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Musculoskeletal issues when working from home

Jamie Saunders
Posted by Jamie Saunders on 23/06/20 08:24

Being in lockdown for months or working from home/remotely without the correct set-up can lead to issues with posture and can cause neck and back pain.

 

For those of us that have worked in an office environment and 'enjoyed' the regular mandatory computer based training assessments, like me you probably took the workstation display screen equipment (DSE) assessment for granted. That's probably because we had the right equipment in our offices and certainly didn't anticipate having to work from home for months at a time. 

 

The ideal environment at home would be to use a space dedicated as the 'office', with an ergonomic set-up. The IOSH Magazine lists the best practices to follow when working remotely, including what to do if you do not have dedicated office space. 

 

Screen breaks and exercises 

As important as it is to have the correct ergonomic set-up, it's just as important to consider time away from the screen when working from home.

 

Welbot is an enterprise solution that is "designed to improve employee health and wellbeing whilst in the office or when working remotely from home". You can get a free trial of their platform here

 

 

Our friends at Welbot also had the following helpful information about working from home: 

 

  • In April 2020, the UK’s Office for National Statistics reported that 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home. Throughout 2019, only 5% of the UK population mainly worked from home. This meteoric rise in the rate of home-working is a direct result of the social distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Millions of workers have found themselves working in environments that were neither designed nor intended to foster ergonomic office work and the risk of increased musculoskeletal issues are palpable and significant. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSKs) and repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are common among desk-based workers, with half a million UK workers suffering from these conditions and 6.9 million work days lost because of them in 2019. These high rates reflect health for workers who enjoyed the support of dedicated work space, large monitors, office chairs with lumbar support and other ergonomic workplace equipment. The hasty transition to working from home will have put millions of workers in surroundings that are still more conducive to MSKs and RSIs.

 

Here are some tips that you can follow to improve your health and comfort while working from home.

 

1. Dedicate a space for working. Ideally, this is a desk at a comfortable height with sufficient space to fit the equipment you need. Ensure that your monitor or laptop screen are at or just below your eye level. Setting your laptop on a stack of books is a simple way to achieve this if you don’t have a laptop stand or large monitor. It is best to use a standalone keyboard and external mouse ⁠— these allow you to maintain proper posture and reduce strain on your wrists, with your back against the chair, shoulders relaxed, and elbows bent at 90-degree angles. A further measure to ensure you can work comfortably is to sit at the correct height for your desk: if you have to lift your arm to reach the table top you are too low. You should be able to slide your arm over the table without lifting your shoulder up.

 

2. Workplace comfort and wellbeing are not limited to how you sit. Getting up and moving around is crucial to maintaining good posture, improving your circulation and giving your eyes a break from screens. While you’re up, you might as well grab a glass of water. Staying hydrated is good for keeping your joints lubricated and minimising aches and pains.

 

3. Pay attention to pains and discomfort. If you feel pain, take that as a signal that something isn’t working and consider what adjustments you can make to feel better.  Placing a small pillow behind your back at the waist to provide lumbar support, moving from a window to reduce glare, and getting up and out for a short walk are all steps you might need to take to stay comfortable while working from home. This work environment will likely be in place for the foreseeable future, so invest in equipment that supports your health and take simple actions every day to reduce risk and minimise pain.

 

Bupa also suggests Desk stretches to ease aches and pains that can help our neck, shoulders and backs. 

 

You may also find our post about the anxiety of returning to work after lockdown and furlough useful.

Post contributors - HR Professional, Karen Felton of CompassHR and Pete Burns of Welbot.io

Topics: People, Covid-19, Wellbeing

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