Is Your To-Do List Hurting You? (Safely Managing Work Overload)

 

It is getting close to lunch! It is late Friday afternoon! My presentation is in 45 minutes! My deadline is in 2 hours! Wait! Just 5 more e-mails to respond to!

These are just a few of the myriad “reasonable” excuses we allow ourselves for ignoring our discomforts and soldiering on at work. And while these justifications may seem reasonable, even necessary at times, it is precisely this kind of attitude which can lead to everything from simple muscle fatigue and self massage to acute pain and a visit to the clinic!

The real question is: Why do we ignore the signals our bodies are giving us?

The disquieting answer lies in the following oxymoron: We get comfortable with our discomforts!  That’s right! As long as that pain in our forearm or that twinge in our back or that tingle in our fingers is what we are used to on a daily basis, we tend to work through it because we are all so busy!

Studies have shown that most people will deal with, even ignore, one or two minor discomforts as long they do not “interfere” with the completion of the task at hand. However, when, for example  that familiar pain that normally resides is in the neck and shoulder starts to migrate to the elbow and forearm………that is when many  of us will raise our hand and ask for help!

How can we forestall this “clustering” approach  in order to avoid fatigue, discomfort, pain and injury?

When your body talks to you….listen!  But remember, your body speaks many different languages! Fatigue is a different sensation than cramping; than pain; than numbing and tingling. Just because it is not pain, doesn’t mean that you can ignore certain signals. Ignoring your body’s warnings signals, will mostly likely lead to pain and injury in the long-run.

And when you do listen to your body… how do you know that you are responding in an appropriate manner? My favorite example of this is the “mousing” forearm. How many times have people told me that their mousing arm hurt to the point where they switched the mouse to the other hand! And while this does fall under the definition of “listening and responding” to your body signals, in this case wrist and/or forearm pain, it is not only a short-term solution, but it will expose the other arm to the same set of physical issues if the device is being used improperly in the first place!

Therefore, what are some practical long–term solutions?

  • Set-Up, Set-Up & Set-Up! In order to reduce stress on the body, decrease the exposures to RSI and prepare for the movements associated with computer work, proper set-up of your equipment is essential. An ergonomic assessment will help you to determine what is the best equipment for the job that you do and the best way to set-up that equipment in relation to your particular body!
  • Posture & Movement.  An integral part of any present day ergo assessment is a strong focus on dynamic sitting (or standing) postures and the movements you make from those particular postures to best perform your tasks. For example: while reclined sitting may be fine if you are talking on the phone or listening to a colleague, it is potentially deleterious to engage in mousing or typing from this position, as it will necessitate a far reach, thus increasing stress on your neck and shoulders (not mention your lower back!) Therefore, matching the proper sitting posture with the activities at hand is critical to your long-term health and comfort and should be fundamental to any ergo assessment!
  • Stretching &  Break Time.  Even if you are both diligent and vigilant regarding  set-up and posture, the human body was not meant to remain in any one position for an extended period of time. Take a break! A 30 second stretch break every 30-60 minutes will do you a world of good! If you are talking on the phone, stand up and stretch your legs. When you find yourself “turtlenecking”, make sure to open your shoulders and rebalance your head over the plane of your spine to help avoid neck pain. And when you have your lunch break, make sure that take some time for yourself to relax or take a walk and shut-off from the rigors of your job.
  • Manage Your Time and Get Organized.  Avoiding crunch time and overload leads to a more manageable work day!
  • Exercise & Rest! Need I say more! Exercising at least three times per week, for an hour each time, will greatly improve your health and help decrease your exposures to RSI in combination with the above. And finally, getting your proper rest both recharges your battery and allows you to recuperate from the stress you endure during your work day!

Stay tuned for more articles that will delve into each one of these topics in greater detail!  In the meanwhile, please leave a comment below!  Your input and observations are most welcome! Hope to hear from you.

Andrew Blumenfeld, PBE Co-Founder

 

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