Year 2020 was a first for many of us. For a large part, we have entered into telecommuting. Why ? to protect us from COVID19, protect our health. However, according to a study of American physiotherapists, 92% of them explained that their patients complained more than before of musculoskeletal disorders (neck and back pain in particular). What could be the reason? Are there any health issues generated by the home office? This is what we will try to see.
Lack of preparation
To illustrate these new phenomena, The New York Times took a specific example. Elizabeth is a film producer. She worked in her own office equipped with ergonomic objects, including a comfortable office chair, eye-level monitor and an external keyboard. It exuded well-being at work. When the confinement order came, she hurriedly set up an office in her home. Which consisted of a wicker chair which was later replaced by a sofa. A month later, she was seeing a practitioner for back and neck problems. And according to him, Elizabeth is far from an isolated case. The problem ? When confinement was declared, no one knew how long it would last. Most of us haven’t considered the ergonomic aspect in setting up our workplace. With the consequence of an explosion of musculoskeletal disorders. Or rather trauma related to the multiplication of pressure points, which manifest themselves first as mild discomfort and then as more serious problems. “Like a tire that bursts after slow wear,” says Michael Fredericson, professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford University.
A change in the way we work
The second problem pointed out is the lack of movement. Because teleworking not only changes our workplace but the way we work. No more stairs in the hallway for a meeting, trips down the street to have a coffee or in the metro to arrive in the morning. With telecommuting, we sit down, period. In addition, out of sight of others, we can also maintain a passive posture that is bad for our body for too long. The body needs movement, say professionals. Less activity, but also more pressure points on the body if postures are not changed from time to time. And it is not the explosion of time spent in front of screens (computers plus smartphones) that will reverse the trend.
Solutions for well-being at work
This is the good news. How? by equipping yourself with ergonomic accessories at reasonable prices and by forcing yourself to move.To limit the negative effects of laptop use, experts recommend getting an external mouse and keyboard. The first prices are around 20 euros. Regarding movement, Dr Bautch has established a daily program that anyone can easily implement. He suggests setting a timer every 15 to 30 minutes to remind yourself to move, and recommends three types of pauses: frequent “micro-cuts” of as little as five seconds, in which you change your posture to face the opposite direction. Where it was, periodic three- to five-minute “macro breaks” for deep breaths or shoulder stretching, and finally “the big workout,” meaning a 30-minute workout. Phew, we’re saved! Well-being at work is also easy at home.
Traditionally, lifestyle changes have had to be accompanied by greater vigilance over the problems they might cause. Telecommuting is no exception to the rule. The good news is that the solutions to the problems remain accessible and easy to implement.