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Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Stuart White

I wonder if you have come across any ergonomic office furniture, the sort that comprise combination desk and chair couplings specifically designed to improve posture and eliminate back problems and repetitive strain injuries (RSI) associated with long hours seated at a desk and hunched over a computer and keyboard? 

The seats more closely resemble saddles or stools than traditional chairs, with others looking like something you’d find in a gym whilst the desks that are designed to go with them have the look of a carpentry work bench. 

The net result is that the user ends up in a position that looks half seated, half standing which looks a little oddball but designers insist they are better for the physical well-being of the office worker and users attest to their comfort.
Their usage would seem to be backed up by new research reported in the online Daily Mail which appears to show that spending more leisure time sitting down increases the risk of cancers of the breast, ovaries and bone marrow by 10% in women though it did not affect men.  For years, too little physical activity has been recognised as bad for one’s health but this recent research has found that merely sitting down is posing a specific threat.  

According to the Mail “Researchers for the American Cancer Society studied 146,000 people – 69,260 men and 77,462 women between 1992 and 2009.  During this time period 18,555 men and 12,236 women were diagnosed with cancer. The researchers found leisure sitting was linked to a 10 per cent higher risk of cancer – even after factors such as total physical activity, body mass and other factors were taken into account.

The authors conclude: ‘Longer leisure time spent sitting was associated with a higher risk of total cancer risk in women, and specifically with multiple myeloma [bone marrow cancer], breast cancer, and ovarian cancers. 

But sitting time was not associated with cancer risk in men… Further research is warranted to better understand the differences in associations between men and women’, as a result the American Cancer Society guidelines recommend reducing sitting time when possible.’ 

Previous research by the University of Regensburg, Germany had found that sitting raised the risk of bowel and lung cancers.  Scientists there found each 2-hour per day increase in sedentary time was related to a statistically significant 8 per cent increase in colon cancer risk and 10 per cent increase in endometrial cancer risk.

So this would appear to support the use of the new-age office furniture which forces workers into a semi-standing position then?  Well, apparently not because no sooner had the research on the dangers of sitting for too long been published, results from a second study came out, reported on only 2 days later in the self-same online paper, concluding  that standing for too long is almost as harmful. 

And since up to half the world's employees spend 75 per cent or more of their working day on their feet, from those working in agriculture or construction to assembly lines, waitressing or retail, this could be a serious workplace problem. 

The study found that while the short-term effects are aching joints and sore feet, in the long term they could suffer painful back problems or permanent muscle damage. Companies could also lose out thanks to increased sickness and lower productivity, according to scientists from the Swiss University ETH Zurich. 

Researcher Maria Gabriela Garcia told the journal Human Factors: “Work-related musculoskeletal implications that can be caused by prolonged standing are a burden not only for workers but also for companies and society. Long-term muscle fatigue caused by standing for long periods of time has not received much attention.”  In an experiment she asked participants to stand for five hours, but gave them regular breaks and a 30-minute lunch. On average they felt tired for around 30 minutes after the five-hour period.

But researchers found their bodies often took far longer than half an hour to get back to normal and Professor Garcia went on to say: “Long-term fatigue after prolonged standing work may be present without being perceived.”  The researchers warned that current timetables for workers who have to stand for their jobs 'may not be adequate' to combat the risk of long-term musculoskeletal disorders.  

Spending four hours or more of each day standing can lead to problems including aching muscles, corns, bunions and excess pressure on hip, knee and ankle joints.  Other symptoms include lower limb swelling, varicose veins and back pain and coronary heart disease and arthritis can also be worsened by standing for long periods.

In some countries, workers have a legal right to a seat at work. In the UK, for example, The Workplace Regulations Act of 1992 states: 'A suitable seat shall be provided for each person in the workplace whose work includes an operation of a kind that the work (or a substantial part of it) can or must be done sitting. 

So far, though, this issue has not been addressed locally. One retail chain, for example, is noted for the fact that check-out staff are not provided with chairs and the tills are at a height for standing use only.

This has caused and raised eyebrows amongst some customers who feel the chain should fall in line with supermarkets where staff are seated whilst the chain itself maintains that it is part of their image policy.  And since check-out staff in the main are female, going by the two above conflicting studies, who is to say whether standing or sitting for most of the day is best?

So excuse me whilst I sit down and think about it for a bit. After which I’ll stand up and think about it a bit more. That way at least I’ll be hedging my bets and finding a balance – much like those office workers on the funny-looking chairs.

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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