Wellnomics WorkPace software runs in the background, monitoring your computer use and how often you take breaks. It provides break and exercise reminders, ergonomic tips to reduce the risk of injury and statistics about your work, such as typing speed and number of mouse clicks made.
A 30-day free trial lets you see if it works for you. After that the software costs £55.75 per license.
During setup, you are asked if you have RSI or have been experiencing any pain or discomfort. This will affect the frequency and length of micropauses and WorkPace Breaks and your recommended daily computer usage limit.
A micropause is a small, regular break from the computer (e.g. a 20-second rest every 10 minutes), when you are advised to put your arms down at your side to reduce fatigue. A WorkPace Break is a longer break (e.g. 5 minutes every hour) when the software encourages you to follow a series of stretches and exercises.
You might feel a bit silly copying the moves in front of colleagues, but most are simple stretches that you can do sitting down (e.g. rolling your neck). If you don’t want to do the stretches, you can get up and stretch your legs. Either way, enforced breaks every hour are a great reminder to move around.
After telling the software I had RSI, it suggested very frequent breaks (a 10-minute break after 20 minutes of work) and daily computer use of just three hours. While I’m sure this would speed up RSI recovery, it would also lead to a huge drop in productivity. Fortunately, the settings are completely customisable, so if you find that the software applies too many (or too few) breaks, you can change the setting at any point.
The enterprise version of the software gives managers centralised control of settings and the ability to set safe limits according to company policies, as well as remote monitoring so that they can check on computer users while out of the office.
If you don’t want to invest in WorkPace, Workrave is free software with almost identical features (‘micro-breaks’ and longer ‘rest breaks’ with exercises). The interface and exercise graphics are very basic, but it does the job.
Nuance Dragon Anywhere
Dragon speech recognition software from Nuance reduces the physical stress of typing, allowing you to use your voice to create, edit and format documents, spreadsheets, presentations and emails.
The Dragon Anywhere app brings Dragon desktop speech recognition to mobile devices. During a three-month trial of the app I found it not only gave my arms a rest from typing but also increased my productivity. As a journalist, transcribing audio recordings of interviews is time-consuming (and painful for an RSI sufferer!). I listened to the recording through headphones and repeated it back to the app. Talking is faster than typing so this reduced the time it would take to transcribe while also saving the discomfort of typing.
The app was surprisingly accurate and, from the start, was able to transcribe my speech at a normal pace with only a few mistakes – accuracy improves with use as the software learns your voice. My only problem with Dragon is that I find it awkward to use in the office when others are around.