RSI – Back to work plan

Question: I have been asked my Boss to write a “back to work” plan. I am due to go back in 3 weeks having already had 5 weeks off work. By the time I go back I will have been off for 8 weeks. I would like advice about this – I want to include the recommendations from Dr MacLoughlin’s book (the 4 hours a day and 10000 key stokes a second) as well as any regulations about rest breaks. I would have to include where the information came from. I know it is stated that stress and workloads increase the chances of RSI but which research project can I quote as the source of this? I also want to include solutions such as VR software (even though it is doubtful that will work with the company software) and would need to include both the hardware and software requirement plus the cost! Has anyone already done this sort of report?

Answer 1: I am not a doctor, but I suspect this is not to be recommended when easing back into work.

Answer 2: I faced a similar situation in March when I was about to return to work after a 6.5 month absence. Taking advice from other sufferers, I resisted the temptation to try to be too mechanistic about it, and I am glad I did so. I do not think it is possible to be over-precise about exactly what you can do — what *you* can do may be very different from what someone else can handle at any given time. What I have learnt over the past 20 months or so is that I really have to listen to my body much more, and to stop when things get bad. (I failed to do this some weeks back when facing a particular deadline, and landed myself on the sick list again, but now have things under control once more.) I would suggest you do the same – tell your employers you’ll do what you can, but until you are back and doing it, you don’t know what your limitations are. I felt I could manage 3.5 days at the outset – things built up during the week, and by Thursday lunchtime I was suffering quite badly, Friday was worse, and so on.

On VR software, you really need to speak to your computing people about this (assuming you have some). Also talk to PACT (Employment Service) re funding for same and a recommendation as to what you need in your particular circumstances. They should be able to help with costing software and hardware for you, and may also be able to put you in touch with a computer consultant who can help launch you on VR. Get the ergonomics checked out too – posture is, I am now convinced, one of the major culprits – and PACT can check and see whether you need, for example, a footrest or a different chair. Don’t expect the VR software to be a miracle cure. It takes some weeks to get your productivity up to a reasonable level. After my return to work, the person who had been covering my job continued to do so, partially at least, for some time while I attempted to get up to speed on the VR. (My return was delayed by a couple of false starts with VR software – packages not compatible with our setup here, etc., so be prepared for things not to go smoothly.)

Six months after my return, I am now handling a full workload, but it has been a slow and painful process, and it is a great relief when Friday comes! I’m better-than-I-was, but not better, if you see what I mean. You must go carefully – you are not helping yourself or your employers if you land yourself back on the sick list again. I’m sorry if this sounds gloomy, but you really must take care. Best of luck!

Answer 3: 10,000 keystrokes a SECOND – surely not? Sorry just my weird sense of
humour surfacing again. I don’t know anything about other VR software, I’m sure others on the list will advise too. There are 3 types of requirements to run DragonNaturallySpeaking, from barely acceptable to acceptable to optimum. A company called Protek on can build a computer for you at budget price – I just got a quote of 675 pounds sterling from them for an almost-optimum requirement – I thought I could make do with a little less RAM memory, 128 not 256 Mb. Also I’m doing without monitor, printer and modem as I already have these. I haven’t dealt with them before but the man who fits my software/hardware swears by them so perhaps they’re worth contacting if low budget is a consideration for your employers.

DragonNatspeak Professional 3.52 costs 351 pounds sterling, including VAT. I reckon to upgrade my home PC and software so I can go from DragonDictate to DragonNaturallySpeaking will cost me just over 1,000 pounds sterling – but to put that into perspective, my employer is purchasing almost exactly the same hardware/software specification for me from a middleman (with 3 half day training sessions, future technical assistance and a 17 inch monitor, admittedly) and this is costing 3,000 pounds sterling.

Answer 4: Sorry I must have been having a “funny five minutes” – I think I meant 10,000 an hour?? That works out at between 3 and 4 per second and I have to average 10 a second, 8 hours per day to clear my daily supplier invoice pile – and no, I can’t keep up that pace and yes, that is why I am the state I am now. What is worse is that although it would take me all day every day at that speed to clear the invoice received pile – I only have a maximum of 3 hours a day scheduled to do this job – the rest of the time is scheduled for other things which usually also require keyboard work.

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