Petite Office Ergonomics (and: How Does Your Office Handle Ergonomics?)

ergonomics - employer's responsibilityIf you’re petite and your office desk is too tall for you — enough that it’s causing you pain while you work — how much is your employer required to do to make your desk/chair setup more ergonomic? What if you work at a nonprofit? Reader A asks…

I wonder if you could address what my work place is required to do regarding ergonomics? About a year ago I started a new position where I sit at a desk all day. (For the last 5 years I worked remotely meeting clients 90% of the time.) Since then I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting weird pains in my back, wrists, hips, and neck. I’m just about 5’2″ so my desk is too tall for me, my typing and monitor alignment are all wrong. If I raise the chair to the right height, my feet dangle, and resting them on the chair base caused weird hip pain (and a footrest just wasn’t convenient.) I work for a nonprofit, so buying new office supplies isn’t really at the top of our priority list, but can I request one for health purposes? If not, do you have another suggestion? (I live in Ohio if that matters.) Thanks for the help!

Interesting question, Reader A. We haven’t talked about ergonomics in a little while, and I’m curious to hear what readers think about this, both petite and otherwise. What ergonomic hacks have you used for your office? What help have you gotten from your employer in the matter, whether officially (ergonomics consultant, ergonomics budget) or after the fact (e.g., being able to get a $36 footrest reimbursed)?  

First, though, we asked an expert for his take on Reader A’s situation. Paul Krewson, OTR/L, CEAS III — an occupational therapist, ergonomist, and president of Peak Ergonomics — suggested the following:

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The Best Towels

best towelsWhich are the best towels? What factors should matter? Last month we talked about the best sheets for the home — and today we’re looking at the best towels. Reader K wonders…

Hi Kat, again, love your blog. I am curious as to whether you and the readers have found THE BEST towels. I am ready to do this purchase right and want to know if anyone has scoured/tested the best products so that I am not reinventing the wheel. Soft and luxurious while getting the job done. Thanks!

Great question, K — I’m curious to hear what everyone else has found. I just splurged and bought some Missoni towels from Horchow through one of their midday ClickTock sales, and I’m always on the hunt for vibrant towels with saturated colors, which I’ll admit has been my main determinant for which towels I’ve bought. (For some reason white towels have always seemed terribly impractical to me, unless they’re designed for bleach.) I haven’t had the best luck in general with towels — I splurged on some towels (even got ’em personalized) at a fancier department store a few years ago and was bummed to find that, while they were fluffy, they weren’t terribly absorbent. So let’s research this together (alas, the Missoni towels don’t make anyone’s list!)… [Read more…]

Clothes to Wear to Work After Abdominal Surgery

maternity clothes for courtReader L is having abdominal surgery and is at a loss for how to dress for court with a sensitive middle… as I see it this issue could be relevant to other readers with sensitive midsections due to surgical procedures, early pregnancy, C-section scars, etc. What are the best conservative clothes that are loose in the middle for situations like court? She writes:

I’m a prosecutor (ie suits or suit like separates daily) and I’m having abdominal surgery this fall. The doctor says 4-6 weeks recovery but that’s just time off work. That’s not to be able to wear things with actual buttons and set waistbands! Any suggestions on how to create a small but doable court appropriate wardrobe for the recovery after I’m back at work?

Maybe I’m oversimplifying things (and assuming regular shift and empire dresses are out for some reason), but I think I have just the answer for you, Reader L: maternity clothes. For those who don’t know: There are two main kinds of maternity bottoms. The first is the “underbelly” waistband — a soft, stretchy, approximately 3-inch waistband designed to go UNDER the belly. It’s mostly intended for use in early pregnancy when there is no real bump, but your middle may be sensitive. The second is the over-the-belly waistband, which I always preferred just for modesty’s sake. It’s a soft, stretchy waistband that is much taller (maybe 12″?) that’s designed to go all the way from just below the bump to the top of your bra in general, completely covering the belly.

