Top tips for avoiding RSI in the workplace

Saturday 29 February is International Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day. The charity RSI Action estimates that Repetitive Strain Injury accounted for 4.7 million days lost from work from people with the condition in 2003/4. AbilityNet's experts provide one-to-one assessments to people every day, many of them dealing with RSI. According to RSI Action, informal surveys indicate that 1 in 3 computer users may have the early symptoms of RSI conditions. With that in mind, our expers offer their top tips for avoiding RSI in the workplace when using a computer.

How to sit comfortably when using a screen

Ten top tips for avoiding RSI at the computer

  • Rest your feet flat on the floor, or on a footrest
  • If your desk is curved, sit central to the curve
  • Place your screen at eye level and directly in front of you
  • Have your keyboard directly in front of you, with a space at the front of the desk to rest your wrists when you are not typing
  • Position your mouse as close to you as possible so you can use it with your wrist straight, avoiding awkward bending
  • If possible, use a compact keyboard, so the mouse can be brought in closer still
  • Touch type, to spread the load
  • Use predictive text, short cuts and auto-correct features, to reduce keystrokes
  • Slow your mouse down, to reduce muscle tension
  • Try dictation software 

Avoiding RSI when using laptops, tablets and smartphones

The growing number of people working on laptops and tablets from home, on trains, in cafés and cars clearly carries additional risk associated with poor posture.

The main problem with laptops is that the keyboard is attached to the screen, with the poor posture this creates potentially causing neck, back and arm problems. To reduce such risks when working with a laptop for sustained periods it's good practice to:

  • Use a separate keyboard, screen and mouse
  • Place your laptop on a raiser (to bring the screen closer towards eye-level)
  • If using neither an external keyboard or mouse (not recommended for long periods of work), make sure that the laptop is on a stable base and not your lap
  • Take regular short breaks to relieve upper body tension
  • Sit up straight with your back supported.

In addition, you can use use the My Computer My Way resource to learn more about the ways that you can adjust your computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone for more comfortable working.

Supporting employees with RSI

Employers have a legal responsibility to provide Reasonable Adjustments that help avloid RSI and other conditions, but many people aren't clear how what adjustments are required.

Our experts have created a 50 minute webinar full of information, advice and tips for those with RSI and their employers/ those who are supporting them. See this page on dealing with RSI in the workplace. You can also find a wide range of practical tips in our RSI factsheet which can be downloaded for free.

We also recommend that every employee uses Clear Talents On Demand - a free tool developed with ABilityNet that provides a detailed report about adjustmenst that will help employees be more productive when dealing with RSI.

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Where to find more help

Need help adapting your equipment at home, work or college?

Call AbilityNet's free Helpline on: 0800 269 545.

Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution.

Get help at work

Every employer must provide Reasonable Adjustments to accommodate the needs of employees. This could mean support to use the tools we've suggested, or changes to your duties if RSI is affecting your work.

Use Clear Talents On Demand to let your manager know what would help you be more productive. It's free and confidential.

Get help at home

Our network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers can help people with disabilities deal with computer problems at home, either on the phone or in person.