Musculoskeletal pain needs to be addressed for hybrid working model to succeed

By Claire Glynn | Head of Musculoskeletal Services
Employers need to take proactive action to ensure their hybrid work model doesn’t result in preventable musculoskeletal pain and injuries.
Employers need to take proactive action to ensure their hybrid work model doesn’t result in preventable musculoskeletal pain and injuries.

Musculoskeletal pain soared when people started working from home during the pandemic. Four out of five employees experienced neck, shoulder and back pain. Causing almost one in two (46%) to take pain medication more often than they would like.

This was in no small part due to poor ergonomic practices, which saw a quarter of employees working from their bed, sofa or dining table. But lack of movement is also an issue. One in three people are now less active and increased Zoom and Teams meetings mean sitting still for long periods.

With three quarters of workers set to continue working from home, employers need hybrid working models that prevent musculoskeletal pain. So here are five ways you can help employees reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

Five ways to prevent musculoskeletal injuries

1. Educate employees

Working from home needn’t cause employees to develop musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries, so long as they reduce the risks. However, far too many people associate sitting with their arms and hips at right angles as being healthy. When hunching due to poor lighting, not having their feet supported and not taking enough breaks can also cause problems. So educate employees about the muscle and joint injuries that can not only result from poor posture but also from being too sedentary or carrying heavy equipment between the office and home.

2. Encourage movement

Many people have embraced the opportunities that working from home provides for getting outside and moving more during the day. Yet far too many are remaining sedentary at their “desk” all day, increasing their risk of MSK injuries. Hybrid working should also mean flexible working. Encourage managers to give people the freedom to get up and away from their desks between tasks. As well as use the phone, instead of just video calls, so employees can move about while talking.

3. Working from home risk assessment

If workers are using screens for more than an hour at a time, employers have certain legal duties. You must carry out a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Assessment, even if people are working from home. If hybrid working means they’re working from both the office and home, you need to assess both options. A DSE risk assessor can report on advised adjustments and recommendations for additional or alternative equipment. These might include an ergonomic mouse or keyboard or an adjustable chair.

4. Accept hybrid working limitations

A working from home risk assessment may show an employee is unable to work without discomfort. Perhaps they live in shared accommodation, don’t have anywhere to put a desk and can’t work ergonomically from their bedroom. In such an instance, you must provide an appropriate place for them to work. As you might expect, this will typically be in an office, which could result in employees having to “hot-desk”. If so, they’ll need to be made aware it’s their duty to reposition chairs and other equipment. So everything is geared to meet their individual needs each time they sit down to work.

5. Nip musculoskeletal pain in the bud

As with most things in life, prevention is better than cure, so encourage employees to speak up. It’s easier to help someone struggling with setting up at home than someone requiring weeks of physiotherapy to work again. Even so, many people are reluctant to seek help. They might be worried for their job security, or desperate to work from home. So reassure people you want to help them to stay healthy. Making sure they know how to contact any occupational health, physiotherapy or DSE assessment services you have in place.

Musculoskeletal injury risk assessment service

We can assist you in getting all employees to complete our free display screen equipment (DSE) training and assessment. Designed to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Educate employees about ergonomic health
  • Empower employees to personally reduce their risks
  • Provide you with a report on DSE risk across your workforce
  • Carry out more detailed DSE assessment for at risk individuals
  • Advise on any adjustments or ergonomic equipment needed

We can then also:

  • Provide any equipment required at highly competitive rates
  • Direct people to our physiotherapy helpline for advice and exercises
  • Design MSK webinars to meet the needs of your workforce
Why not set up a free consultation to discuss your needs? Just call 01925 989741 or email
DSE assessment

Free online Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Assessment

To help you prevent MSK injuries, PAM Group is providing free access to our online DSE assessment. This features a training video and assessment, to educate employees and identify those most at risk of injury. An employer report is automatically generated, including a status report and recommendations for next steps.

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