Take Rest Breaks in Your Work to Recover or Prevent Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) With Workrave

Written By Sam on 9 September 2010

For those who spend long hours working on your computers and struggle with workplace back problems, there is a program that claims to help you avoid back aches and injuries called Workrave. Workrave is a freeware tool aimed at recovering and preventing repetitive strain injury (RSI). The program runs on Linux and Windows and it monitors the computer activity of users and reminds them to take breaks in between prolonged work sessions.

Workrave is likely to generate user response because progress pertaining to the back is quantified. There are three empty progress metres that represent three types of breaks – micro-pause, rest break and a daily limit. These metres start rolling once you start working on the keyboard or use the mouse. A slot in the metre mentions when your next break is due. When the progress metre reaches the upper limit, a window pops up to remind that you have worked long enough to deserve a quick break. Much like your physiotherapist, the window instructs you to “make sure you stand up and walk away from the computer…” and “walk around for a few minutes, stretch and relax“.

There is lot more with Workrave. The type of window, and instructions, also vary depending on how you fare in the progress metre. If you get a window prompting you to take a micro break, it means you need to relax your hands for 30 seconds. A rest break, on the other hand, recommends a set of exercises to prevent possible back injuries. The duration and timings of the breaks can be customised based on personal needs. The program allows you to ‘pause’ all screen activities, and ensures the break is actually beneficial. The software works on a network. So, configured schedules can be used across multiple computers. When a reminder pops up on a user’s screen and it gives two options to either ‘Skip’ or ‘Postpone’ a break. If you skip or postpone too often, you may still need to have your physiotherapist on your speed dial. And that is something even a program like this one may not be able to prevent.

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