Jeff Meltzer – Ergonomic Office Equipment Consultant

Jeff Meltzer

Jeff MeltzerImagine you could prevent a surgery by changing an office. Imagine you could reduce waste and trim a budget in the same manner. Imagine you can reduce–even eliminate pain and increase a worker’s productivity just by making them more comfortable.

This imaginative world is Jeff Meltzer’s reality. As president of Applied Ergonomics, Meltzer consults with people, helping them set up a unique, ergonomic office fitted to their specific needs.

I was so blown away by the changes my office setup made in my own physiology and work productivity that I asked Meltzer for an interview so he could share some tips and tricks with us all. He graciously agreed.

CP: Can you offer an anecdote about someone whose life was changed after getting a proper office setup?

JM: Over the years I have been able to help a large number of people. Certainly one of the most dramatic impacts was for a man that worked at a law firm and was scheduled for double carpal tunnel surgery and we kept him from needing to go through with it.

CP: What’s one of the most common mistakes you find when consulting with people in regards to ergonomics?

JM: The most common mistake I see being made is that people are assigned a workstation that has already been set up by the previous occupant and they don’t even think about whether it will work well for them. And so they work for months or even years without being comfortable.

Ergonomics is very often just about asking the right questions and paying attention to your own body. It’s about self-awareness and making the connection between your immediate work environment and the strains on your body.

CP: What would you recommend for people who are building up the perfect office on a limited budget? 

JM: Good ergonomics on a limited budget can be a challenge. Cheap seating is usually a mistake in every way. It doesn’t give good support generally and the life expectancy of a cheap chair is a year or two while that of a quality chair is 7 to 12 years. So it turns out to be a better value and a better product that directly impacts your health, not to mention better for the environment, to reach for a higher quality chair.

When choosing a desk, it’s best to avoid a desk with a pencil drawer or apron because they can impact your shoulder posture. If you already have an office setup and are living with chronic pain, pay attention to those postures and movements that make it worse and then figure out what product you are interacting with that impacts this. A piecemeal approach to ergonomics can still be very beneficial if it is targeted correctly.

CP: Which piece of office equipment (in your opinion) is most worthy of investing in initially when someone is on a limited budget?

JM: I’m not sure that there is one universal item above others. One that we don’t even sell but is critical is a headset for those who are on the phone and computing as trying to cradle the handset with your head is really bad for your neck.

Basically, I look for aspects of the work or workstation that create tendencies toward reaching, twisting and slouching and try to mitigate them. One of the best tools for this is to replace the mouse with either a RollerMouse or Mousetrapper, which moves the cursor control to in front of the keyboard. This alone cuts down on most of the awkward reaching that is associated with computing.

Some of the other less considered but still important tools to consider are footrests for those working at a standard desk and are not tall enough to easily reach the surface, keyboard trays for the same purpose but also more generally to allow one to work essentially in their lap, document holders, monitor arms and task lights. Of course, sit/stand desks which have finally gone more mainstream in the US, can be a tremendous benefit.

CP: What would be your dream office setup for your clients if price were not a factor?

JM: A dream office is quite a question. I suppose it depends on what your job is, how many different tasks one does. If you are solely interacting with the computer all day, then I would want the freedom to work at a Focal Upright Sphere part of the time and a sit/stand desk with a Hag Capisco or the new Aeris 3D chair. Of course I would have a monitor array. And being an aesthete, it has to be beautiful.

Tips and Thoughts

I want to reiterate that becoming attuned to making the connection between how your body feels and the environment you are interacting with really is key.

First, you want to notice how you are sitting. Are you slouched, leaning over your desk, reclined or comfortably upright? You may need a new chair.

Are you reaching for the mouse or keyboard, with your arms extended or are your elbows comfortably at your side with your forearms gently forward and perhaps sloped a little downward? You may benefit from a keyboard tray with a mouse surface that is adjustable and can come up over the keyboard, or perhaps a RollerMouse or Mousetrapper.

Are your feet supported on the floor? Do you feel pressure on the underside of your thighs extending close to your knees? You may benefit from a footrest, which is good for your circulation as well as your lower back.

Are you getting sore legs and ankles from standing? You may benefit from a standing support mat.

