Saturday, October 20, 2012


Having spent countless hours in front of the computer for well over a decade and damaging my eyesight in the process, I decided to get a bit more serious about my health. Yeah, and then age is fast catching up on me, and things that looked trivial a few years ago like waking up one morning and playing badminton like crazy for 2 hours – still to be very fine the next day – have now become impossible.

People who sit for long hours in front of the computer are susceptible to RSI (Repetitive Stress/Strain Injury). The key to prevent RSI is to have a nice posture while you sit in front of the computer and to take regular breaks. Now, sitting with a proper posture may or may not be in every office worker’s hand (at least in this part of the world where investing in ergonomic equipment is the last thing on an organization’s mind). However, if there is one thing that we all can religiously do – is take regular breaks.

What is RSI and what can you do to prevent it?

Though I know that taking breaks is good for my health, when it really comes to taking breaks, I tend to either be lazy or I just forget. So, in the last few months, I have disciplined myself by using an open source softwareWorkrave.

What Workrave essentially does is – at pre-configured intervals – it reminds me to take breaks. And if you configure it well, it can actually blank out your screen from doing something else. At present, I have configured Workrave to make me break for 15 seconds every 15 minutes and then make me take a 3 minute break at the end of the hour. I know these are lower than recommended break times, but better small breaks than no breaks.

After having used it for more than a month, I have realized that now I am regularly taking breaks and stretching, something which I never did that well before.

If you happen to download and use Workrave, two things that I would remind you to configure in Workrave are:

  1. Configure Workrave to “Block input and screen” during breaks so that you don't cheat and continue reading during your breaks!
    Workrave - User Interface Preferences
  2. If your work involves more of reading (or watching YouTube videos) remember to turn on the “Reading mode” (by right-clicking on the cute sheep icon in the notification area of your task bar). That way even if you are not typing or using the keyboard, Workrave will remind you to take breaks.
    Reading Mode

Happy healthy working!