Embrace Ergonomics. Literally Prevents Pain.
Concerns about COVID-19 have re-shaped how companies think about the workspace. After working remotely at the beginning of the pandemic, many employees today are returning to the office, at least part-time. This hybrid working model presents new challenges related to ergonomics and employee health and wellbeing.
According to the US Department of Labor, Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) such as lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff issues, and tendinitis can easily be prevented through ergonomics—designing a workspace to a user’s needs. Pre-pandemic research found that work-related MSDs accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases.*
Because of the hybrid working model, many companies are creating shared facilities. These temporary workspaces may simply have a desk, chair, and monitor. Employees bring their laptop computers. The equipment is standardized and can easily be arranged in an ergonomically-friendly way. Setup is almost intuitive for employees.
Yet, there is a growing hesitancy about common workspaces and the spread of the coronavirus. As an example, some employees are concerned about sharing a chair, even if the entire workstation has been cleaned and disinfected.
Also, many employees prefer to work from home. In addition to being more productive, they enjoy a more flexible work schedule, better work-life balance, less commuting time, saving money, and even having a positive environmental impact. According to YouGov research conducted for BBC, 79% of senior business leaders and 70% of the general public surveyed said it’s likely that people will never return to offices at the same rate as before the pandemic.
Unfortunately, for work-from-home employees who do not have workspace environments designed with ergonomics in mind, the risk of injury is greater than it is when they are in the office. “People working from home don’t have the right setup,” says Thomas Varghese, Certified Professional Ergonomist at UConn Health.
“They’re working on the couch or dining room table. After just 3 – 4 hours of this, they can experience discomfort.”
To help keep employees healthy and productive, companies are helping employees become more ergonomically conscious at their home office. While liability concerns prevent companies from providing equipment, they are giving guidance. Forward-thinking companies are giving employees a pre-approved list of furniture and, even, stipends to purchase equipment. They are also providing resources for setting up their equipment.