When the COVID-19 pandemic started, most employees were ordered to work remotely. Some employees saw this mode of work as a blessing. They don’t have to wake up as early as usual since they don’t need to commute or drive to work. They can work wherever they want.
Working from home also reduces the risk of work-related accidents and injuries since employees mostly work at home. But the possibility of injuries isn’t fully eliminated. For example, slipping and falling are just as likely to happen at home.
However, certain injuries are more likely to happen when working from home than in the office. And they are caused by poor ergonomics.
The prolonged period of sitting in front of a computer can cause neck pain. This is especially common for laptop users. When using a laptop, a person will have to look down a lot and keep their neck is bent for a long time. The average human head weighs 12 pounds. And if the neck bent at a 45-degree angle to look at a laptop screen, the head exerts a 50-pound pressure on the neck, causing neck pain.
Another common problem is back pain. This can happen if employees sit in front of their computer with a bad posture or if they don’t work upright (e.g. laying down in bed or on the couch). According to the American Chiropractic Association, 92% of chiropractors said that since stay-at-home protocol was implemented, many patients reported body pains, particularly neck and back pains. If not addressed early, back pain can become chronic and lead to more serious illnesses, such as spine and nerve damage.
Shoulder pain is also common, even more so for employees working at home who don’t have a good workspace set up. For example, if they always look down on their laptop screens, then they are more likely to have a crouched position that puts pressure on the shoulders. If left untreated, shoulder pains can lead to serious problems like tendinitis and bursitis.
Workers’ compensation for work-related injuries that occur at home may take longer to process than those that occur in the office setting because they’re more difficult to prove or justify. For example, lawyers who specialize in vehicular accidents can easily prove that a certain road accident is work-related if an employee is on their way to or from work. Meanwhile, injuries that occur at home may have been caused by something not work-related, even if employees say otherwise.
Thus, using preventive measures can be a good first step to avoid work-related injuries in the first place.
One solution is creating an ergonomic workspace at home. Its first important element is an ergonomic chair. If employees don’t have an ergonomic chair, they can improvise. They need to use a chair high enough that they can lay their feet on the ground and have their knees are at or below hip level. Then, they need to add a small pillow to serve as lumbar support.
If using a laptop, employees might consider getting a separate keyboard and mouse. This way, they can put their laptop on top of books to avoid looking down. The separate peripherals can also prevent shoulder pain.
Another solution is to be more physically active, but it may be difficult. Gyms are closed. And outdoor movement is also discouraged. Thus, employees can resort to simpler options. For example, they can simply stand up and stretch every 30 minutes to keep their muscles awake. Yoga is also a great way to relieve muscle pain. It’s still a form of exercise but not as exhausting and easy to do, even for beginners.
Sitting in front of a computer for several consecutive hours can take a toll on one’s body. Thus, taking breaks is so important. One way for employees to trick themselves to take a break is to avoid placing food in their workspace. Food should always be in the kitchen. If they get hungry, they’ll be forced to stand up and get food.
They can also try using the Pomodoro timer. It divides work into a set of intervals. Each interval is usually 30 minutes long and is followed by a five-minute break. The break time will be 20 minutes long after four intervals.
Being able to work from home is a privilege. But it does have its downsides as well. Working from home can cause employees to experience physical problems like neck pain, back pain, and shoulder pain. Taking extra measures will help them avoid these problems and work more efficiently at home.