Many women wear these pants for several months after the baby’s born, particularly women who’ve had C-sections and might have a sensitive middle, while many women (particularly those who’ve already had one kiddo) may also wear these pants very early in their pregnancies because their middles are sensitive — i.e., before there’s any real baby bump.

In other words: both kinds of pants can be worn even if you don’t have a bump. Depending on your scarring, stitches, bandages, etc., you may find the over-the-bump pants too itchy or fussy, so you may want to focus on the under-the-bump kind of pants.

We’ve rounded up some maternity workwear basics over at CorporetteMoms, but I’ll also note that you can often get great deals on maternity stuff at eBay. You may also want to ask a mom friend to share an “in search of” post on the local moms’ listserv for you. Most maternity skirts are very stretchy — i.e., comfy but not that appropriate for court — but you can find the odd “suiting” material pencil skirt (like this one, on sale at Isabella Oliver; this one from Japanese Weekend isn’t in a suiting material but is a reader favorite at CorporetteMoms). I’d probably want to be in pants and flats if I were recovering from surgery (no fussing with pantyhose, for one), so I’ve mostly rounded up pants for you: [Read more…]

City Guides for Business Travel: Weather, Makeup, and More

city guides for business tripsWhen you’re preparing for work travel to a different part of the country, how do you decide just what to pack? Reader B has a question about business trips:

I find myself traveling to various cities for work and when I get there finding that I’ve not packed well for the weather or not brought the right makeup and/or hair products for the weather and/or water. Are you aware of any website or blog that discusses practical issues relating to getting ready for work in different cities? I have found articles about what products are popular in various parts of the country to be helpful but would like something more. Thanks.

Wow, what a great question, and I’m curious to see what readers say. Some thoughts:

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The Best Sheets

best-sheetsWe’ve talked about a lot of lifestyle things over the years on this blog — but we’ve never really talked about the home component! So first up: let’s discuss sheets. Which are your favorite sheets? Do you splurge on 1000-thread count luxury linens like Frette, or do you prefer highly-rated, well-reviewed sheets like L.L. Bean’s? Perhaps more importantly, who do you trust to tell you which sheets are good (particularly when “thread count” is often a work of fiction)? How often do you buy new ones?

For my $.02, I do believe that good sheets are worth the splurge — life is too short to deal with the breaking-in period with scratchy sheets! When we moved my son from the crib to the big boy bed I spent a good amount of money on sheets for him with this in mind. I first spent a lot of time and energy researching the best sheets for my parents’ 30th anniversary back in 2002, which at the time meant trekking to the library to pull an old issue of Consumer Reports, as well as running a few searches on my student Westlaw and Lexis account. My parents had never really had “luxury” sheets, and couldn’t believe how much better the L.L. Bean sheets I wound up getting them were — my whole family has never looked back.

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Stylish, Comfortable Shoes That Are Made to Last

Salvatore Ferragamo Carla Pump | CorporetteFor some women it makes more sense to splurge on “investment” shoes for work that (hopefully) you can wear for years, rather than choose cheaper ones that you’ll keep having to replace. Reader M wonders:

I am struggling with my shoe game! I would like to invest in shoes that are stylish, comfortable, and long lasting. I notice that guys purchase one expensive pair of work shoes but they last their entire careers. I work in the finance area in a young company. Have you seen any gems lately you would like to share?

I’m curious to hear what readers think here, because I have mixed opinions about this. First, the “classic” black pump does change — right now toes are pointy; in recent years they were almond-shaped instead. Second, beware of pregnancy, aging, and feet — many women find that their shoe size will change throughout their lives. Personally I gained about a half size with each pregnancy, which — after having to donate the vast majority of my shoe collection — makes me happy I never committed and spent the money on that pair of Manolos or Choos. Even just with aging, your arches may fall and your feet may widen. So: I kind of don’t believe in “lifetime” shoes for women.

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