The number of Australians working from home exploded early in 2020 as workers sheltered in the safety of their home. The pandemic has caused a shift in the way many people work that’s predicted to stay with us for the long-term.
While many have enjoyed the benefits of working from home, many aren’t aware that their insufficient set-up at home is risking an injury. Safe Work Australia has provided information for employers and employees about the risks involved with working from home.
The healthcare and insurance industries are predicting an increase in the number of workers compensation claims from people injured while using poor home office equipment. The increase in mental illness claims occurred quickly, but experts believe the spike in physical injury claims will follow soon.
Follow our tips so you aren’t one of the statistics in the rise of musculoskeletal injuries.
Here’s a list of all the things you shouldn’t be doing while working from home.
#1 Work from the Lounge (or Bed)!
It might have been your all-time dream, to lounge around while you work from home. But if you’ve tried it a few times you probably already know, it isn’t that comfortable. And you could cause yourself an injury.
The laptop life on the lounge is bad for your posture. Your head is forced to bend down at the screen rather than at eye level which can cause neck and shoulder problems. The lounge doesn’t provide the same support that an ergonomic office chair does so make sure you sit in a chair with good support when you’re working.
#2 Work all the Time
Just because your work computer is at home, don’t be tempted to switch it on and do a little work to catch up on the weekend or at night. With the boundaries of work/home blurred, many Australians are reporting longer work hours now that they’re home. It means more time spent in the same seated position and looking at the screen. Neither is good for the body particularly if work is taking away from activities that are better for you physically and mentally like exercise or socialising.
#3 Assume Your Workstation Setup is Fine
If you had good quality ergonomic equipment at work, your body may not respond well to the substandard equipment you’re using at home. Over time, a chair that allows for a poor posture or the low monitor height can lead to an injury.
If you aren’t sure if you have the equipment you need, ask for an ergonomic assessment. The time and cost involved in an assessment of your home work station will be a fraction of the cost of a musculoskeletal injury you may suffer (not to mention the pain). These types of injuries need time to heal which is reduced work hours plus treatment. Prevention is always better than the cure.
#4 Ignore Niggling Pains
If you experience pain of any kind, don’t dismiss it and continue working. The pain is a warning sign that an injury may be imminent so take action. Visit your physio or GP to discuss steps you can take to reduce the pain and chance of ongoing problems. Musculoskeletal injuries can take a long time to heal and may mean you can’t work while you recover, so take every pain seriously.
Follow this list of ‘do’s’ to ensure you’re safely working from home.
#5 Set up Your Workstation
If you’re going to work from home regularly, it’s important you spend some time and money setting up a proper work station. Using what you have might be the easy and thrifty thing to do but you could end up paying a much higher price in the future.
Invest in a Good Chair
The kitchen chair is no substitute for an ergonomically appropriate office chair. A chair designed for a kitchen or dining table often has a hard back that offers little support for your spine. You need an office chair that can be fully adjusted to suit your body and height. Research shows that being comfortable at work leads to better productivity.
Lift The Height of the Screen
Many people working from home are using a laptop. They like the flexibility of being able to move around taking their computer with them. While laptops are fantastic for their mobility, they’re terrible for their ergonomics. Your screen should be at eye level and placed about an arm’s length from your body. To achieve this setup, you’ll need to invest in a laptop riser and a separate keyboard.
Separating Work and Home
Try to set up your workstation in a quiet area away from the main living area if you share the house with noisy family members. Having a dedicated study or room for work also allows you to shut the door on your work each night so you can enjoy some separation between work and pleasure.
#6 Take Regular Breaks
Whether you realised it or not, when you were working in an office you had interruptions. Colleagues asked you questions, you walked to the kitchen and stopped for a chat, you walked to and from the office and again at lunch time. Now that you aren’t commuting, chances are you’re doing less exercise to get to and from work and your fridge is a few short steps from your home desk.
If you forget to take breaks away from your screen, set a timer to remind yourself. Go outside to get some fresh air rather than staying inside all the time. Try to leave your house each day even if it’s just to pick up a coffee or some groceries. Staying at home for days at a time isn’t physically or mentally healthy. If you can’t leave your desk during a break, try to do some stretches so you’re using different parts of your body during the day.
#7 Look Away from the Screen
You don’t need to get up from your chair and leave your screen to give your eyes a rest. The 20/20/20 Rule can be enough to protect your eyes from damage. Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen at an object that’s 20 feet in the distance for at least 20 seconds. The change in your focus from short distance to long distance is ideal for good eye health.
If you have concerns about your home set-up speak to your employer, call PeopleSense by Altius on 1300 307 912, (08) 9388 9000, or contact us online.