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Running a business

Is your office a pain in the neck?

Last updated: 10 May 2022

Slumped over a keyboard, slouched in a badly designed chair and expected to work long hours… is it really any wonder that more and more office workers are complaining about aches and pains and holding you, the employer, responsible.

Staff signed off with backache or neck pains will cost your business money and not only that, you could find yourself being sued for negligence when they claim that their workspace was not up to scratch. You need to combat these increasing problems and make sure your staff are sitting comfortably.

According to a survey (HSE) on work-related illness, an estimated 452,000 people suffered throughout 2004/5 with some form of musculoskeletal disorder mainly affecting the back and deemed to be directly related to, or made worse by, their work. In 2003/4 this equated to 4.9 million working days lost, an average of 18.7 days per person suffering.

When you look at figures like this your realise how prolific the problem is and these kind of issues are endemic to the office sector. Workers who type for great lengths of time can consequently be diagnosed with things like Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), a painful condition that now receives widespread recognition. Unfortunately the best advice for RSI is prevention as there is no real cure so you really need to know how to prevent these types of work-related injuries.

Judy Taylor suffered from RSI in both wrists for a number of months but it wasn’t until she was signed off work by her GP that her employer decided to modify Judy’s workstation, and consequently that of her colleagues. “When it became obvious that my constant typing while sat in a badly laid out workspace was what caused my RSI my boss decided to buy me an ergonomic chair, mouse and keyboard rest, and a monitor stand. This has made such a vast improvement to my working position that I can practically manage my RSI successfully by simply taking regular breaks to stretch. It’s just unfortunate that I didn’t have the correct equipment before because then I may never have suffered in the first place”, she said.

Sadly it often takes a situation to happen before employers sit up and take notice, especially in small businesses where there is no designated department to deal with the health of employees. Unfortunately, though, by the time something is done it can not only be too late for the employee who may have suffered irreparable damage, but also for the employer who could find their staff have already sought legal advice for compensation.

The best thing to do as an employer is to make sure you never get to this stage in the first place. Invite an independent Occupational Therapist to assess each workstation and advise on what is needed to make your staff more comfortable therefore minimising future problems with work-related aches and pains. Buy comfortable equipment for each person such as ergonomic keyboards, chairs and mouse mats with built in wrist rests. There are a great deal on the market now and plenty of places to get information from. Also encourage your staff to take regular breaks even if it’s only a break from a repetitive task for 5 minutes every hour.

Musculoskeletal problems do not stop at the physical effects as a person in constant pain will undoubtedly begin to suffer from stress and this will affect their work. By taking simple measures to ensure your staff are comfortable in the short-term you will prevent more serious problems in the long-term and therefore improve your employees’ productivity along with that of your business.

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