Secretaries and RSI

Question: One way I have been able to get round the problem with tendonitis in my wrists is to dictate more letters for my shared secretary to type, but she’ll be joining the RSI list soon.

Answer 1: I know your problem. Though I had a very different job the common factor is having to do my own typing and having to type a lot. There were secretaries there. I can’t see them ever getting RSI. Of course I have also known secretaries who did get it, and I see yours has. There are secretaries in no danger at all of getting RSI because they simply do not have to do that much work. (I refer as is I hope by now obvious to – some – secretaries.)

You address the question, who gets RSI? I think that is now fairly well-known but in aggregate, so what I say cannot predict the chances of any one individual getting it. The causes are overwork/overuse (in the case of some industrial injury designations, it may be simply that) and stress. Stress alone of course does not cause it. Work in a stressful working environment is more likely to cause it than the same amount of work in a non-stressed environment. Your uncertainty about who gets it probably stems from the “fuzziness” caused by inability of the data we have, and indeed, any we are likely to obtain, to predict its occurrence in any one person.

Answer 2: There used to be a department known as the “typing pool” (or bureau) where most of the typing was done. The work was shared and there were “regular breaks”. Secretaries carried out their personal, private, secret work, and of course the normal duties of a secretary. However, the word processor was invented – typing staff were reduced because standard letters became the norm. PCs came into the secretary’s office and hey presto, the secretary could do it all because “the computer was so fast”. Everyone seemed to ignore the fact that although the machine was faster, the operator was not. Greater pressure was put on the secretary, who often had to learn about PCs, without a training course, during their normal working day.

My typewriter was taken away on the day the PC came in! By the time I left work in the evening I would look as if Iā€™d been rolling around in a haystack. However, there were some “secs” who left looking as perfect as when they began work, together with beautifully long painted nails. Maybe they were the sort of secs somebody hinted about? Used to be called “dolly birds”!! When I was given RSI (thank you whoever, whatever) I had never used a mouse in my life, so it does not necessarily hold that the mouse is to blame for everyone.

Answer 3: Just a few more things for the list: Filing; carrying trays of coffee, etc., to meetings; listening to boss who wants to talk while your work is piling up from his subs; and so on and so forth.

Answer 4: And don’t forget static posture. Keep taking those breaks, folks.

Answer 5: And the right kind of chair ā€“ not only when typing ā€“ mine are in the country and I now “feel your pain” !

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