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Health Problems of Software People

by Dr. Nithin Jayan on  February 01, 2012 at 2:54 PM Health Watch   - G J E 4
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It is high time that the media begin a global advertising campaign highlighting the health hazards of prolonged computer usage and the silence of companies when it comes to ergonomics. The case study of SAP Lab Gurgaon in India may serve as a wakeup call.
Health Problems of Software People
Health Problems of Software People

The origin of life may still be a question mark for the intelligentsia; well, whatever is the answer, the human body remained the same ever since its first major release 'Adam'! On the other hand, computers evolve(d) faster than anything else. While one of the earliest models was aptly titled 'Colossus', these days witness the war between 8.8 mm and 8.6 mm tablets! Unfortunately, the same old human model is now struggling to suit itself to the needs of handling these devices. Let me make this simple, I am talking about ergonomics!

Ergonomics keeps failing to grab international attention; it remains as a silent understanding. Health problems generated by computer usage are many, and sadly the facts remain blurred by the high-paced life. A significant proportion of the global population is involved with computers overtime. Software professionals may spend more than seven hours per day in front of a laptop or a desktop. The companies employing them, most often, fail to provide a healthy environment that does not compromise health.

The International Journal of Innovation, Management and Technology published the results of a case study conducted in SAP Lab Gurgaon, India in December 2010. The topic was 'Studies on Health Problems of Software People'. The various health problems of the employers working at SAP Lab Gurgaon was studied on the basis of answers received from the employees for a given questionnaire. It was interesting to find that nearly cent percent employees answered 'yes' when asked if they have any health problems. Almost all were aware of the work area and the factors which affect their health. However, they were helpless owing to the work demand. A minor 1% did not face any health problems since they took precautionary measures.

It was not shocking to find that the work profiles of these employees demanded more than 7 hours of computer use per day. All employees frequently used laptops at home, while some preferred desktop workstations to laptops. All responses indicated the use of laptops at workplaces.

Most of the employees (78%) faced problems in their back; the back thus appears to be the most severely affected part of the body. Only 26% reported problems in the neck. "Pain or aching in wrists, forearms, elbows, neck, or back followed by discomfort" was the commonest symptom; more than 82% of the employees reported having it. About 60% reported "blurred or double vision". "Reduced grip strength in the hand" was the least faced problem.

About 70% of the employees identified "poor workplace set-up" as a cause of their problems. The employees' feedback showed that the company had hardly addressed their health problems. About 91% responded that company never took a step to resolve any of their sufferings.

A large number of employees (69.57) admitted that they were ignorant of the availability of computer accessories that help in preventing the health problems. Among the meagre number of workers who were aware of the existence of such accessories (a total of seven employees), just two knew that there were "best-fit" computer mouse designs and document holders. Only four knew about Adjustable keyboard trays and Monitor arms.

It should however, be noted that some of the responses in the study were obtained from a very small group of employees, and thus may not reflect the views of all the employees of the company.

This age of revolutions cannot afford to stay longer in the dark shades of ignorance. The demands for greater perspiration keep on skyrocketing, and unless we create a better healthy working environment, our age old 'human model' would succumb to the pressure. Let the media come up with a global advertising campaign for better ergonomics.

Reference: Studies on Health problems of Software People; Geeta Kumari et al; International Journal of Innovation, Management and Technology.

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