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A Survival Strategy for Desk-bound Office Workers

Office Workers

When working in an office, it is easy for us to lose sight of time amongst the chaos and forget to take the breaks that we need. The common advice to overcome workplace health issues relating to Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) is to take frequent breaks, such as a 5 minute break every 45 to 60 minutes. What about 10 second breaks?

Much of the stress in RSI is due to muscle fatigue. Fatigued muscles are not able to do their jobs well, and therefore require occasional rest for recovery. Muscles recover very quickly from low levels of fatigue, but quite slowly from high levels of fatigue. Therefore, recovery at frequent periods from low-level fatigue will usually only take around 10 seconds, while high levels of fatigue will require several hours of rest to recover fully.

A Survival Strategy

Micro pauses, or micro-breaks are regular, small, biologically meaningful breaks from being stuck in one position in the office. These breaks are usually 5 to 10 seconds long and are to be taken every 4 to 10 minutes of repetitive motions (or stationary positions). This dynamic ergonomics concept is an improvement on old-school ergonomic priorities based on ideal positioning. Even with high end ergonomically designed products, no chair or efficiently arranged computer workstation can protect you from the potential dangers of sitting for hours daily without a break. Thus, these pauses relax you and allow you to take on a different posture, position and eye focus.

The Advantages

While sedentariness and excessive sitting do not actually cause back pain (contrary to popular assumption), research has revealed that exercise and activity are the best overall treatment for back pain. Thus, micro-breaks are quite advantageous for these reasons:

  • They take very little time and can easily be developed to become a healthy habit.
  • They prevent fatigue build up.
  • They are taken before discomfort occurs.
  • Micro pauses are the most effective and efficient breaks you can take, but remembering to take them is difficult.

What to do during a Micro-break

Getting up and doing anything is probably better than nothing, but good micro-breaks definitely involve more than a trip to the pantry. A micro-break really means micro workout. Here are some things that you can try during your micro-break:

  • Look away from what you are working on and let go of the mouse if you are using the computer.
  • Drop your arms to your sides, lean back and allow your shoulders to droop and relax.
  • Pointing the hands towards the floor and gently shaking the wrists is a good idea.
  • Do this for 5 – 10 seconds.

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