Home office ergonomics was the last thing on most people’s minds when they packed up their workstations at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Workers pulled up wooden chairs to their dining tables, opened their laptops, and got to work.
Home Office Ergonomics After Two Years of WFH: A Report Card
It didn’t take long for poor home office ergonomics to come knocking. Neck pain, hip problems, even emergency room visits – all this on top of a global pandemic. The cause has never been secret: most people don’t have ergonomic home offices or the equipment they previously enjoyed before they started working remotely.
Productivity has been a concern for employers throughout the pandemic. The best solution to this is to give employees the opportunity to create a work environment that is comfortable, safe, and conducive to them doing their jobs.
Unfortunately, three recent studies found that only a minority of remote workers (33%, 32.9%, and 48.6% respectively) have a dedicated workspace and many report needing to rotate through a variety of spaces within their home.
This comes with a host of challenges, and we encourage all workers to try to carve out a dedicated area for themselves whenever possible, while also recognizing that for some people options may be limited.
Similarly, it can be difficult for employers to support staff in establishing dedicated workspaces. But they can play a key role in improving the home office ergonomics of those workspaces, dedicated or not.
New Studies Present Concerns
As the pandemic drags on, new studies are shining light on the concerning work conditions many employees face. These findings include:
- 57 per cent work from a standard kitchen chair.
- 68 per cent do not have an ergonomic chair.
- 54 per cent sit at the dining room table.
- 86 per cent work from a table that isn’t height adjustable.
These numbers are highly alarming because they indicate that a huge portion of the workforce is on course to develop potentially serious musculoskeletal injuries. As we can reasonably assume that most people would prefer a dedicated workstation with equipment that follows proper home office ergonomics, the stats indicate that the onus for making this happen is falling largely on workers’ shoulders.
Despite the musculoskeletal health risks, 72 per cent of those surveyed would like to continue working from home into the future. This demonstrates the degree to which employees appreciate the perks of remote work, such as not needing to commute and being able to chip away at housework throughout the day.
Control of Environmental Factors is Beneficial
Moreover, increased control of environmental factors such as lighting, temperature, noise levels, and air quality have been found to correlate with improved physical and mental health. Specifically, enhanced air quality and thermal conditions – factors that can be manipulated by individuals working from home – are linked to better attention, concentration, and productivity.
Still, these advantages will not, in the long term, offset the consequences of poor home office ergonomics. Yet, buying employees equipment to use at home often seems like a tough pill to swallow for businesses that are feeling a squeeze due to pandemic disruptions.
What these employers may not realize, however, is the easy return on investment seen on supplying staff with ergonomic equipment. Employees who aren’t distracted by discomfort are vastly more focused, productive, and content.
In fact, employers who are concerned about productivity in remote workers may want to look at whether their staff have appropriate equipment rather than their ability to stay on task when outside of traditional office spaces.
It may not be realistic to supply a whole team of employees with the setup they need for optimal home office ergonomics. But, if there’s one thing people need, we suggest starting with an adjustable chair.
Adjustable Chairs Are Essential!
Chairs are arguably the most important piece of equipment for people with desk jobs. An ergonomic chair has many features that impact comfort in a variety of areas. Whereas it’s possible to find ways to change the height of a desk or a monitor, there’s only so much you can do to a wooden chair.
An ergonomic chair will make a long-term difference for any employee. And many of them come with 12-year warranties – a testament to their quality and longevity.
If your resources are limited, talking to an ergonomist can help you maximize what you do have. There are many home office ergonomics improvements most people can make with some quick coaching.
Other options include cost sharing, subsidies, and educating employees on tax deductions they may be eligible for to cover the costs of working from home.
Getting Ahead of the Curve
Ultimately, we need to move away from the current reactive, and more costly, system of caring for people after they are injured. The first step in supporting workers in maintaining their health is to recognize the potential hazards of home office environments.
Workers’ compensation boards are continuing to set more specific parameters regarding injuries in home offices. In Germany, a worker who fell while walking between his bed and his desk will be covered by workplace accident insurance as it was determined that this was part of his commute.
A similar incident in Quebec, in which an Air Canada employee fell down the stairs while working from home, was also deemed a workplace accident. Though the full ramifications across other provinces remain to be seen, it seems that worker’s compensation will cover injuries that occur during work hours of those telecommuting.
It’s always best to be ahead of the curve and proactive when it comes to health. Home office ergonomics is no exception. Please consider checking out EWI Works’ array of services and resources to protect your business and the people who make it work.
EWI Works offers many services that can improve your quality of life. We have developed several cost-effective remote services to help you transition to remote work. Find out more about our Online Training, Services, and Resources.