5th September 2023

Guide Your Staff to Create Home Workstations That Protect Their Physical Health

Carissa Parnell

Did you know that working long hours at a laptop or computer can be detrimental to your employee’s physical health? Did you also know that it can be an employer’s legal responsibility to mitigate these health issues, often even when a staff member works from home.

In this guide, we will explain how businesses can assist their WFH staff members with creating a home workstation that protections their physical health.

How Does Workstation Setup and Design Impact Your Staff’s Physical Well-Being?

The majority of office workers, whether working from home or in a traditional office, spend an average of 6 or more hours a day using laptops and computers. While this work is largely gentle on the body compared to jobs with heavy manual labour such as construction, it is still unnatural for the body.

The human muscles and skeleton did not evolve to sit in one position for hours on end looking at screens and typing. The longevity that we stay in these positions for the repetitive task of office work has some unfortunate consequences for the body.

Shockingly, data gathered and published in the National Library of Medicine reveals that 44.7% of sampled office workers suffer from musculoskeletal issues affecting their backs, necks, and wrists.

Unfortunately, the situation has worsened with the rise of WFH policies. This is because employees tend to have less formal workstation setups. They have their laptop on a dining room table or on the sofa or any area where muscular strain will be exaggerated since it was not designed to be used in that way for longer periods.

Harmony Healthcare IT reported on research that looked at Google searches since the pandemic and the increase in WFH. It found that searches related to tech-induced injuries, particularly musculoskeletal issues, and eye strain, have increased by 40% since the start of the pandemic.

But if WFH staff are in the privacy of their own home and decide the layout of their workstations, why should a business be concerned with this? 

Why Should You Worry About Tech Causing Physical Issues for Your Staff?

Beyond the potential harm to productivity and people, it is your legal duty to ensure your employees’ physical well-being when their working practices impact them.

In the UK, employers are legally required to review workstations and offer Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessments.

If you are unfamiliar with DSE assessments, they are outlined by the government’s health and safety legislation for the workplace. They essentially help to identify and resolve damage caused by technology.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations apply to workers who use display screen equipment, such as computers and laptops daily, for continuous periods of an hour or more. This would cover the vast majority of employees in office jobs and WFH roles.

As a business owner, you must protect your workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment such as PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

This includes and begins with conducting a DSE workstation assessment. It also then encompasses:

  • Reducing risks (this could include providing suitable equipment even at home, such as suitable desks, chairs, and other equipment to reduce injury)
  • Providing eye tests upon requests
  • Offering training and information to workers 

How Does Using a Laptop or Computer Cause Injury?

Sitting still for long periods of time while using laptops or computers has been linked to an increased risk of early death. Additionally, using the wrong chair, desk, or improper posture, as well as extended screen exposure and repetitive typing, can lead to several physical issues. Incorrect use of display screen equipment or poorly designed workstations and work environments can emphasise these various issues, including:

  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Back pain
  • Arm pain
  • Wrist pain
  • Fatigue
  • Repetitive strain injury
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Eye strain

Some of these conditions can become chronic and happen even when not using screens.

How to Guide Your Workers to Have Healthier Workstations:

  • Advise WFH staff on how to set up the correct lighting and glare reduction:Educate staff about the importance of appropriate lighting and avoiding screen glare to minimise eye strain. Encourage them to adjust light levels on their monitors accordingly.
  • Encourage breaks and movement:Promote the importance of taking regular breaks and incorporating movement throughout the workday. Encourage stretching, walking, or simple exercises to reduce the risk of prolonged sitting-related health issues. Many employees will feel psychological pressure to sit and work all day, especially when they work from home to prove that they are still productive from home. This guilt or pressure can lead them to actually take fewer breaks than they would in the office. It is very important that managers are reassuring them and vocally, repeatedly emphasise the importance of taking breaks.
  • Educate staff on posture:Educate your staff on the significance of maintaining proper posture. Emphasise that the keyboard and screen should be detachable and positioned correctly to avoid neck and wrist strain. Provide guidance on ergonomic setup and offer adjustable equipment to support good posture. Bad posture is particularly prevalent with laptops. When the keyboard is attached to the screen, it is either at the wrong angle for the neck or the wrists or both. Detachable keyboards and appropriate positioning of the screen to eye level, the keyboard, the desk, and their back against the chair are essential in preventing injury.
  • Ergonomic equipment:Emphasise the value of ergonomic equipment, such as ergonomic chairs, keyboards, computer mice, and other accessories designed to support the body’s natural alignment and reduce strain.

The above tips can make a huge difference to your employee’s physical and mental health. Don’t forget that it is a legal obligation to try to mitigate injury caused by tech even among WFH staff.

The model and the settings of your computer hardware can also aid in this endeavour, in addition to the correct workstation set up. Devices For Teams’ experts can help you choose the right devices for each employee based on how they work. We can also help you better understand the hardware’s settings so that you can tweak elements such as brightness etc to get the safest results.

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