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Mobile phones, work and healthy living

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By ‘Sola Fagorusi

The mobile phone is one of man’s greatest inventions. It provides fitting solution to man’s ravenous craving for communication. It is even more dependable now that phones serve beyond just texting and calling. Smart mobile phones now aid navigation in communities with maps, capturing of pictures and videos and the several possibilities that mobile apps offer are also limitless. Mobile phones have become the most preferred screen to stare at for hours, displacing television that hitherto had this record and held people’s attention for hours. Advertising agencies first recognized this and have tried harder to intrude into our mobile phones with adverts in both still image forms; and now motion image forms, which are growing in proportion. Thus far, they have succeeded! Various researches averaged peg the number of hours people spend on their mobile phones daily at three hours. If the figure is put in empirical form, it means the average person spends 1095 hours yearly staring or getting something done on and through the mobile phone. The average person with a mobile phone therefore spends 45 days yearly on their mobile phone. When contextualized into how many years of an average life span this translates to, the output is frightening.

Smart phones especially have great appeal because of the several alternatives they offer. Gaming, torch light, finance management, recorders, alarm clock and time telling, currency conversion are some of the several uses they can be put to. As technology grows, one expects that the needs and dependence on this one-in-all device will also climb. For the upwardly mobile generation, like most young business executives are called, the number of hours further spent on laptops adds to the number of hours of daily long-time dependence on technology. But then, this is justifiable, especially when it is used for work related purpose and meaningful social interactions; afterall humans are social animals. It should also be stated that this is the same health concern when we read except that the population that engage in this mind illuminating activity in the traditional form with hardcopy books pales in comparison to mobile phone users. Google’s count of all the books in the world in its course to digitize every book in the world as at 2010 offered a figure of about 129 million.  Even when the figure is adjusted to include books outside Google’s definition for the book count project, it will still not match in comparison with 7.2 billion gadgets that are reportedly in the world as at 2014.

The constant use of laptops, tablets and mobile phones come at a price. Premised on this, the concept of ergonomics comes to mind. Also called human factor, it is described as ‘the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance’. The discipline is more relevant in today’s work world. It studies human capacities in relationship to work demands. Very few individuals and work place bring this to place in their occupational safety overview and review. It is mostly about getting the work done. The health of the worker is ignorantly snubbed in this regard.

Mobile phone ergonomics is concerned with the number of times people bend their necks to look at their mobile phone either to reply a text message or push out a tweet or any of such related activity. Reportedly when our heads are in their regular position, the force on the spinal region is normal but as we bend further the force c increases leading to health challenges in the neck region and stress of diverse shades. It typically looks like a little problem but cumulatively it becomes a huge concern. We may not see the effects now for this iPod generation but as this generation ages, occupational safety professional are genuinely worried of the coming health challenge.

A number of recommendations are in the public domain on how to address this. Popular on this list is to purge the phone of the several needless distractions and ensure it only serves and aids productivity. Scheduling specific time of the day to handle emails and social media use is one of the most peddled solution. It is however not a generic answer. For people who are digital media experts, this may be a difficult solution. Maybe taking breaks off the screen at regulated time will be some relief of sorts. Using the phone with ones back flat against the ground and the screen against one’s face also makes a lot of difference. The posture relaxes the body and relieves the strain and stress that comes with the usual wrong posture. This however has a limitation; it can only happen outside work and public places. It allows the shoulder muscles some rest and addresses some biomechanical problems.

These changes start with postural awareness and consciousness and knowing that the right posture is to have the head upright, shoulder blades non elevated and withdrawn with the two ears in line with the shoulders. The strains on the hands and wrists and the eyes are also other side effects. For laptops, the leading problem is the damage done to the eyes. Adjusting the glare and display setting of the computer can make a lot of difference, especially since the eye is one of the most important organs in the body.  Taking blinking breaks, using shades, having good night rests and healthy meals can make our eyes push back from the harm’s way that technology regularly brings us to.

@SolaFagro on twitter.

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