Physical Hazards of Working from Home 2020
Updated: Apr 12
As COVID-19 creates mayhem in our society and around the world, the talk has been about risks to our health, mortality rates, financial implications, and consequences for our mental health. Consider also, that with many people working largely or entirely from home, and with lockdowns curbing our outdoor activities, the coronavirus fallout has implications for our physical well-being as well.
Workplace ergonomic set-ups have improved significantly over the past 20 years. And in the last 5 years, sit-to-stand workstations have been incorporated into an increasing number of offices. I have organized for dozens of my patients to obtain these units at work, and the benefits have been impressive.
Unfortunately, few home-based offices have sit-to-stand workstations. Most would have poor ergonomic set-ups as well. The people I speak to rarely have ergonomic chairs at home. Their desks, of course, are not adjustable. Not to mention that there are at least a dozen other important variables to address in a good set-up. The average office worker is not aware of what is required. Nor do they have the ability or equipment to make the necessary adjustments. The diagram below illustrates a few of many factors that need to be considered to make the home office set-up efficient and healthy.
Many home-based people are working on laptops. This adds greater challenges to maintaining a healthy posture.
What I am going to see in the coming weeks and months, is more patients presenting with muscular aches and pains, back and neck pain, headaches, and acute low back pain. This will be on top of increased daily life stress, anxiety, and general de-conditioning as more people spend significant time in one place.
I give my patients advice to help make their home office as ergonomic as possible. I also recommend taking more frequent breaks than usual. With the reduced scrutiny in their homes compared to work, there is greater opportunity to take a quick walk, or to get down on the floor and do some stretches. And it will become more important for people to do something active at the end of every day (and maybe the beginning), to break the body out of the shackles of myofascial restrictions that will undoubtedly build now more than ever.