Tablets were originally intended as consumer leisure devices, but now they are being seen used on the high street. One such “new” location is at retail beauty counters. Here, tablets are used to input and look up customer profiles, preferences and records, make and manage appointments and check stock levels.
This way is expected to increase, so understanding the ergonomics of tablet use is important for ergonomists, users, employers and designers. Mobile devices are inadequately addressed by the established, more traditional health and safety legislation designed to prevent health risks for users.
Using tablets has been associated with a number of musculoskeletal problems…
- Repetitive, awkward finger movements.
- Static, awkward postures of the neck and shoulders to read smaller, poorly placed screens.
- Awkward neck, shoulder and wrist postures during long use.
- Excessive gripping of devices
The best location for a tablet depends on what it will be used for…
- inputting (creating)
- consuming (viewing)
- a mixture of both.
Tablets can be used to consume content; reading text or viewing video/images, and they can be used to create content; inputting information. Consuming and creating have different user demands and so different positioning will suit each type of task. Observations at beauty counters show that most tablets are used to both consume and input information.
If a tablet is mostly used to consume media, then the position must be optimized for viewing:
- Place the device higher than the lap
- Tilt the screen toward the eyes
- Ensure the device is at an appropriate viewing distance to avoid forward bending.
- If the device must be hand-held, consider an armrest to prevent arm and shoulder fatigue.
If the device is primarily being used to create content, the positioning must be balanced so a user can both look at and reach it comfortably with their hands!
- Tilt the device towards the user – this can help reach a balance between seeing and touching the tablet. It will be best to treat the tablet more as a writing pad; consider the benefits of positioning it on a gentle slope – the usual position of a traditional writing desk.
Work tips: to reduce the risk of fatigue, discomfort and injury the following pointers to work comfortably should be followed…
- Reduce the duration and frequency of use. Take frequent microbreaks.
- Alternate fingers/hands when using, and particularly when holding, the tablet.
- Maintain neutral wrist posture and alternate hands when holding devices – don’t go for a death grip! Using a flexible, adjustable stand to support the tablet independently or a case with a hand strap will reduce gripping.
- Think about neck posture – try to avoid excessive looking down.
- Ensure tablets can be moved to a location that will suit each person’s needs.
- Relax! The neck should be straight, shoulders relaxed, and the arms near the body.
- Avoid twisting – use the tablet in front of the body.
Often tablets used in beauty counter environments will need to be viewed by employees and customers, or moved around the counter as products are tested and selected. When a tablet is intended to be mobile then the ergonomics of carrying the device must be considered. Using aids – such as hand straps, lanyards or shoulder straps – to reduce the death grip and allow users to relax the hands.
Tablet technologies at beauty counters will need to be protected from accidental or deliberate damage and theft. Where tablets are secured it is important that there is adequate ventilation so there’s is no risk over overheating. Similarly, any frame or enclosure should not interfere with wireless capability.