Are you straining to read the screen? You may benefit from a larger monitor, or a monitor arm that can safely bring the screen closer.

Do you feel pressure in your forearm or wrist when you bend you wrist in any direction? Depending on which types of bends or rotation bother you, you may benefit from a pronated mouse or a split keyboard.

How Meltzer Became an Ergonomic Specialist – in His Own Words

I have always been ahead of my times, and my current occupation is another example of that. I began studying nutrition and ecology, and doing yoga and meditation, in high school and college in the 1970’s. I graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in Business, planning on going into my family’s retail business. After college though, I decided not to do this and had a variety of careers before I started this company, Applied Ergonomics.

My innate talents tend toward design and marketing, as well as finance, and after college I became a Market Maker on the CBOE (Chicago Board of Options Exchange) relatively early in its existence. I stayed there for five years, after which I went into residential rehabbing but had bad timing as interest rates were prohibitively high. Soon thereafter, I joined a company that was pioneering ergonomics and stayed with them for five years. Again, I was way ahead of the trend, and was able to interact with and learn from the real pioneers of the industry, both medical doctors and ergonomists.

I chose to open my own company but wanted to expand into the furniture business instead of being narrowly focused on ergonomics. I aligned with a forward thinking manufacturer and had pretty instant success. The contract furniture business has been a great fit for me because it calls on all my talents and interests from design to construction, from understanding client’s business work flow and culture to using my business education in running my own company.

Having the grounding that I do in ergonomics allows us to design better spaces for clients when working on large projects. I have continued to do individual ergonomics consulting throughout the last 25 years because it is incredibly gratifying to make a direct contribution to the quality of my clients’ lives. What sets my consulting apart from that of an OT (Occupational Therapist) is that I use specific products prescriptively as I know product intimately so I am able to recommend specific items to accomplish the result I want for the individual. I am also vendor agnostic and pull from manufacturers across the industry.

Follow Up

Thank you, Jeff Meltzer, for taking the time to answer these questions. I am very thankful to you and to Automattic, Inc. for my incredible office setup. I look forward to many years of pain-free work in this lovely, ergonomic environment.

Dream Office – Working Pain Free

IMG_20141023_194445912 2Relieving pain is all about listening to your body. I guess part of me knew that. But I didn’t know what to do with the signals my body was telling me. With my current job with Automattic, Inc., I was offered a consultation with ergonomic consultant Jeff Meltzer, president of Applied Ergonomics, who blew my mind.
Today I’m going to tell you how he helped me set up my office, and tomorrow I’m going to highlight him in an interview wherein he shares some tips that will most likely benefit you 🙂
After an hour-and-a-half Skype interview during which Meltzer assessed me as well as my living space, Meltzer suggested a certain office setup, and it was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. I haven’t worked this pain-free in years! And it’s all thanks to his questions and recommendations.
Questions and Answers
The first issue he addressed was my health history.  I have played the piano since I was quite young, becoming a piano major for a short time in college. Then I spent nearly two decades as a professional writer. This (and a bout of Lyme disease) left me with arthritis, bursitis and tendonitis. My fingers tended to lock when I worked a mouse too much.
Next he asked about my work habits and took a lot of measurements (which my husband helped me with). Most of my day, I work standing up. Eventually, I like to sit, though. I’m also short (5′ 2″) and a wee bit clutzy (yes, I have fallen off my exercise-ball chair in the past). Here’s what I ended up with:
My Office – (click the name of the piece of equipment to see what I have specifically)
IMG_20141017_164322947_HDR (1)Desk – I got the birch top, 60″ wide. This is a real treat since I stand most of the day. When I’m tired, I press some buttons, and it electrically adjusts to a lower position so I can sit. I put it back up at the end of the day so I’m ready to stand again in the morning. The pic up top has it in a standing position. Here it is lowered.
Chair – My beautiful HÅG Capisco – stylish and comfortable. Made for sitting in forwards or backwards so it’s fun, too!
Mouse – This is a life saver for me. Thanks to the HandShoe Wireless Mouse my fingers no longer lock. It’s designed to fully support the hand at a 30 degree pronation to minimize pinching and gripping of the mouse, as well as fly-away positioning of the thumb.  Due to the large platform shape my entire hand rests on the mouse, encouraging relaxation–just as their website says. It took me a day to get used to my sting-ray mouse, but my fingers dance in thanks every day now.
Tablik – The iPad holder – I wrote a detailed article about this on my blog.
Foot matting – According to Meltzer, this helps my circulation and my back. All I know is that pre-mat I could stand and work for about 3-4 hrs. without back pain. Now I average 6-7 hrs.
Tomorrow’s post highlights Meltzer’s tips and tricks for setting up your own office, even when on a tight budget. Until then…listen to your body and feel the pain melt away.

