We’ve been working from home for a year: who should pay for the equipment and the damage to our bodies?
Why do many people feel pain when working from home?
How does your neck feel since you have been working from home?
In Switzerland where I live, March 16th, 2020 was the day when many office workers were asked to stay at home: thousands of people across dozens of professions, most of them without any IT equipment (sometimes not even a laptop, as their company was running on desktops only), nor a desk or a proper chair.
Prior to this day, musculoskeletal disorders (MSD: back pain, neck pain, etc.) were already a huge issue: all in all, almost 85% of the adults feel muscle and joint pain somewhere every year. Among my corporate clients, 53% of the employees felt lower back pain last year, and 70% of the women felt neck pain. Even more interestingly, 43% felt pain above 7 on a scale of 10, and 57% had pain in at least 3 regions!
Pain is a cumulative phenomenon resulting from a combination of biomechanical and psychological factors (incl. stress) over a prolonged period. To cut a long story short, your neck gets painful when the glass overflows: if it’s 99% full, you don’t feel anything; add just a drop and you get a stiff neck.
During the first lock-down, every indicator turned red: ergonomics worsened and workload increased whilst financial and personal stressors went through the roof (homeschooling the children, being 24/7 with the partner, etc.).
To make things worse, most of those who suffered did not consult, either because their therapist had closed or because they were afraid to be contaminated by the coronavirus. The accumulation just worsened…
What have employers done to help so far?
On 20th April 2021 at 4PM, Olivier Girard is invited by the NZZ FutureHealth Forum in Basel to give a webinar on the 3 Rules of Posture and their application to working from home. The conference is free and open to the public! Click here to get the link.
Abstract: Much has been said on working from home and its impact on your lower back or your neck… but one question remains: how much have you learned that will help you protect your body on the long run? In this session, Olivier Girard will tell you about a simple yet universal framework called the 3 Rules of Posture. It applies to working from home, to working from the office, to manual handling and any other daily life activity, whether at work or at home. Adults should know about it, as well as children. White collar workers as well as blue collar workers. Join us for a truly empowering session in which you’ll learn how to use and protect your body, right now as well as in the future… Be ready to look at posture and ergonomics from a brand new angle!
The Ergo Lab is where Logitech develops its next products and services. It's a fantastic place, where real innovation in posture and ergonomics takes place.
As a member of its Scientific Advisory Board, it's a pleasure for me to to bring practical and field expertise to the team. To discover more on the Ergo Lab, click here.
At the request of several clients, we now offer ergonomic training courses by cam. Your colleagues can also benefit from personal coaching sessions to improve their workplace at home.
Many of your are currently working from home, and many of your start having back and neck pain. To help you dealing with this new reality, we have updated our advice on office ergonomics, and added fresh content regarding ergonomics and posture at home.
new: full video on working from home
Working from home is now common, in Switzerland as well as abroad. Many companies encourage their employees to stay at home, whilst more and more solopreneurs start their own business. What are the ergonomic recommendations for preserving your health when working from home?
Your body is the same in every context: the advice that we provide on our DSE training (Display Screen Equipment) is valid under every circumstance. Furthermore, you should beware three hazards specifically related to working from home or a remote location:
The ergonomic risks related to the seat are illustrated below: an ergonomic office chair with a good lumbar support, a kitchen chair with just a high backrest, and a couch. To work in good conditions, you need to invest in a good office chair, which you can purchase from approx. CHF 450 ($450). Make sure that you read this article before buying.
Regarding your neck, now: the lower and the more horizontal the screen (e.g., a tablet lying flat on the table), the more you flex the neck. When you work on a laptop from a fixed location (e.g., from home), you can choose between two ergonomic solutions:
The pictures below show how you can create an ergonomic workstation in an Ikea closet. If you do not have a proper office chair, use a lumbar cushion on your kitchen chair.
If you use two systems (e.g., a desktop PC and a laptop), you can consider a connector to share a keyboard, a mouse and a screen which allows you to flip from one system to the other with a mere switch.
Regarding the breaks: to protect your lumbar discs, you should stand at least every 30 min, be it for 2-3 minutes only (coffee break, bathroom, phone, chat). Your neck and eyes need to relax even more frequently, but for a shorter duration. These breaks seem frequent; however, bear in mind that they are simply biomechanical breaks. They do not force you to take an intellectual (or psychological) break, which would suppose that you take time to re-focus on your task. With a biomechanical break, you don't waste any time...
If you can install it, I recommend the Workrave (Windows) or Time Out (iOS / Mac) freewares, which will prompt you to take breaks if you don't take them naturally.
If you want to receive personal advice on your workplace ergonomics, please choose between the two modalities below.
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