Today’s post is unique. It’s a combination of an article and product review… and it’s all for Contour’s Rollermouse.
Our world has definitely shifted towards the office workstation. In 2011, an average of 53% of employees in the European Union (27 countries) used a computer at their workstation. This percentage is even higher in Germany (61%), Finland (72%), Sweden (71%), and Norway (71%). Working with computers even with the most ideal work set-up, there is still ergonomic risk for the upper extremities, specifically the hand, arm, and shoulder. Adding to this, there are so many products in the marketplace today that are marketed to ‘improve the ergonomics’ but many times I suspect it is just a clever marketing campaign. I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to marketers promising the moon when it comes to ergonomics, but in reality the product never delivers. This was the inspiration behind this post.
We’ve posted before on the value of compact keyboards in reducing long reaches to the mouse. Take a look at the picture below. Now, although this is considered to be a much better posture than with using a conventional keyboard, this position may still be uncomfortable for some users. Research has shown that working with a mouse activates the neck muscles more than working with keyboard. This may be because a combination of posture (reach) and actions (mouse work requires precision and speed)
The rollermousechanges the location of the mouse entirely by putting it in a central location (see below). This is a strategic move that significantly reduces shoulder strain when comparing it to a traditional/conventional type of mouse. Also notable, is that this mouse has even more of a positive effect on females. After looking at the picture below, I’m sure some of you will already see one of the faults with its design. More on this below, in the ‘cons’ section.
Let’s move onto the Product Review…
This mouse is quite different compared to most mice on the market today. Instead of sitting to the left or the right of the keyboard, it attaches directly in front of the keyboard, between the user and the keyboard.
Ideal for Right Handed Mousers. The rollermouse would be ideal for individuals who are right handed mousers who also experience some sort of shoulder discomfort or injury. Take a look at the picture below that compares a traditional type of mouse with the rollermouse. You can see that with the traditional mouse, there is a lot of extended and long reaches to the mouse with the right arm. Compare this to the rollermouse where the hand movement is centralized. Why only for right handed users? Well, the number pad is attached to the right hand side of the keyboard that makes right handed mousing very ergonomically awkward. Of course left handed mousers will get value out of a mouse design like this too.
Design. Research indicates that users report less discomfort in the wrists and fingers after using this type of mouse. It’s central design does not limit mousing to only one hand, or even two fingers, like the traditional mouse. The top scroll wheel (see below) navigates within the screen that is presented and the lower scroll is to move the cursor up or down a page. I’m sure you can see the value in this design; you can use one finger, multiple fingers, or alternate hands very easily during use. More options in use are always a positive because it limits strain that would accumulate in just one hand. This is very valuable from both prevention and reactive perspectives, especially those with long-term or chronic conditions (such as arthritis in the hands/upper extremities).
On a personal note, this mouse has been extremely useful when accommodating injured workers in their return to work. Specifically for right hand dominant mouse users who sustained a significant right arm injury, mousing becomes difficult or nearly impossible. The rollermouse was incredibly useful because its central location allowed the user to still use it with their injured right arm, but it was so simple in design that it wasn’t a deal breaker for the left hand.
Force. Two types of force are significantly reduced with this mouse. Firstly, this mouse requires very little force to operate, as the controls can be lightly touched with any finger on any hand. Secondly, the force that is required to grip a traditional mouse is eliminated (for those who tend to grip forcibly, of course).
Increased Forward Reach Distance to Keyboard. I wanted to show this picture again because it best illustrates this point. Although the side shoulder reaching with the traditional mouse is eliminated with the rollermouse, it does introduce much more forward reaching. Forward reaching can increase shoulder and lower back strain due to leaned forward back postures. These both are considered to be awkward postures and therefore ergonomic risky.
Scepticism. In my opinion (research supports this too), too many people at first are very skeptical of this type of mouse. Heck, even I was skeptical when I first saw it and I’m a Professional Ergonomist! If you can trial the mouse before purchasing. Or, if you manage the ergonomics program in your organization, consider purchasing one for people to try beforehand. After trialing this mouse many will change their minds.
There is one big decision with the rollermouse. The reduction in side-reaching and a light touch with any finger/either hand to operate should be weighed against the increased forward reach distance. Of course, it all depends on the specific concerns of each person, and it is nearly impossible to generalize here.
Kluth, K. & Keller, E. (2015). Rollerbar mouse as an ergonomic alternative to a standard computer mouse. Occupational Ergonomics. 12, 33-48.