Making Applesauce the Easy Way

The apples are hanging heavy on the trees, and all the locals are in processing mode. Last year, we had a plethora of yumminess to turn into pies, apple sauce and apple butter. Three weeks into the chopping and peeling, it started getting a bit old. That’s when Chris came up with an innovative way to use technology we already owned to get the job done faster 🙂

How to Get Faster Service From Cable Providers

Motorola SurfBoard SBV6120E - EuroDOCSIS 3 cab...
Image via Wikipedia

I was getting seriously frustrated with our cable service provider until I realized that I could be a bit proactive and get faster Internet service on a budget for our techie family.
Look Into Your Modem Situation
If your Internet is going slowly, consider how many devices you are asking your modem to handle. You might be inadvertently causing an informations traffic jam. To fix this, extend your network with another wireless router so together they can easily handle all your devices.
Internet Service From Cable Providers is Crawling
Is it my fault or their? I know sometimes all our devices created a backlog, and we have to reboot. The problem is definitely on our end in that scenario. Other times, the cable company is at fault. My first step in figuring out the problem is checking the lights.
I can never remember which lights should be blinking on the modem and routers. One day I had a Eureka moment. I took out my camera. I recorded my entire Internet setup from cables to blinking lights. When the Internet goes out on me, I check my video archives to see which lights should blinking or highlighted and call the cable company if some lights are out. If the lights are all blinking properly, I try a reboot.
How to Reboot Your Cable Box and Routers
Sometimes your surfing and game go slowly because the router is messed up. Many routers will perform the DNS function for your local networks. It is not uncommon for the router’s DNS cache to get messed up. Here’s how to reset the router, wiping the cache clean:

  1. Figure out what feeds into what for your wireless configuration and write it down. Example: Our cable modem is the main source of connectivity. It links by ethernet to our old Vonage modem, which links via ethernet to our Airport Extreme router. Downstairs, we extend our network with another Airport Extreme.
  2. Unplug everything (all your routers and modems).
  3. Wait 30 seconds.
  4. Plug in your cable modem, but nothing else.
  5. Wait for approximately a minute to make sure it’s up and running.
  6. Plug in the next item in our connectivity queue (for us it would be the Vonage modem). Wait 30 seconds (just to be safe). Plug in the next item on your list (ours would be the Airport Express upstairs). Wait 30 seconds then go on to the next device on your list until all our modems and routers are connected.

The Speed Test
If your connection is still going slow, and you are tire of hearing your children’s screams as they lose in online games because their speed is too slow, then try running a speed test. This is a simple online test you can perform by going to a specific website for a speed test.
After you find out your speed (try several times over a period of 10 or 15 minutes to get a good average), check out your cable provider plan (shown online or you can ask a customer service representative). If the speeds are below the speed you are paying for, notify the cable company. They can reset things on their end to make your speed faster.
Stick to Your Guns
If you know you are getting a slower speed than what you are paying for, then double check the speed after the company says they have fixed it. Once I was promised that it was fixed, but it was still slow. I called back, and we discovered that our speed was adjusted in a local cable provider computer, but the main provider in another state had to “make a switch” that never happened until I brought it up.
I’m still not certain how that all works, but I do know that after that second call, our household had much faster Internet service, and I didn’t have to pay a penny more.
When you have Blu-rays, computers, tablets, Wii games, and other devices running, it’s easy for technological equipment to go on overload and clog up. Knowing how to keep it clear offers you the best service for your dollar. Your kids will really appreciate it, too. No more getting annihilated online due to slow speeds…

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pay it Forward Using Technology

Help Others
Image by Keoki Seu via Flickr

This morning I benefitted from someone “passing it on.” My friend Peggy was kind enough to take the time to post a link on Facebook. That link led to a blog post from What a Ride! In this post a woman wrote about how she spent an amazing day helping out others. Best of all, she did it with her kids.

