The Most Common Work-From-Home Injuries

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Posted by: CMR August 12, 2021 No Comments

The most common types of job-related injuries for remote and hybrid workers are in the lower and upper back, shoulders, hands and wrists, according to Lisa Orr, ergonomics expert and senior human factors consultant for Sedgwick.

Many of these injuries are because of improper home office accommodations, she says. This can include chairs that were not designed with support in mind or without height adjustments. Additionally, makeshift work surfaces such as dining tables and kitchen counters are often too high.

If a workstation is too high, an employee will lean forward and sit on the edge of their chair, Orr says. These positions leave the back unsupported as the worker holds that posture throughout the day. Employees in low chairs that can’t be adjusted tend to reach up to their keyboards. This can lead to upper back injuries if held for prolonged times.

Another issue is that monitors were an afterthought during the move to remote working when the pandemic started. In a rush, many workers simply grabbed their laptops. The screen is set too low when laptop keyboards are set at elbow height. This can lead a worker to hunch over. However, when the screen is set at a good viewing height then the keyboard is too high. This causes workers to reach up to type, which can lead to hand and wrist injury.

Supporting workers

Orr has seen several approaches to make sure employees’ home workstations are correctly set up. These range from directly providing equipment for remote workers and giving stipends to be used for home office furniture to extending company discounts on office furniture to employees. If leaving the decision up to the employee, Orr says providing a list of “smart purchases” can help guide the process in the right direction.

“Other employers have a policy that they don’t provide furniture for employees at home, but they still provide evaluation services. In those cases, I’ll help the employee work with what they have and how to pick something that will fit their budget if they need a new chair, for instance,” she says.

During her evaluations, Orr discusses any issues or pain the employee might be having, takes measurements and reviews the current workstation.

When employees return to the office is the perfect time to check how they are doing and address any issues.

“If they have been working in an awkward setup for the past year and a half, they could have some issues,” Orr says. “Communication is key. Let people be free to discuss any symptoms. Reporting early is always better because you can treat them easier.”

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Author: CMR

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