Repetitive Strain Injury

68 per cent of employees in the Middle East suffer from repetitive strain injury. Are you sitting comfortably?

Shockingly, it has been revealed that 68 per cent of employees in the Middle East suffer from repetitive strain injury (RSI). The study by the UK’s Chartered Society of Physiotherapy stated that likely causes here are ‘poorly fitted office chairs, long working hours and hot summer months preventing staff from taking breaks from their computer screens’. Sure, it’s important to put the effort in at work, but is it worth crippling yourself?

The answer to that, obviously, is no. Which is where ergonomics, the study of how to best fit the job, equipment and workplace to the worker, comes into play. ‘There are no set ergonomic laws about how an office should be designed in the UAE,’ says Fiona Chandler, from Dubai-based interior design consultancy, CitySpace. ‘Dubai’s freezones are currently writing the guidebooks as they go along – with most leaning towards European standards.’

Within any office there are ergonomic ideals that only the most senior can control. ‘The optimum office temperature is 22C,’ explains Nick Burnett, also of CitySpace. ‘And, according to European standards, each worker should have 70-75 square feet of space, the ceiling should be 2.7m high and, ideally, computer screens ought to be attached to the desk via an adjustable monitor arm so they can be adjusted to fit anyone – especially in a city as international as Dubai’.

But what if you’ve already been allocated a workspace and there’s no chance of your boss making it more ergonomically-friendly? CitySpace still has a few suggestions:

1) ‘Place your hand on the small of your back. Does your chair offer extra (lumbar) support in this area? If not, and you can’t swap the chair, it’s worth placing a non-bulky cushion in this spot, to support your back.’

2) ‘If your chair has wheels, it should have five. Four means that it cannot balance properly, and you should try to replace it.’

3) ‘If you’re going to invest in a chair, go for one designed and manufactured by a reputable furniture company , for example Herman Miller. Their Aeron chair was designed 25 years ago and is proven to be ergonomically sound. Mesh chairs are also popular at the moment, and improve airflow.’

4) ‘The top of your screen should always be in line with your eye level, otherwise you will cause neck strain. Invest in a stand, monitor arm – or at least use a pile of books.’

5) ‘If you’re not located near a window (ideally, a workspace should be), ensure you have some other aesthetically pleasant feature, such as flowers or a plant near you to focus on every now and again. It will do wonders for your state of mind.’

6) ‘Be aware of the variety of potential work spaces within your office – soft seating areas, cafés or even your office lunch room. Moving around helps to keep your creative stimulus alive.’

7) ‘The most ergonomic stance is standing, as you can continually adjust your position to avoid putting pressure on your back. Don’t be afraid to work standing at a bench or even around waist high storage cabinets, especially during brainstorming sessions.’

8) ‘The less storage there is in an office, the better. Clutter is psychologically stifling. Have regular clear-outs and keep your desk tidy.’

9) ‘Other useful accessories include foot rests, mouse and mouse pads, each specifically designed to tilt the feet and hands in the correct direction and improve bloodflow.’

10) ‘Learn to touch-type – or at least learn some keyboard shortcuts to avoid reaching for the mouse as much as possible. Some employees in multinational companies have even taken ergonomic training to learn how to use to the mouse with the left hand (if right-handed) and vice versa, to help vary posture and avoid RSI.’

Want more

CitySpace, 04 351 1199, www.cityspace.ae

Colebrook Bosson and Saunders for ergonomic accessories, www.colebrookbossonsaunders.com

California Chiropractic & Sports Medicine Centre will assess whether your office or working environment is the cause of poor posture and subsequent back pain and problems, 04 429 8292, www.californiachiropracticcenter.com

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