What Does it Mean to Pay it Forward?
Many people are familiar with the concept of Paying it Forward from the “Pay it Forward” novel Catherine Ryan Hyde published in 2000. It later became a popular film created by Warner Brothers.
According to the Central Singapore Community Development Council the definition of Paying it Forward is: … premised on the simple idea of triggering a chain reaction of goodness. An individual does another a favour without expectation of self-gain. Instead he/she requests the recipient of the goodwill to pay it forward to other people. In turn, these other recipients will then pass it on to others. This sets off a chain reaction of goodness as described earlier.
The concept dates back even further than one might imagine. In 1784, Benjamin Franklin  wrote to his friend, Benjamin Webb: I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you […] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.
How Can We Pay it Forward?
When I think of helping someone, it usually means editing a paper for them or offering tips on children’s media. I am grateful for the fact that my information computer was a conduit today, educating me on different, creative ways to help others with my kids.
It inspired me to think of creative ways we can reach out to help others as a techiefamily.

  1. My composer son can create music that we burn to disc and share with friends – free of charge.
  2. I can use my bread machine to make fresh bread as a thank-you gift for someone we appreciate in our lives.
  3. We can design a book for a shut-in.
  4. We can create a how-to video to share with others who struggle with concepts we understand (ex: tips on long boarding tricks or fixing a common car problem).
  5. We can sell items on Ebay and donate the proceeds to a cause.

That’s just a start. I’ll have to think of some more because helping others is awesome. Thanks for the nudge, Peggy and What a Ride. Now it’s our turn to pass it on.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Keurig Coffee Machine – A Favorite Kitchen Appliance

It’s been a long week, and even though the stars are coming out, I can’t seem to get coffee off my mind. I figured this would be a good time to rave about one of our family’s favorite pieces of kitchen technology – our Keurig coffee maker. And no, this is not a paid ad for Keurig, I’m just sharing a good thing our family loves.
I remember one summer morning half a year after we purchased the machine. I was driving my son to work and realized that I had made one cup of decaf coffee, one cup of caffeinated coffee, a cup of hot chocolate, and a cup of tea in less than ten minutes while getting ready to head out the door. Now that’s pretty cool.
The Kitchen Appliance With the K-Cup® or The Filter?
What is a Keurig coffee maker? It’s this delightful machine that makes hot drinks one cup at a time in a matter of seconds. People can use a pre-measured K-Cup® purchased online or in a store such as Sears or Walmart. I will admit that we use selections from our K-Cup® collection sometimes when we have guests over. Generally, however, we’re not thrilled with the price or the waste. The K-Cup® averages $.50 a cup and the plastic liners aren’t very biodegradable.
Instead of using the K-Cup®, we use refillable filter inserts. Since the water is so pressurized going through, it takes cheap coffee and makes it taste great. We compost the grounds, rinse out the filter, and prepare the next cup. We keep six filters on hand for ease-of-use, and they have lasted for years.
Why We Love Our Keurig
You know those amazing $4.00 coffee store drinks? They haven’t even tempted me since we bought our machine. When we want a fancy drink, we just make our own froth and drizzle some caramel or peppermint shards over it.
As an additional perk, we always have hot chocolate ready for the kids before they even get their boots off after coming in out of the snow. I don’t have to keep a tea-pot at the ready – all I have to do is press a button.
Our Really Good Deal That Was, Then Wasn’t, Then Was Again
I’m a tightwad so when I decided to get the Keurig machine as a Christmas present for my husband, I turned to Ebay. The good news was that I got a really great deal. The bad news was that when I received the Keurig B60 from Ebay and turned it on, the “not ready” message was blinking. I called the company and honestly told them my problem and also mentioned that it was an Ebay purchase with no warranty. They fixed my problem for free anyway, and they were very friendly. I will definitely consider purchasing more from them in the future based on this experience. We reset my machine by doing the following two steps:

