Plush offices, frequent foreign trips, loads of perks, five days working (sometimes even work from home provision), huge incentives, regular high end socializing......
Job profiles, work culture and living standard of software professionals is envied by one and all. But it is only a distant picture that we see and just like all good things have a gray area, this rosy story too have downsides.
Leaving aside tremendous work pressure and a constant chase to meet deadlines, IT professionals fall prey to several illnesses and psychological issues courtesy their long hours of sitting at one place and constant staring at the computer monitor.
Let’s dig in little deeper to see how bad it can go with this kind of profile, which requires negligible physical activity and extensive computer usage.
What exactly the problems are with computer (over)use?
Sitting for long hours at one position can be harmful in several ways. It can affect the skeletal system, muscular system, digestive system, sensory organs and various other organs.
Since this is basically a SITTING job, muscles and joints of lower back gets stiffened because of the lack of motion which results in backache. When the problem becomes severe one cannot bend forward. It can be typically noticed when they get up from the seat after sitting for long hours.
Tackle it this way: The posture while sitting in front of the computer matters a lot! Pay attention to the curve you make from the lower back. Lesser the curve better is the posture. Try sitting erect and don’t bend forward to type. Putting some support to fill the curve gap is a good idea.
Appropriate distance from eyes to monitor is important and is majorly responsible for eye strains and other vision related problems.
Eye fatigue: If the distance between eyes and the monitor is less than required, strain on eyes, dark circles and redness is experienced.
Computer Vision Syndrome or Dry Eye Syndrome – Almost 50 - 80 % of computer users suffer from this. Their eyes become red, itchy and extremely irritable. The reasons behind this are radiations from screen and its wrong resolution (brightness and contrast).
Tackle it this way: Ideally, the distance of screen and your eyes should be 20-26 inches. Or take like this - sit at an arm's length away from your computer screen. Try a "high-five test" with the screen with full arm extension of your arm. That’s an ideal distance. The screen shouldn't be slightly tilted, and positioned little below eye level.
Have enough light in the room and don’t operate the computer in dark or poorly lit conditions. The light should fall on the computer screen and not on your eyes. Similarly, the window of the room should be behind you and not in front.
Keep blinking frequently or we can say..."remind yourself to blink". It will keep the eyes lubricated by spreading the tears. Time to time gently put your palms onto the eyes with a little pressure and try to concentrate in the center of the dark. Do this for 3-4 minutes.
Cervical Spondylitis (neck pain) –This happens due to improper positioning of the computer screen and eyes. Constant looking at a wrongly lowered monitor will cause cervical spondylitis. It stiffens the muscles of the neck and makes them rigid.
Tackle it this way: Appropriately adjust the level of computer monitor and maintain the viewing angle. If this is not possible, adjust the chair. Make it higher or lower with the help of lever provided. Move your neck up and down for a several times in an hour. Rotate your head clockwise 10 times from end-to-end after every couple of hours.
Lack of Movement
This leads to not one but several complications.
Constipation–Sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity leads to improper and delayed digestion. When the person sits for long hours, the intestine also become sluggish and peristalsis (movement of intestine to push food ahead) slows down. This results in indigestion and forms hard stools.
Tackle it this way: Take the meals on time. Rather than coffee breaks, take simple walk breaks. Include fibre in your diet. Actually, loads of it. Eat lots of greens and leafy vegetables. Avoid oily and junk food. After every hour, simply stand up, stretch your body, press the stomach gently and sit down. This is a smallest possible exercise but will help a lot in improving digestion.
Heart Problems – According to a study, men with more than 23 hour per week of sedentary lifestyle were at 64% greater risks of dying from cardiac arrest as compared to those who follow similar lifestyle for less than 11 hour per week. For IT guys, increase in cholesterol could be due to improper food timing, access to junk food, lack of movement and exercise and all this can lead to heart diseases.
Tackle it this way: The key is to remain active. In spite of the time constrain one should go for any kind of cardio exercise on a daily basis. Stairs should be preferred over elevators and the vehicle should be parked at the farthest distance from the office.
Obesity/overweight – This is so typically seen among IT guys. The reason is again, lack of activities/exercises and unhealthy eating habits. Constant sitting on the chair in front of the computer is liable to add extra pounds to the body.
Tackle it this way: Avoid junk food. Resist binging; even if you MUST, go for sprouts, salads or any other healthy snack. Exercise religiously. Try sticking to healthier, non oily, and light dishes even on frequent business outings or those Friday night team parties.
eThrombosis – People who spend several hours every day sitting in front of the computer are at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis is developing of clots in the veins of legs. This happens due to prolonged lack of motion in the legs. The vein in due course become stiffened, starts aching and then set off unbearable sprain and rigidity in the leg.
Tackle it this way: Move your legs. Regularly stand up, take a short walk and come back. One tip can be that don’t keep water at your table. Every couple of hours, walk down to the water dispenser.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – You might find it surprising but we have tunnels in our wrists! There is this narrow tunnel in the wrist, through which muscles, nerves, tendons, and blood vessels pass through towards the back of palm. Due to continuous usage of keyboard and mouse, you move your fingers and hand only in a particular direction hundreds of time a day. Stiffness and pain in the wrist, numbness in the fingers and tingling sensation in the hand are few of the prominent symptoms.
Tackle it this way: Rotate your wrist in clockwise and anit-clockwise motion every hour; flex and relax the fingers several times. Put something spongy under your wrist. Now advanced mouse pads come with a spongy wrist rest. The working wrist should be parallel to the desk so as not to form any angle while typing or moving the mouse.
IT professionals – take a note!
No doubt that the world is getting cyber-centric but along comes a whole new genre of occupational health issues and in this case these are computer related e-hazards. Problems incurring if ignored can prove debilitating.
So, it’s best advised to take the above mentioned precautions while working long hours on computer.
Don’t forget to .......
Have healthy computing!!
* image courtesy: http://carpaltunnelsyndrometips.net/2012/05/page/15/