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Workplace Ergonomics: Making free and cheap changes to your workspace

The cheapest ergonomic set up that I could possibly make.  Looking forward to seeing other peoples ideas on this topic!
The cheapest ergonomic set up that I could possibly make. Looking forward to seeing other peoples ideas on this topic!

I was talking to a patient recently about proper workplace ergonomics to reduce common problems such as carpal tunnel, elbow pains such as tennis and golfer’e elbow as well as neck and shoulder pains.

My patient really wanted to change his work station to accommodate some neck pains he was experiencing. I showed him how to set up his work station in order to avoid causing excessive strain to his neck region.

One problem arose: Like many underfunded workplaces, this particular patient wasn’t given any funds to change his work station and also did not have disposable income in order to buy accessories to make his mostly-desk-work job easier on his body.

He had a Macbook laptop that he was treating like a desktop computer. His chair and desk set up were okay and what he really needed was 1: an external keyboard or second monitor (to avoid looking down all day), an external mouse (to avoid excess side bending at the wrist). I am an Apple fan myself but must admit that Apple accessories are pricey.

Later that evening, I started thinking of how I could help this man feel better at work but also not spend much, if any money. Here in Hawaii us locals pride ourselves on our DIY solutions. In Hawaii the shipping for workplace equipment can cost more than the item itself.

Below are the solutions I came up with:

1: Air Display app: Cost: $10.00

Got an old ipad laying around? This app turns your ipad into a 2nd computer monitor and allow you to use the mouse and keyboard on your laptop. Simply drag content from your laptop screen up to your ipad screen.

This Fixes? The problem of causing excess cervical strain by looking down at a laptop screen all day. Position the Ipad on top of your desk and use the laptop on the desk pullout tray.

2: Printer paper box: Cost: Free!

Buy printer paper in bulk? Good! Take the box that the paper came in, place it on top of your desk and place the ipad with Air Display App on top.

3: RC Trackpad app: Cost: free!

Use your smart phone as your mouse

This Fixes? The problem of excessively side bending the wrist to the center of your laptop. Place phone to the side of your keyboard – where you would normally place an external mouse.

4: Cut up old mouse pad: Cost: free!

Have some old mouse pads lying around? If so, cut them in halves and glue them together in order to make a nice wrist rest in front of your keyboard.

This Fixes? Numb fingers; helps to minimize pressure on the wrists (carpal tunnel region).


In terms of fixing / preventing repetitive strain injuries common for desk workers, $10 can go a long way. I know these ideas may not work for everyone – dependent upon what hardware you are using at work. However, hopefully this will stimulate some new ideas and conversations. We are constantly coming up with new cheap, easy, solutions for poor works station ergonomics. Please email us with any questions or ideas.