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May 20, 2015

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Home working: risks to physical and mental health

Home office workers are risking serious damage to their physical and mental health by doing computer work in appropriate home office set ups, according to research by an interior retailer.

Two-thirds of office workers confess to taking work home ‘at least twice per week’ with the majority having no home office space.

According to the research conducted by Furniture123.co.uk, 78 per cent of those who take work home are working from their sofa, risking repetitive strain injury, back problems and neck strain.

The survey found that living rooms are the most commonly used room to work from, followed by dining rooms, bedrooms and kitchens. Home offices came in at the fifth most popular – most likely due to the small proportion of people who have them.

Employees in professional services are most likely to take work home, closely followed by those in the education, information and communications, financial services and administrative/support industries.

 Mark Kelly, marketing manager at Furniture123.co.uk, commented: “With workaholic and presenteeism culture on the rise, it is not surprising that many office workers are taking work home with them. And with the housing market as it currently is, it’s no surprise most are settling down on the sofa to get it done, as accommodation with a number of spare rooms gets more and more expensive. But this is really bad for your posture and physical mobility in the long term, and yet while many people are willing to invest extra hours into their work, they are not willing to invest in the equipment which will protect them from the damage this can eventually cause.

“Doing work in your living room is also bad from a psychological perspective – not separating spaces from your working life can make it difficult to switch off and relax when you eventually finish working, and chilling out is the ultimate function of this type of room. The bedroom is possibly the very worst space to work in, as psychologically it will be difficult to slip into a relaxed state ready for sleep once the working day is over.”

The company has offered five tips to help ensure a healthy home office setup:

  • Be choosy: The room you choose to work in can effect comfort, concentration, productivity and stress levels. Always aim for an area in the house where you are unlikely to be disturbed, clutter is kept to a minimum and where you won’t be attempting to wind down once you’ve finished, such as the bedroom or living room.
  • Keep it light: Where possible, ensure you have a good balance of both natural light from windows and quality artificial lighting in your workspace, in order to prevent strain to the eyes. You don’t necessarily have to opt for a dedicated desk lamp – just a good quality floor light or lamp placed near the workspace will do the trick.
  • Out of sight and out of mind: Make use of drawers, a chest or curtained shelving to keep work-related paperwork, folders and gadgets neatly tidied away and out of sight, so that your home space will resemble just that when your working day ends – whatever time it is! – allowing you to relax without dwelling on it.
  • Accessorise: There are lots of small items you can invest in, in order to increase comfort and lessen the strain on body and mind which staring at a screen for hours on end and engaging in repetitive movements, such as typing can cause. Wrist rests and ergonomic mouse pads will support hands and wrists, while a document holder or an adjustable stand placed under the computer monitor will mean your neck is not put under pressure from extended periods of looking at a screen which is placed at the wrong height.
  • Sit right: A chair really is the one thing it is hard to substitute. The power of an adjustable office chair with the appropriate support for your lumber cannot be under-estimated. When properly adjusted, it will encourage you to sit up straight, support your back and enable you to sit at the correct height to prevent strain to the hands, wrists and arms developing.

Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing

Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

This free director’s briefing contains:

  • Key points;
  • Recommendations for employers;
  • Case law;
  • Legal duties.
Barbour EHS

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Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
5 years ago

With increased use operation of work/home mobile DSE the ergonomics is becoming a work/life nightmare as, it is no longer just a question of whether one is sitting comfortably solely using a desk top PC display screen but, sustaining a good posture, at home and/or on the move is exacerbating the risks making DSE use even more critical in the chain of causation of work related upper limb disorders let alone Screen Fatigue and/or CVS when the screen interface is sub-optimally calibrated for the user operator. In addition, the habitual use and viewing of “display screens” well into the evening… Read more »