More than eight million employees work from home at least one day a week1. However, with the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, that number is likely to increase drastically with the UK government encouraging people to work from home.
Some employees may be working from home for the first time and are unsure of what to expect.
Fiona McGill, occupational health manager at BHSF, explains what employees should look out for and how employers can support.
“Back pain costs the UK economy £10.7bn every year and is the leading cause of sickness absence2. Spending a prolonged period of time working on a laptop or a tablet with poor posture can be incredibly harmful to employees’ musculoskeletal health.
“Our research from 2018 shows that 58% of employees received no guidance from their employer on how to set up a workstation that supports healthy posture. Over two thirds of workers also reported new pain since working from home.
“By ensuring that home workers are provided with the correct equipment and shown how to set up their workstation correctly, employers could prevent musculoskeletal conditions among their workforce. Employers should also be making efforts in finding out about their employees’ home workstations and ensure they complete a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment.”
Move your body
Worryingly, less than half of home workers say they sometimes include exercise as part of their working day. McGill recommends employees take regular breaks.
“The human body is not designed to sit for long periods of time. Even if employees exercise regularly, spending a lot of time sitting down can be bad for health, contributing to higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“In an office, employees are far more likely to move away from their desks – going to meetings, speaking to colleagues or heading out for lunch. Employees working from home can spend hours in the same position, as they don’t have these natural interruptions to their day.
“Employers should be exploring ways in which they can encourage home workers to take breaks. This could be through apps or notifications to remind staff to take a break from the screen. At the same time, employees should also aim to take responsibility for their wellbeing. Even if it means walking to the kitchen to get a glass of water or going outside for a walk.”
However, on a more positive note, three-quarters of employers have made adjustments to connect home workers to the office. This includes adopting the use of regular face-to-face meetings and video conferencing. McGill believes this is a step in the right direction.
“Looking after the physical health of employees working from home is key. Knowing that the majority of employers, based on our survey, have put in measures to ensure the team is connected, is a real positive.
“When you also hear employees saying they feel ‘free’ and ‘in control’ while working at home, that is encouraging. This can help an employee to feel more productive and happier.
“I would advise employers to organise regular meetings through conference calls and introduce internal messaging systems. This can help to make collaboration easier, create a company culture across the team of remote workers and ensure home workers feel part of the bigger picture.”
If you have any concerns about your health while working home and need advice, give us a call today on 0800 622 552.