Today we are continuing our series on ergonomic product reviews on some of the common items that you would see in the office.
Previous posts have reviewed:
This week we will be reviewing the Penguin Mouse. To take a look at our links to this product, you might have to turn off any ad-blockers that may be running in your web browser.
The Penguin mouse is an alternative type of mouse that is oriented vertically at 90 degrees. A 90 degree position is considered to be more of a neutral or ‘handshake’ position. This is considered ideal in reducing the likelihood of developing a musculoskeletal injury. This, and many more design aspects of this mouse will be further discussed below.
Ambidextrous Design. The Penguin mouse allows the user to easily switch between the left and right hands by pressing a toggle switch near the base of the mouse. Why would switching mousing hands serve any ergonomic benefit? Well, switching between hands can be a game changer for users with chronic conditions (like arthritis) or long-term discomfort (like wrist pain). By switching between hands you are essentially reducing the amount of strain that is exposed to just one hand. Mind you, you would also be able to do this with a conventional designed mouse.
I often get asked what I would recommend for a rotation schedule for mouse switching. Well like any good ergonomic answer, it depends. There are a number of factors that should determine the frequency of switching between hands:
- Severity of discomfort that is experienced in the mousing hand
- Amount of time that is spent using the mouse
- A good example would be a word processing job vs. a design job. A design job may require much more frequent switching compared to a word processing focused job.
- How familiar the user is with non-dominant hand mousing
- Getting used to mousing with the non-dominant hand can seem quite daunting at first. But through my experience, it usually takes about a few days to get familiar with mousing and about one week to totally. The key learning here is if you have some discomfort in your dominant mousing hand, take the steps today to switch to non-dominant hand mousing as to cement a seamless rotation schedule in the future.
- The rotation schedule can either be from the preventative or reactionary standpoint
- Preventative: Some of my past clients have used a formal schedule to switch between mousing hands. This is where they are not yet experiencing any hand/wrist discomfort and would like to keep it that way. Some like to switch monthly, twice a month, or at the start of each work week. It really depends on what works best for you.
- Reactive: This approach is when someone already is experiencing some discomfort due to a chronic condition or long term strain. With this method, as soon as notice one of these warning signs of ergonomic risk or that their symptoms are present, they would immediately switch to the other hand. This, of course, could be in addition to a more formal schedule, similar to the preventative strategy.
‘Handshake’ Design. Arm pronation (palm down posture) is considered to be an awkward posture and when combined with other ergonomic risk factors (such as prolonged use, forceful gripping or frequent activity) may result in pain and discomfort overtime. This is why some shy away from the typical, conventional mouse as it requires a pronated posture to use. This is where the Penguin mouse shines. The design places the user’s arm into a ‘handshake’ posture, which is considered to be more neutral. This means that many users feel relief when using this mouse. Disclaimer: make sure you know the root cause of discomfort symptoms before jumping into a solution!
Additionally, I find that the ‘handshake’ design can reduce the amount of side-to-side wrist activity that can be a source of discomfort for some users. This movement is pretty much eliminated by placing the wrist into the handshake posture.
Sizing Options. Another unique design aspect of this mouse is that it is available in multiple sizes. The penguin mouse is available in small, medium or large. This will likely appeal to many. Having a good fit mouse to the user’s hand is essential for incorporating optimal ergonomics. This is because when a mouse is ‘just right’ to a user’s hand, it eliminates the tendency of the user to grip the mouse too forcibly. Forceful gripping can be associated with overuse injuries such as tennis elbow. Getting an incorrect size could actually lead to more risk for musculoskeletal injuries instead of reducing them.
Button Location. The buttons to control the mouse are located on its front. The scroll function is located in between the ‘left’ and ‘right’ mouse buttons. In my opinion, this button placement is in a slightly counter-intuitive position. As illustrated in the picture to the right, the fingers must fit around the scroll function to activate the mouse. This causes the fingers to splay, which is considered to be an awkward posture, an ergonomic risk factor. Overtime some may feel discomfort and pain in the fingers as a result of sustained and static finger postures required to activate the buttons in this position. This is especially true if they have a pre-existing condition.
Additionally, the position of the buttons on the front of the mouse requires to fingers to flex into an awkward position to activate them. It should be noted that that a very small amount of force is required to press the buttons, however this is still an ergonomic risk factor.
The Penguin mouse has a number of clear benefits to its design:
- Ambidextrous Design (very rare for vertical-type mouse designs)
- 90 degree position (aka handshake design)
- Sizing options
These positives must be weighed against the button location, as some may find button activation to be awkward. Is this mouse right for you? Well it all depends on design aspects are important to you or if you have discomfort, where it is located/what are the root causes to its development. I recommend trying the mouse before purchasing.