the opportunity to try them out, has put this principal component on hold. My indispensable requirements in a seat are: padded but firm seat, ability to vary heights, an adjustable back, adjustable arms and an adjustable foot ring. Hopefully, it will also be aesthetically pleasing - this is where nearly 99% of them fail miserably. However, I know it's just a matter of time before I'll locate the seat of my dreams.

I am sure there is something I've left out, but hope this goes a long way to answering a few of the questions you might have. If you can think of anything else, just know that no concern is too small.