Once a malady of meat cutters and factory line workers, repetitive stress (or strain) injuries can cause a lot of unnecessary pain and potentially make simple office talks impossible. As more and more of us spend time on the Web and doing e-mail, the incidence of RSI is rising.
But the effects of the condition can be controlled, slowed or reversed. Before your employees start gobbling down aspirin on a daily basis, take the time to educate them and make changes to work habits before problems -- and insurance costs -- mount.
Review workstations and make changes if necessaryOutdated desks will need keyboard trays, and monitors must be high enough to meet eye-level, or poor posture will quickly lead to pain.
Occupational Health and Safety Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control. General health site WebMD also has detailed explanations.
Consider updating office equipmentSome fixes are simple, like adjustable monitor arms or keyboard trays. Others are more complex and of debatable value, but seeing the variety of ergonomic options can help you plan your space.
Build in breaks from computer timeThe source of repetitive strain injury is in the first word, "repetitive." In some cases, just stopping on a regular basis will keep the condition at bay.
Make things easier using your own computerOne of the reasons for bad posture is having trouble seeing small fonts. People lean forward and, pretty soon, the back and neck pain sets in.
Learn the signs of repetitive strain injury and how to head it off earlyPeople who are injured slightly sometimes think they can "walk it off" or overcome the pain by just working through it. Nonsense. Pain is your body saying "Knock it off!"
RSI Action site is complete yet easy to digest. The Typing Injury FAQ page is packed with detailed data and research.
- Repetitive strain injury is not mental or imaginary. If your employees say their hands, neck or back hurt, they should see a doctor while it's still early and RSI can be treated most easily.
- Enforced breaks are hard to instigate and perhaps unproductive, but it won't hurt to encourage regular, short work stoppages in an informal way -- say for mid-morning coffee -- to instill the idea that getting up and walking around from time to time is not forbidden or looked poorly on.
- Watch for employees with aspirin bottles always out on their desks or who frequently work without stopping for hours at a time. Talk with them directly and make it clear that their health is important to the company, more important than any slight improvements in output.