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Why is computer usage measure in these ways, and what is 'static' and 'dynamic' computer usage?


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Calculating your actual time using the computer workstation — i.e. the keyboard or mouse is not quite as straightforward as might first appear.

Firstly why are we trying to measure computer workstation usage? As far as the WorkPace take a break app is concerned, the major ergonomics in the workplace risk factors for RSI/WMSD problems from computer workstation overuse are muscle tension and constrained posture, not so much just the actions of typing, clicking, and moving the mouse. Most of us are not high-speed copy typists and thus it is not the number of keystrokes or mouse clicks which is the main risk factor. As far as muscle tension goes it is possible to maintain undesirable levels of muscle tension without even typing or moving the mouse (i.e. ‘passive’ computer usage). Try sitting in your chair, at your computer workstation, and either holding your arms over the keyboard, or gripping the mouse tightly and then not moving from this position for 30 minutes. At the end of this period I can guarantee that you will be feeling uncomfortable ergonomic issues, with some level of discomfort even though you may not have typed a single keystroke, or moved the mouse a millimetre.

Consequently, as far as ergonomics in the workplace risk factors go, we are more interested in the time you spend at the computer workstation without getting up for a stretch break or changing your posture, standing up or how long you spend gripping the mouse.

The second issue is if computer usage is measured as simply the time you spend actually typing or mouse clicking (i.e. ‘dynamic’ usage) then what do we actually measure — simply the time it takes to press the computer keys? One might say that the time it takes to click or press a key is almost instantaneous. For example, if you were to do two keystrokes every second for 30 minutes how long have you been using the keyboard? In reality the time taken to press and release each key is only about 1/5 of a second or less. Does this mean that you have actually used the keyboard for less than 12 mins? Certainly as far as we are concerned you were using the keyboard for the entire of that 30 minutes.

There is currently no defined and agreed-upon way to measure computer usage. Accordingly WorkPace uses a set of office ergonomics guidelines based upon an appraisal of the true ergonomics in the workplace risk factors associated with use of your computer, as were explained above. The algorithm WorkPace take a break app uses to measure computer use has been validated in several human factors and ergonomics scientific studies to date, and been found to be far more accurate than user’s own estimates of their computer workstation use. (These studies found that, on average, people overestimate their actual computer workstation use by 50%!. In the ergonomics in the workplace studies ‘actual’ computer use is estimated using a trained observer who watches the person using their computer workstation).

Consequently, instead of only counting the time actually spent typing or using the mouse WorkPace take a break app uses a predefined threshold to determine if you are likely to still have ‘static’ muscle tension associated with using the mouse (e.g. still gripping the mouse), keyboard (e.g. still holding your hands over the keyboard) or the computer (e.g. stilling still reading from the VDU). (See How does WorkPace take a break app measure computer (and mouse) usage).

All Wellnomics office ergonomics software apps are developed in accordance with industry accepted human factors and office ergonomics guidelines around workplace ergonomic assessment, home office ergonomics, ergonomic setup, stretching at work, workplace stretches, office stretching exercises.

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