A few months ago I wrote a blog with a YouTube video of my top 7 tips to working from home. Little did we know back then, that the face of office workers would be like this, 6 months into the pandemic. With it looking like the next 6 months is going to be equally restrictive to life, including travel; socialising; and events, are our office environments, possibly changed forever?!
So many people have been catapulted into a #wfh environment without having the adequate physical setup or been able to think through how to effectively separate home and work life. This can result in additional stress and tiredness, which impacts the physical body.
Clinically, over the last 6 months, I’ve had clients mention they are
- sitting on the sofa working
- at the kitchen work surface
- working till 9pm regularly
- using a laptop in bed
- using the dining table
- not moving from the chair 9-5pm
- working in their bedroom whilst the other works downstairs in the kitchen
LinkedIn, in a recent market research poll, 58% of respondents said that their desk office working environment is the biggest issue they are facing. The ‘temporary’ work set up and poor posture as a result is obviously having an impact. Employees are no longer having a set start/ finish time to the day, and people are contacting them out of work time and expecting replies. There has also been an increase in time spent on video conferencing, when a phone call would have been the norm. Add in the threat of redundancies and changes to their contracts, the level of stress and anxiety is on the rise too. With everything being within 10 steps of their work station, we are becoming a workforce that barely moves, sits in poor posture, high levels of stress, and working longer and longer hours.
According to the Telegraph, figures from the British Association of Chiropractors (BCA), their website saw a 660% increase in traffic during lockdown, based on the same time last year. Data from a study undertaken in 2019 reveals that over 70% of chiropractors have treated patients with injuries linked to sedentary lifestyle habits, such as screen time (78%) and sitting for too long (93%).
These unfamiliar work stations inevitably put a strain on the body, and according to a recent survey by the Institute of Employment Studies, there has been a ‘significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints’ in lockdown. More than half of those surveyed reported new aches and pains: 58% in the neck, 56% in the shoulder, and 55% in the back.
In the rush to kit people out to work at home, many employers have potentially overlooked the fact that they retain a duty of care over the wellbeing of their employees. As a business owner myself, making sure the Covid recommendations and infection control was prioritised, possibly to the detriment of the areas of business. Yet few will have conducted ergonomic assessments of workstations or issued guidance on how to set up a laptop in a way which can avoid unnecessary strain. While the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has guidance for employers about homeworking, it offers only scant advice of the safe use of laptops. For example, regulations on ‘display screen equipment’ (DSE) advise that the laptop screen should be at eye level and that a separate keyboard should be used via either a docking station or Bluetooth connection. It’s hard to imagine that anything other than a minority of the new laptop warriors have got such adaptations in place.
As described in a previous blog I wrote, see below a picture of correct work station ergonomics. In that blog I gave my advice for good desk set ups.
Finally, here are some great resources for both employers and employees:
The ever changing workplace recommendations have created a workforce that, in many areas, are suffering. I feel it is important to give more advice to the workforce with respect to stress and time management, desk ergonomics, tips for healthy work from home environment. The intention of this blog is to get employers to think about the health of their employees, and not just Covid related health.
I have created a short ‘lunch and learn’ webinar with Q & A’s to help teams think about how to prevent musculoskeletal pain, and protect their back health long term. Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01273 206868 and leave a message with my front desk team, if you think you and your team could do with some help. Topics include desk based stretches, stress reduction techniques, optimising desk environment and ergonomics, and self care/management for pain.