There’s no doubt about it: Left-handers live in a right-handed world. “Lefties,” as they’re affectionately known, make up just over 10 percent of the world’s population and approximately 12 percent of the American workforce.
Left-handed people may have difficulties at work due to challenges right-handers never have to think about. Commonly known leftie struggles include writing and using scissors, but other situations are a bit less well-known.
- Can openers, as an example, only turn a certain way. Left-handers must reach across their bodies, cross their arms, and awkwardly bend their wrists to use one.
- Tape measures end up upside down.
- To staple papers neatly, the stack must be rotated 90 degrees so the stapler aligns correctly.
- Coffee mug graphics face lefties’ bodies instead of outward where they can be enjoyed by passersby.
Imagine the physical strain of using a mousepad attached to your desk on the wrong side or having the metal spirals of a notebook cut into your wrist or forearm for extended periods as you take notes. Lefties deal with smudged or, even worse, erased paper and whiteboards because their hand follows behind their writing at an odd angle. Furthermore, they spend their lives apologizing to righties for bumping elbows.
Office solutions for lefties
Thankfully, many of these common left-hander problems have easy solutions, especially when it comes to workspace setup and office supplies. A lot of specialty products exist for lefties. Left-handed scissors and desks are particularly easy to find.
Other fixes involve simple swaps. Ditch spiral notebooks for composition books or “handed” scissors that anyone can use without discomfort. Exchange single graphic cups for ones with wrap-around graphics. Keep workspace elements, such as mousepads, moveable instead of stationary. Even right-handers appreciate being able to tweak their desk layout!
Left-handed writing products
When a leftie writes, their hand not only blocks what they’ve written from view, but also drags through it unless they cock their wrist and write above the line at an angle. This writing style isn’t ergonomic. It contributes to hand pain, carpal tunnel, and less productivity. Additionally, it can cause a lot of frustration, both for the leftie and the people reading their handwriting.
Using quick-dry pens eliminates the smearing issue. Wet-erase markers for whiteboards keep writing visible even when someone’s hand or shirt sleeve drags through it. There are even specific pens for left-handers with a curved barrel, fast-drying ink, and a unique finger grip that increase visibility, minimize awkward writing angles, and reduce smudging.
While notebooks for lefties do exist, they’re expensive and difficult to source. The best alternatives reduce hand and wrist pain and allow for the book to be angled so writing is visible. Lay-flat journals or Coptic bound notebooks offer a great solution, as do composition books, legal pads, and top-bound notebooks.
Left-handed workspace solutions
When it comes to making workspaces and workspace elements leftie friendly, mobility matters. Anything a rightie can do, a leftie can do—just on the other side. As such, the ability to re-align an L-shaped desk, move a trackpad, or shift the filing cabinet makes all the difference. Avoid stationary setups if at all possible.
For lefties who work with numbers, standard keyboard setups contribute to a lower rate of productivity because the number pad is on the right side. Wireless numeric keypads offer an inexpensive solution and allow faster, easier access. Similarly, wireless mouses reduce workspace clutter because the cord doesn’t have to cross over, behind, or around anything to get to the left side.
In the conference or break room, try to give left-handed people the far-left corner at the table so they can be more comfortable and avoid bumping elbows with right-handers. In other group scenarios like lectures, group trainings, or classes, lefties often get stuck with single-purpose right-handed desks, leaving them with no support for their elbow. A folding tray table provides a handy (no pun intended!), no-fuss solution.
Leftie office tools
Guillotine paper cutters, can openers, copy machines, and many other common office tools are made for righties. Sometimes, lefties just have to adapt by changing their body position, crossing their hands, or requesting assistance for tasks requiring fine motor skills. Other times, the fix is simple: Keep an electric can opener in the break room or use a copy machine with the command pad in the center instead of the right side.
When companies pay attention to the needs of left-handed employees, it helps boost productivity—and even morale. All employees can work to the best of their abilities, and everyone, no matter their dominant hand, feels valued.