Wageningen students are not particularly worried about the health risks associated with their intensive computer usage. This is clear from the lack of interest for Workpace, the anti-RSI software the university recently started making available.
Up to now 643 students have activated the software, which has been on offer free of charge for a few months now. That might seem a lot but it is only twenty percent. Four times as many students, 2580, selected the 'no thank you' option. This is a disappointment, including for the Student Council, which has lobbied for the provision of the free software.
Students are a significant risk group for complaints related to RSI, which these days in Dutch is often referred to as 'arm, neck and shoulder complaints'. Statistics compiled by the ministry show that 70 percent of young people in education sometimes suffer from such complaints and 15 percent have severe complaints. That is no great surprise when you remember that they spend an average of 4.5 hours in front of the computer every day: one and a half hours for their study and three hours for social media and games. Furthermore, figures from Wageningen shows that after years of falling numbers, the number of students with serious complaints has been rising again sharply over the past three years. While only twenty-six students reported to the university doctor André Godkewitsch in 2007, there were sixty-seven in 2009 - nearly three times as many.
There has been no investigation into the reason for the lack of interest in Workpace, but it probably has something to do with the high level of irritation caused by the program. That is because it interrupts your work, your chatting or your game at random moments. Godkewitsch thinks it is a pity that the campaign is getting such a lukewarm response: 'If used properly, Workplace can be a key weapon in the fight against RSI.' KvdA
Tips for using Workpace
Workpace 3.0 prevents you from working intensively at your computer. It forces the user to have a break every now and again. Short breaks to rest your arms, neck and shoulders, and longer breaks to do exercises. A few tips for using it.
- Make a one-off investment of 10 minutes to install Workpace.
- Turn the sounds off. You don't have to let the entire library listen in.
- Do the exercises. You really aren't acting strangely if you stand against a wall with one arm stretched out along the wall and one leg out in front of you.
- Take those breaks - procrastination has never been so easy.
- Use Workpace at home too; it's a good moment to grab a beer while gaming...
- Make sure Workpace starts up automatically. Select Start, Tools, Workpace. That will save you a few more clicks from now on.
'Posture is much more important'
Edwin was having so much trouble with RSI halfway through his third year that he had to put his studies on the back burner. He is now in his fifth year and has recently started taking courses again, studying half-time.
When he began suffering pains Edwin started using anti-RSI software, including Workpace. But he was not very impressed by the program. 'It is too static; human beings are not robots', he says. He also thinks it has an adverse effect because it actually keeps the user tied to the computer: 'the exercises are demonstrated on the monitor.'
He also sees many students around him getting a false sense of security from Workpace. 'They use the program and then slouch back in their chairs, whereas your posture is much more important than taking a break every now and then.' Edwin thinks there is much more to be gained within Wageningen UR with modifications to the work and study areas. 'Those old-fashioned lecture-hall benches are really bad for your posture: you have to sit right on the edge to be able to reach the table in front.'