  1. Press the small and medium cup buttons at the same time then immediately press the menu button three times (the number listed there showed how many cups of coffee the machine had made–mine said 0:04 which was four cups).
  2. Hold the medium cup button and hit menu button then the small cup button quickly while still holding the medium button then release the small and medium quickly.
Tips For Using The Filters
  • Watch your grind. If it’s too fine, the filter clogs. If it’s too coarse, you won’t get the flavor. We find that Folgers® has the perfect mix. Black Silk is our favorite.
  • Do surgery on a K-Cup®. If the water flows through your filter too fast, you can create your own homemade baffle. We got this idea from the Amazon forums. To do this you:
  1. Enjoy a fabulous cup of coffee using a store-bought K-Cup® (most new machines come with a K-Cup® sampler).
  2. Peel the top of the K-Cup® off and throw it out.
  3. Carefully cut the top of the K-Cup® along the horizontal line near the top of the k-cup.
  4. Make sure the hole knock-out at the base of the K-Cup® is fully knocked out, preventing blockage.
  5. Insert the K-Cup® liner into the plastic filter cartridge that the filter goes into (it generally comes with the filter package).
  6. Fill your filter with fresh coffee grounds.
  7. Insert the filter into the cartridge, nestling it into the homemade baffle.
  8. Twist on the lid.
  9. Place the filter into the Keurig per the directions on the cartridge and make your coffee.
Features That Make Our Lives Easier
The Keurig coffee machine is filled with great features ranging from auto-start and auto-shutoff to temperature control. It’s simple to use, and you can easily choose which size drink you would like to enjoy. You set your mug on an overflow section that pops right into the dishwasher if you ever want to clean it. All-in-all, it’s a really smooth process. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make myself a cup of coffee… Want to join me?
Enhanced by Zemanta

How to Help Non-Techies Learn to Use the Internet

There are certain members of  my family who are amazingly smart and skillful in many arenas – just not the technological arena. This has become a bit of a problem since people try to send them information by email, and they want to order products online. We have tried numerous ways to help them become hip to the net (I know, my boys, eye roll time at my old-school word usage). At first it seemed like nothing would work, but recently I have begun to have hope. Here are some steps we are using to smooth the path to the Internet highway:
Offer the Proper Tools to Learn to Use the Internet
Time is in your favor here. Years ago we tried to teach our non-techie loved ones how to use the computer. It was sort of dismal. We literally drew arrows on the CPU and monitor to show how to turn it on and spent a ridiculous of time trying to explain how to use a mouse without clicking so many times that the computer would freeze. All it did was make them feel down on themselves, and now they are techno-phobic.
Then the iPad came along. Quite frankly, any tablet would do (sorry, fellow Apple fans, I just had to be real for a moment there). It is so much easier to tap a screen than it is to manipulate a mouse. It also helps if the person who is using  the technology can move around to a spot where they are comfortable. If you do choose to use a laptop or desktop, set it up to avoid as many pop-up screens as possible. They can really be overwhelming to a newbie.
Consider Unique Personalities
What will appeal to your non-techie the most, giving them incentive to use Internet tools? One person in my family is really into classic church hymns, so I set up the iPad to play George Beverly Shea and Gaither stations on Pandora. Now the family member can hear the music with only a couple of taps. Another family member loves to watch photos so we uploaded a bunch of family photos and turned them into the computer screen saver so now the person has incentive to boot the machine. It’s a start, right?
Set up Email and Other Accounts in Advance
While it’s nice to have a person have a say in what their email is going to be, this might be overwhelming to the techie novice. Before you lead them to the computer for email, set up an account and add a few close family members or friends to the address book. Don’t give out the email address to others until the person is more comfortable with the programs. Stick by them as they learn to compose, respond and forward as well as open attachments. Once they become comfortable with email, you can offer to change their email address if desired.
Explain How to Use Video Cams 
This might be a step that seems too advanced for a beginner, but it might be the most important. While the videos showing couples trying to figure out cameras might be amusing, it’s really better for everyone if you can make the process smooth. Video chatting can be invaluable, especially when you have elderly relatives who don’t see and type well. It’s also helpful for visual check-ins on relatives and friends who live far away.
These suggestions are the tip of an iceberg, but they really help non-techies get comfortable with the web, and that benefits everyone. Slow and steady. It’s a good way to go.

Enhanced by Zemanta