Not a Huge Stretch: Improving Remote Work Ergonomics is Within Reach

For many people, the shift to remote work means less activity and poor ergonomic setups. With a few simple tips, you can help your employees avoid the pain, strain, and stress of the work-from-home environment.

An increase in remote work during the pandemic has led to an uptick in common musculoskeletal (MSK) back and neck pain.1 Formal office environments provided employees with traditional desk setups, routines, and functionality that were far more conducive to MSK-friendly habits than what’s possible for most at home.

There are multiple factors that can lead to MSK pain with employees’ remote setups, including:

  • The type of chair and its lumbar support
  • The height of the chair in relation to the desk
  • The position of the computer’s monitor(s)

Coupled with the preexisting challenges of working from home, more and more people are missing out on the physical activity they would have normally gotten from their commutes or lunch breaks, leading to a drastic increase in MSK discomfort.2 These factors can lead to decreased productivity, diminished team morale, and poor health for your employees.

There are myriad best practices and support you can offer your employees to help them reduce or eliminate pain. Some simple adjustments to their daily routine and home office setup can help make all the difference.

Movement, Stretching, and Exercise 

Encourage your employees to get up and move—try offering brief 15-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon to provide both physical and mental rejuvenation. 

Regular movement, activity, or exercise can help reduce the frequency of recurring back pain by almost half.3 Stimulating the cardiovascular system with exercise can help decrease joint and muscle stiffness and dramatically increase blood flow.1 Experts suggest taking brisk, short walks a few times per day can help reduce the risk of neck pain by 14%.4

Posture and Chair

Check in with your employees to make sure they’re educated on posture best practices and have access to a supportive chair.

No surprises here—experts say sitting up straight is one of the best habits to form in combating MSK-related pain. Employees should sit back fully in their chair, not leaning forward or sitting on the edge of the chair, with feet resting flat on the floor.5

But remember, bodies are meant to move, and if we’re inactive for too long, it can take its toll. “The best posture is the next posture,” says Emil Berengut, Director of Clinical Operations at Kaia Health. “Changing your position frequently, at least once an hour, helps to prevent aches associated with prolonged sitting.”

Computer Monitors

Try offering your employees laptop stands if possible, and make sure they’re informed on proper monitor setup and recognizing the warning signs of eye strain.

Everything on the desk should be at a comfortable viewing height, especially computer monitors. Monitors should be placed at a comfortable distance from the face, while also being at a natural height that doesn’t require bending the neck or squinting to read. If employees find themselves leaning in while looking at their computer screen, they may want to consider an eye exam.6

Those with laptops should place the laptop on top of a stack of books or a box to get their screen to eye level. Even when viewing hard copy documents, it’s recommended that individuals hold the paper up in front of their face while keeping their neck and head straight to avoid craning their neck to look down.5

Standing Desks 

Encourage employees to start standing in 20-minute increments, or try holding regularly scheduled team meetings as “stand-up” calls when possible. 

Standing desks are a popular option for many employees who seek to improve ergonomics and be more active. While they can encourage better posture and more movement, there are parameters to consider with their use. Balance is key—employees shouldn’t stand for hours on end. Prolonged standing can increase the risk of developing varicose veins and other health issues.5 Rather, employees should use a standing desk for short periods to get the blood flowing and stretch the whole body and then proceed with sitting.

Let’s Get Digital

Empowering employees to address their MSK pain with clinical support is a great way to improve the quality of remote work life and improve overall team productivity and morale. Digital therapeutic solutions are an effective way to engage your employees with guided therapy to treat their specific needs. By meeting them where their lives are already centered, their smartphones, digital programs make getting effective therapy easy and convenient.

Kaia Health is the largest MSK digital therapeutics platform worldwide with more than 500K users globally. In the United States, more than 100 companies are offering Kaia Health to their employees as an effective way to reduce MSK pain.

How Does the Kaia Health App Work? 

Each employee using the Kaia Health app completes a questionnaire that looks at all the key areas that affect them: sleep, stress, activity, medical history, and more. From there, they’ll receive a personalized program that helps them build pain management skills  targeting their specific areas of need, including:

  • Total back
  • Neck, shoulder & elbow
  • Hip & knee
  • Wrist, hand, ankle, and foot

With the selfie camera of a smartphone, Kaia Health’s proprietary motion analysis algorithms can analyze movements in real time to evaluate performance and guide users through training. Ready to learn more about how Kaia Health’s solution can improve your team’s health, productivity, and morale? Contact our team today to learn more.

References:

1. Stieg C. Working from home during Covid is causing more back and neck pain — here’s how to find relief. CNBC. March 3, 2021. Accessed February 28, 2022. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/03/back-and-neck-pain-working-from-home-amid-covid-exercises-for-relief.html

2. Hanna F, Daas RN, El-Shareif TJ, Al-Marridi HH, Al-Rojoub ZM, Adegboye OA. The relationship between sedentary behavior, back pain, and psychosocial correlates among university employees. Front Public Health. 2019;7:80. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00080.

3. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany). Low back pain: Why movement is so important for back pain. Informed Health. Updated February 14, 2019. Accessed February 28, 2022. https://www.informedhealth.org/why-movement-is-so-important-for-back-pain.html

4. Sitthipornvorakul E, Janwantanakul P, Lohsoonthorn V. The effect of daily walking steps on preventing neck and low back pain in sedentary workers: a 1-year prospective cohort study. Eur Spine J. 2015;24(3):417-424. doi:10.1007/s00586-014-3577-3

5. Hedge A. Getting back pain while working from home? An ergonomics expert offers advice. Time. April 15, 2020. Accessed February 28, 2022. https://time.com/5821252/back-pain-work-from-home-tips/

6. Addressing neck and back pain when you’re working from home. Hopkins Medicine. Accessed February 28, 2022. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/back-pain/addressing-neck-and-back-pain-when-youre-working-from-home

Further Reading