5 Working From Home Tips For Your Musculoskeletal (MSK) Health and Wellbeing
The benefits to working from home seem endless:
- Reduced office space costs
- Increased staff retention
- Environmental benefits
- Higher morale
- Wider talent pool
But what does this all mean for someone with an MSK condition such as Arthritis?
The Institute for Employment Studies conducted a survey over the first two weeks of ‘lockdown’ on Working at Home Wellbeing. They recorded that more than half of the survey respondents reported new aches and pains, especially in the neck (58%), shoulders (56%) and back (55%) compared with their normal physical condition.
With back pain, arthritis and other conditions of musculoskeletal pain already being the main causes of work disability in the UK (‘accounting for the loss of 10 million working days per year’ - The Arthritis Research UK-MRC Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work, based at the University of Southampton) we all need to look at how we make sure this figures don’t get too much higher now we are all working from home!
We have put together 5 top tips for how to improve your MSK health and wellbeing while working from your living room, bedroom or garden if the weather permits!
Keep active and stand up:
Regular movement is key not just for when you are working from home but for any job where you are sitting for long periods of time. It is recommended that every hour you take at least a 5-10-minute break from sitting at your desk. We recommend setting an alarm on your phone once an hour that reminds you to do this. All you need to do is get up have a stretch or a wonder to the kitchen to make a tea and this could make a massive difference to the health of your joints and muscles.
It is also recommended to try and alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. This could range from buying a standing desk set up for your home or just taking some of your calls from a standing position every now and again.
And if is possible for you to take at least one 20 min walk a day to get your blood flowing then this is great to add into your routine. A tip to fit this in is to use the time you would have normally used to commute to create a version of a home to work commute that gets you moving.
Setting up your workstation:
Now we are working from home it is more important than ever to have our equipment set up in the correct way! Here are some top tips for setting up your at home work space correctly:
Your computer screen should be around an arm's length away from you with the top of the screen at eye level. Your telephone, keyboard, mouse and should be within your arm span so that you do not have to stretch to use them. When typing make sure your hands are hovered above the desk and keyboard.
We should also aim to keep your office warm as when you are cold your body can naturally tense and put strain on the joints in your neck, back and shoulders.
Try to keep your office warm, as when you are cold your body naturally tenses up and this can put stress on joints such as your neck, shoulders and back.
Flexible working options:
In the old world this meant appreciating that sometimes your employees will want to work from home. The world today means that for a lot of us there is little to no separation between our work and home life. Although the need to commute is gone we still need to make sure we are pacing ourselves throughout the week. Talk to your line manager or HR about how best you can make this work for you and your company. You may want to move to more part-time working or adding extra breaks into your schedule to give you the time to take care of yourself and implement some of these tips into your day.
Gadgets that can help:
There are many gadgets out there that can help to make your work space more comfortable and better for your MSK health.
Comfortable Accessories – mouse pads and keyboards with gel wrist rests are a great way to reduce strain on your wrist. You can find these accessories in bright colours to bring some personality to your workspace providing comfort and visual interest.
A Supportive Chair – A chair that provide the support you need for sitting for long periods if now becoming a must in the home office.
Footrests and back supports can also help with your home office set-up.
Keeping your employer informed about your Arthritis, joint pain or related condition:
This can always seem a bit daunting however is now more important than ever. Keeping your employer informed allows them the best opportunity to be able to support you and could really help with your working life. Having arthritis or a related condition means that you are entitled to support to help you do your job in a comfortable and safe environment, which will not make your health worse. These rights are set out in the Equality Act 2010, and in the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland.
Working from home is set to become the new normal for so many businesses and we need to make sure that we are taking as much care with our working conditions as we would in the office.