Background An increasing number of workers must use computers in the workplace. Workers with computer use problems may experience reduced productivity and work disability. Identifying methods to prevent computer use problems is an important strategy to ensure a productive, healthy workforce.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. OA can cause significant pain and dysfunction, and most commonly affects the knees, hands, neck and low back. Although often mistakenly viewed as an “older persons” disease, OA prevalence increases in middle age and can significantly affect work ability.
Objectives Our analysis examines accommodation strategies used by people with OA to operate computers.
Methods 282 registrants in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Arthritis Network Disease Registry who had OA at any joint site and were 18-65 years old were sent the Computer Problem Survey (ComPS), a survey which measures computer use problems attributed to arthritis and accommodation strategies commonly reported by people with arthritis (1,2). Respondents identified all problems experienced and accommodation strategies used for the chair, keyboard, mouse, and monitor. We categorized accommodations into four strategies: 1) environmental: adding or repositioning equipment; 2) timing: slowing down or taking breaks; 3) method: changing the person's method of doing the task; and 4) no change (2).We calculated the proportion of respondents with problems for each type of equipment and the type of accommodation strategy used by those with the problem in respondents who used a computer.
Results Of 66 respondents (23% response rate), 82% used a computer. 78% reported problems with the chair, 53% with the keyboard, 45% with the mouse, and 40% with the monitor. For the keyboard and mouse, the most commonly used strategy was a timing strategy (Figure). Timing strategies were also commonly used for the chair, although changing the method of sitting was more common. For the monitor, environmental and method strategies were most commonly used. Ten to 35% of respondents made no changes when they had problems using their computer.
Conclusions People with OA use timing and personal methods to accommodate to computer problems more often than changing their computer environment. Of particular concern is the large proportion of people with OA whose non-optimal accommodation strategies (i.e., breaks, reduced work speed) may reduce productivity. While these accommodations can be appropriately used, they are less efficient than altering the equipment or environment. More troubling, however, was that 10-35% made no changes, indicating lack of knowledge of options for accommodations. Long-term use of non-optimal strategies and/or making no changes may limit a person's ability to maintain employment. Workers with OA would benefit from information and training on environmental options to improve their computer workstation to maintain function and prevent work disability.
Baker NA et al. Arthrit Rheum-Arthr 2009; 61:614-622.
Baker NA et al. J Occup Rehabil 2012; 22:353-36.
Disclosure of Interest None declared