Many find themselves still working from home, and ergonomic and health experts say it’s past time to take a more critical look at their home-office setup and daily work practices.
A 2016 analysis by the United States Bone and Joint Initiative estimated that one in two U.S. adults suffers from musculoskeletal disorders.
Dr. Nikki Weiner, clinical director and co-founder of The Rising Workplace, an ergonomic consulting agency that operates in Chicago and other major cities, said the pandemic-induced pivot to working from home and a general decline in physical activity likely increased these problems.
“These conditions are cumulative in nature,” she said. “So, it could be something that initially bothers you every now and again, to the point where it’s a persistent issue that keeps you from performing your job.”
She suggested a few simple steps to prevent posture-related health issues; including focusing on good posture and staying active. In equipping a home office, she said an adjustable office chair is important, and computer screens should be raised to near eye level.
In a September 2021 Gallup poll, nearly half of respondents indicated they still were working from home at least part of the time. Dr. Russell Amundson, national senior medical director for UnitedHealthcare, said it’s important for a home office to have proper ergonomic equipment.
“There’s been a shift to telecommuting, which seems to have become persistent – the so-called “hybrid” workspace,” he said. “So, folks have surrendered or have been removed from more ergonomically designed workspaces with good office chairs, with good support, and of course the appropriate-height desk.”
The Bone and Joint Initiative report said musculoskeletal ailments cost an estimated $213 billion in annual treatment, care and lost wages pre-pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.7 billion people worldwide suffer from a musculoskeletal ailment, and lower back pain is the leading cause of disability in 160 countries.