Chances are over the last couple of years, most of us have worked from home in some capacity and it looks like the hybrid workplace is here to stay. And what’s not to love? Many of us find we are more productive at home. In fact, 59% of people working from home reported that they were more productive in 2020, with 34% of managers agreeing. Many more (88.3%) found that not having to sit in traffic to and from the office was a definite positive and greatly influenced their decisions to continue working from home (Williamson & Colley, 2022).
Even though we have well and truly settled in to this new norm, we are still seeing many people coming to the clinic with injuries resulting from the home office.
If your home setup is making you feel stiff and sore, you’re not alone. In fact, research has found that 70% of Australian employees have experienced health issues due to ill-equipped remote-working setups. In fact, just over half (60%) of employees have a dedicated office or study at home.
Now’s the time to take stock of your home work space. Did you know that 51% of people experienced decreased workspace comfort while working from home? The complaints with the largest scores included neck and shoulder pain, middle to lower back pain and burn-out (Oakman et al., 2022).
Are you using a hard chair at the kitchen table? Are you drafting emails on the couch or even on your bed? There’s a reason why so much effort goes into making offices ergonomically safe. Where our workspaces at the office are able to be scrutinized and placed under a microscope by occupational health professionals, ergonomists or health and safety representatives at the organisation, this process was largely disrupted by the working from home mandate, meaning that many of us were left without much of a clue.
A recent study of IT workers working from home during the pandemic found many employees were using their sofa, bed, even a rocking chair to work. Perhaps it’s not surprising that there was a 30% rise in musculoskeletal injuries. The most common injuries were low back pain, upper back pain, shoulder and neck pain. That being said, these alternative postures aren’t to blame if they’re just temporary. It’s when we stay in these prolonged positions for hours at a time that we risk overloading our muscles and joints (Oakman et al., 2022).
At CSSM, we commonly see lower back pain from prolonged sitting and neck pain and headaches from the computer monitor being too low.
If you have pain, consider an ergonomic mouse and keyboard. A sit to stand desk can be raised or lowered – remember to change position every 20 minutes.
As with many things in life, preparation is the key. Try these tips for a healthy home work space:
If you need further advice about how best to set up your workspace or some further stretches to relieve strain, contact the clinic.
About the author
CSSM physiotherapist and myotherapist Kelsey Thomas has 17 years of dance training, 12 years of tennis and 7 years of competitive rock climbing under her belt, which has fuelled her interest in sport and associated injuries. While sport is her passion, Kelsey believes that creating solid foundations of strength and rehabilitation are key components in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, whether you work in an office or as an elite athlete.
Oakman, J., Kinsman, N., Lambert, K., Stuckey, R., Graham, M., & Weale, V. (2022). Working from home in australia during the COVID-19 pandemic: Cross-sectional results from the employees working from home (EWFH) study. BMJ Open, 12(4) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-052733
Williamson, S. (2022). Working during the Pandemic: The future of work is hybrid. Retrieved from https://www.unsw.adfa.edu.au/sites/default/files/documents/Working_during_the_pandemic_the_future_of_work_is_hybrid_Feb_2022.pdf
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