The aches and pains of homeworking

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Apr 23 2020 by Nicola Hunt Print This Article

Amid all the talk about the psychological challenges of lockdown and working from home, it’s easy to forget another potential downside of working from home. Because according to a new report by UK-based physiotherapy group, Ascenti, half of those now working from home are experiencing physical pain due to home office set-ups that range from being ergonomically poor to completely unsuited to the task.

The report, Are Home-Workers Sitting Comfortably? highlights how unprepared many of us are for home working, with examples of people using sofas, beds and beanbags instead of desks as well as suffering from poor posture because they don’t have to walk anywhere to see colleagues. And compounding this is a lack of ergonomic advice from their employers.

Back, neck, shoulder and hand pain are now common among the half (49%) of home workers already experiencing discomfort since they stopped being office-based, the survey of 2,000 people found. One reason for this is that the sofa is the new ‘seat of choice’, with seven out of 10 (72%) people saying they had worked from the couch since the outbreak and more than half (56%) saying they have used their bed, making them both more popular choices than a traditional desk (47%).

Younger employees are particularly likely to use alternative work set-ups, with nine out 10 (91%) 16-24 year olds having based their office out of bed, two thirds (65%) on the floor and half (52%) from a beanbag.

To make matters worse, around half of home-workers cannot access equipment that would have been taken for granted in the office, such as an office desk (50%), an adjustable chair (56%), a separate monitor (55%) or a separate keyboard (51%). And even if they do have access to this equipment, many now have to share it with others in their home. For example, only 58% have exclusive access to a laptop and only a third can use an office desk (33%) and an adjustable office chair (30%) whenever they choose.

The good news for employers that are investing into supporting staff with their home-working set-up is that eight out of 10 (85%) would be more likely to want to work for a company like this. The research found that recognising employees’ responsibilities at home (28%), providing a work computer/laptop (25%), inviting questions about setting up a workspace (19%) and the promise of work-from-home options in the future (26%) would also improve an employer’s reputation.

“Creating an ergonomic home office doesn’t have to be expensive,” said Stephanie Dobrikova, CEO of Ascenti. “Advising employees of simple tricks like using a rolled up towel to provide lumbar spine support and adjusting their seat height with a cushion can really help to protect the health of those who don’t have access to an adjustable chair. Movement and stretches are also important and home-workers should try to stand up every 20 minutes and move for 20 seconds.”

So how ergo is your home office set-up? Is it up to the task? Ascenti has created The Ergonometer quiz to help you find out.