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Byword: A blog by and for the TW community

Healthy Habits for the Transcriber

Think back, transcribers, to the first time you learned about TypeWell. You read through all the training requirements, nodded your head eagerly and said, "I can do this!" One of TypeWell's cautions, right off the bat, was that if you had any history of pain in your arms or wrists, this job might not be for you. As you continued on through the Basic Skills Course, you were frequently reminded to sit correctly, with your computer on an adjustable stand to ensure correct posture. The ever-mindful Kyp made you take breaks throughout the course of your training. Things were going great!

Empty Desks"When you do on-site work, you have to make do with what you have."

Fast-forward to real life. Classrooms are overcrowded and some professors lecture endlessly for upwards of 90 minutes. When you are transcribing in the real world, you may find you have little control over your assigned work spaces and you're no longer reminded to take regular ergonomic breaks. Even if you started your training without any history of pain in your arms or wrists, there's a risk of developing symptoms of overuse injuries over time.

When you do on-site transcribing work, you have to make do with what you have. You might have to squeeze into the first empty seat you can find. (While working in an elementary school, I actually found myself sitting at a child-height desk and miniature chair in a packed art room.) 

In a college lecture hall, you're probably better off just sitting with your laptop on your lap than trying to make use of those tiny fold over half-desks. Some environments are not conducive to an ideal work space for transcribing, so if there is something you really need, you have to ask for it.

If there is something you really need, you have to ask for it.

I have worked in college classes where it was not feasible to speak with the professor before class, especially if I was just covering the class for a day. Still, as a professional transcriber, you should always try to make the effort to speak with teachers and professors, not just to make sure they know who you are and what you are doing in their classroom, but also to ask for the physical resources you may need. If you ask for a standard chair — rather than stuffing into a mini-desk — most teachers will be happy to show you where to get one, or maybe even get one for you! (On some campuses, it may be more appropriate to ask your supervisor or disability service coordinator to reserve a standard chair for you through more formal channels.)

"Working remotely, many of us find that our best quality work is done from the comfort of our homes."

However, that home environment can also allow your laziest physical tendencies to surface.  You can work from the coffee table, from the couch, from the bed … the possibilities are endless! But all of this slouching and scrunching takes its toll. When you work from soft surfaces, your upper spine curves as you tilt your head down and your lower spine curves as it sinks into the cushions. As tempting as it is to log on for remote assignments from your couch or your bed, get yourself into a proper workstation.

man working at standing height desk
"Standing up while you work is really ideal."

I live in a tiny apartment with no real office space, but setting up an appropriate and ergonomic work area for myself was a priority. So, I set up my desk in a corner of the dining room. My laptop rests on the upper tier of the desk. The elevation ensures the screen is level with my eyes and keeps me looking forward instead of down. 

I use a wireless, external mouse and keyboard at the lower desk level and have a height-adjustable chair with a lumbar support pillow to keep me propped up. I use a wrist support cushion and have been known to utilize wrist braces if I need the additional support. I also use over-the-ear headphones. They are comfortable to wear for long periods of time and are better for the ears than earbuds.

Embrace the fact that you do have control over your work environment when you work remotely. Build your work space to suit your needs and then use it … you can still wear your pajamas if you want to.

No matter where you work, transcribing requires looking at computer screens for extended periods of time. It's important to get regular eye exams. Even if you have perfect vision, a mild reading glass prescription can help when your eyes start feeling fatigued. You can also “stretch” your eyes by intermittently refocusing your sight onto something in the distance while you are working.

Half Sunrise Salutation"Make sure you're getting up and moving around between assignments."

Stretching your eyes is a great start, but don’t forget the rest of your body. Studies show that sitting for long periods of time throughout the day can have irreversible negative effects on your body. When you work on-site, walking from class to class is the natural way to get your blood flowing again. Remember also to shake and stretch your hands out.

If you work from home and you have the option to stand up while you work, that is really ideal. If that’s not an option, you should be making sure you're getting up and moving around between assignments. 

Do your wrist stretches, of course, but also work your whole body.  My favorite full-body stretch to get my blood flowing is doing a quick Half Sun Salutation. Here's a YouTube video showing how you do it. 

As a transcriber, your physical well-being is paramount. Sit properly, stand up and move as much as you can, and take care of your eyes. These are the healthy habits that will ensure your ability to continue providing services for years to come.

What other healthy habits have you developed?


Christy Hack

Christy Hack is a freelance remote-based TypeWell transcriber and mother of two boys. Working remotely allows her to continually redefine her definition of what it means to be a stay-at-home mom.

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