One in 50 of UK workers suffer from Repetitive Strain Injury from the workplace, with businesses losing 5.4 million working days a year due to the condition, a leading software company has claimed.
ScanSoft, which produces speech and imaging solutions, is calling for employers to offer alternative ways of working, whether via improved training courses or hands-free PC operation.
RSI covers a wide range of injuries to muscles, tendons and nerves, usually affecting hands, wrists, elbows or shoulders and at its most extreme can cause permanent disability and even paralysis if not stopped at an early stage. The condition is particularly prevalent among workers who regularly use a keyboard or mouse.
A report by the Institute of Directors titled Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace states that "stress and musculoskeletal disorders - which include RSI - are the two most common self-reported causes of worker ill- health and absenteeism". A TUC survey published this year of more than 4,500 union safety representatives, also revealed that reported RSI had increased by three per cent over the past two years.
The union suggests that employers offer touch-typing training or provide a speech recognition software package for sufferers.
Simon Howard, sales manager for Dragon NaturallySpeaking - ScanSoft's's own speech-recognition software - said it was employer's that needed to take the initiative to prevent RSI in the workplace.
He said: "Preventing RSI requires an acknowledgement from employers that it is not the workers' responsibility to provide a healthy office environment. It is down to management to ensure that employees are not contorting and stressing their bodies and brains to cope with poorly designed equipment or systems of work."
Meanwhile, a climate of fear is preventing workers discussing the growing problem of stress, according to a separate report.
A survey of 500 employees showed that two out of five believed their career would suffer if they admitted to having stress.
Half of those polled by community health charity Together said stress in the workplace was a serious problem and most believed that support should be offered by outside organisations.
Chief executive Gil Hitchon said: "These findings demonstrate that not only is stress in the workplace a serious problem, but there is still a powerful stigma attached to admitting being stressed at work.
"Far too many workers are suffering in silence and feel they have nowhere to go for support."
One in four said they knew a colleague whose mental well-being and career had suffered as a result of stress in the workplace.
More than half felt their employer did not fully recognise the extent of the problem.