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WorkPace FAQ

How often will I get micropauses?

Exactly how often micropauses occur will obviously depend on your WorkPace settings. However, even with the same settings there can be a tremendous variation and how often micropauses are prompted. Many people will only see a few micropauses an hour at most. This is because WorkPace detects natural pauses in your and resets the micropause timer. However, in times when you are working very intensively, perhaps towards a deadline, you may be taking less natural breaks, meaning that you will be interrupted more often by WorkPace.

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How often will I get WorkPace Breaks?

How often you see a WorkPace Break will depend upon both your WorkPace settings and how intensively you are using your computer. If you regularly take breaks of 4 - 5 mins away from the computer WorkPace will detect this and reset the Break timer. This means that with a Break interval of say 45 mins you may still be able to work an eight-hour day at the computer without seeing more than 1 or 2 Breaks. Some people whose computer work is naturally interrupted by lots of breaks hardly ever see a Break. On the other hand, if you have a particularly intensive day on the computer we take very few breaks you will see far more Break warnings than normal.

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How many micropauses will I get?

Studies of many thousands of people using WorkPace have shown that a user with average micropause settings of 8 seconds after 6 mins computer use will get an average of 4-5 micropauses a day (only 40 seconds!). Note that this is an average - you will get more breaks on some days, less on others. Users with more strict settings will get more micropauses - e.g. if your settings are a 20 second micropause after 4 mins you may get 20 or more micropauses a day.

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How many Breaks will I get?

Studies of many thousands of people using WorkPace have shown that a user with average WorkPace settings of a 5 minute break after 55 mins computer use will get an average of 1 Break warning a day. Note that this is an average - you will get more breaks on some days, less on others. Users with more strict settings will get more Breaks.

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Sometimes WorkPace gives me a Break just after coming back from a break! Why?

Your break must have been too short! WorkPace will reset the Break timer if you naturally take a break of longer than 80% of your Break Duration setting. This means if your normal WorkPace Break is set to 5 mins you must take a break of 4mins or more and WorkPace will accept your Break. To see if your Break has reset check the Break timer on the Status Window.

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How does WorkPace measure computer (and mouse) usage?

Time using the Computer is counted as any time in which there was mouse or keyboard activity within the last 30 seconds. Time using the Mouse is counted as any time in which there was a mouse click or mouse movement within the last 5 seconds. Time using the Keyboard is counted as any time in which there was keypress within the last 5 seconds. Why different threshols for computer usage and mouse/keyboard usage? Computer usage has a higher threshold because we are wanting to measure your time spent at the computer, not just your time using the mouse and keyboard. You may spend periods not actively using the mouse or keyboard, but still with a static posture at the computer (e.g. reading from the VDU.) For example, it is quite possible you could spend 30 seconds without moving the mouse or typing a keystroke, but still be sitting at the computer, perhaps reading something from the computer screen. However, it is unlikely that you could hold your hand still on the mouse for 30 seconds without making any slight movements of the mouse.

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Why is usage measured in these ways, and what is 'static' and 'dynamic' computer usage?

Calculating your actual time using the computer -- i.e. the keyboard or mouse is not quite as straightforward as might first appear.

Firstly why are we trying to measure usage? As far as WorkPace is concerned the major risk factors for RSI/WMSD problems from computers are muscle tension and constrained posture, not so much just the actions of typing, clicking, and moving the mouse. Most of us are not high-speed copy typists and thus it is not the number of keystrokes or mouse clicks which is the main risk factor. As far as muscle tension goes it is possible to maintain undesirable levels of muscle tension without even typing or moving the mouse (i.e. 'passive' computer usage). Try sitting in your chair and either holding your arms over the keyboard, or gripping the mouse tightly and then not moving from this position for 30 minutes. At the end of this period I can guarantee that you will be feeling uncomfortable, with some level of discomfort even though you may not have typed a single keystroke, or moved the mouse a millimetre.

Consequently, as far as risk factors go we are more interested in the time you spend at the computer without getting up for a break or changing your posture, or how long you spend gripping the mouse.

The second issue is if usage is measured as simply the time you spend actually typing or mouse clicking (i.e. 'dynamic' usage) then what do we actually measure -- simply the time it takes to press the keys? One might say that the time it takes to click or press a key is almost instantaneous. For example, if you were to do two keystrokes every second for 30 minutes how long have you been using the keyboard? In reality the time taken to press and release each key is only about 1/5 of a second or less. Does this mean that you have actually used the keyboard for less than 12 mins? Certainly as far as we are concerned you were using the keyboard for the entire of that 30 minutes.

There is currently no defined and agreed-upon way to measure computer usage. Accordingly WorkPace uses a set of rules based upon an appraisal of the true risk factors in use your computer, as were explained above. The algorithm WorkPace uses to measure computer use has been validated in several scientific studies to date, and been found to be far more accurate than user's own estimates of their computer use. (These studies found that, on average, people overestimate their actual computer use by 50%!. In the studies 'actual' computer use is estimated using a trained observer who watches the person using the computer).

Consequently, instead of only counting the time actually spent typing or using the mouse WorkPace uses a predefined threshold to determine if you are likely to still have 'static' muscle tension associated with using the mouse (e.g. still gripping the mouse), keyboard (e.g. still holding your hands over the keyboard) or the computer (e.g. stilling still reading from the VDU). (See How does WorkPace measure computer (and mouse) usage).

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How does WorkPace decide when to pause the break timers?

For micropauses you are defined as using the keyboard or mouse if you have made any action within the last 5 secs. The chances are that even if there is 5 seconds between two successive actions you will still have been holding your hands over the keyboard, or gripping the mouse between these two actions. If there is longer than 5 seconds between actions then it is more likely that you let go of the mouse, or relaxed your hands and arms is higher. (See How does WorkPace measure computer (and mouse) usage? for more on why the time spent in static positions is the more important factor monitored by WorkPace).

In practice, without turning a video camera on you we don't actually know whether you have let go of the mouse or dropped your hands from the keyboard. Instead WorkPace takes an educated guess:

If you have not made any action for over 5 secs then you are hopefully taking a micropause, or beginning a break, so pause micropause and break timers.

If you have not made any action for more than 30 seconds you have hopefully left the computer and stopped using it, so pause the daily and weekly limit timers.

For most people the default settings of these thresholds will be satisfactory, representing a compromise between minimising unnecessary warnings and maximising the protection against muscle tension that WorkPace offers.

However, some people find that the default settings are too low - the micropause timer can stop and even reset whilst they are still gripping the mouse. For these people is possible to change some of the threshold parameters so that WorkPace will wait longer before deciding that you have stopped using the computer. (See Micropauses and Advanced Settings for information on changing these threshold parameters).

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(Micropauses) WorkPace stops 'counting down' when I stop typing for a while...how do I stop this?

WorkPace tries to detect natural pauses and breaks in your work and thus avoid warning you unnecessarily. This is intended to help reduce the level of disruption of your work by WorkPace which many people can find irritating. For a micropause to be effective you must relax your muscles to allow restoration of blood flow and reduction of fatigue build up. This normally means letting go of the mouse or taking your hands away from the computer keyboard and dropping them at your sides, or in your lap to relax. Hopefully, when WorkPace prompts you to take a micro-pause this is what you to. However, many people can stop actively typing or moving the mouse for a while whilst thinking or reading something on screen. In this case WorkPace may assume that you have taken a micropause when it fact you have not actually relaxed your arm and hand muscles properly. Unfortunately, WorkPace cannot see whether you are actually taking a proper micropause.

In order to help compensate for this a natural micropause (in the default settings) must be 1.5x longer (150%) than your chosen micropause duration before it is counted as a real micropause. For example, if your micropause duration is 10 secs then the micropause counter will only reset after 15 secs of no keyboard or mouse activity.

If you find that the micropause counter is still resetting too often and you are not getting enough micropauses you can do two things:

Increase the micro-pause duration: This means that micropauses will be longer, and thus the reset period will also be longer. To adjust choose Edit/Break Timing on the WorkPace main menu and increase the micropause duration.

Change the micropause reset percentage: There is a special file called sysparam.ini in the WorkPace/system directory on your computer. Load this file into a text editor and under the [Micropause] section change the parameter ResetPct=150 to a higher value. For example, you could change it to ResetPct=400 meaning that natural micropauses would only be counted if they were 4x (400%) longer than the micropause duration. The higher that this value is set the less likely the micropause counter is to reset.

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(WorkPace Breaks) When I reach the daily limit the WorkPace break timer simply "rolls over" without warning

Whenever a higher level break is due soon any lower-level breaks that are coming up are suspended. This is designed to avoid too much disruption of your work by giving you a micro-pause immediately followed by break, or a break immediately followed by your daily limit warning. When you ignore a daily limit warning the daily limit is then extended by an amount relative to the size of your daily limit -- normally about 30 minutes to 1 hr. The problem is that if a break is due but your daily limit is about to be displayed again shortly then WorkPace will decide to reset the break counter and wait to instead give you a daily limit message. However, if you then ignore the daily limit then WorkPace's assumption that you are about to take a huge long break i.e. are finishing work is now incorrect. In later versions we will be looking at improving some of these aspects of the logic to ensure that even if you ignore daily limit warnings you will still get a breaks. In the meantime you can still take a break (even if it has been reset) simply by pressing the break button on the status window.

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