Back in May, I presented a webinar that addressed the question ‘Hybrid Working: What is everybody else doing?’. It was in response to a question we were being asked constantly.
Six months later, it is worth asking the same question about homeworking because the short answer, in most cases, is ‘nothing like enough’. Many employers now focus on preparing the workplace for January 2022, rather than September/October 2021 as most had originally planned. In the meantime, we are seeing countless homeworking setups that are simply inadequate.
Take into account the fact that most of the homes we see are where employers have, at least, provided a chair and you will understand that the poor settings we encounter are probably amongst the better setups. However, we can only do what we are asked and we see lots of locations where no assessment has been completed, or it has been done virtually and issues have been missed, or the review has been done from a constrained perspective (e.g. ‘we will just give them a better chair’).
My conclusion, therefore, is that there are probably millions of homeworkers for whom their existing setup is encouraging poor posture, reducing productivity and, almost certainly, leading to musculoskeletal problems in the future (or perhaps already). As I have also said previously, there was (rightly) a prompt recognition of mental health considerations at the start of Covid but the physical health issues have been largely neglected. This is short-sighted because we also know that mental and physical health are inextricably intertwined.
Nobody knows exactly how future hybrid working plans will finally take shape but it is certain that homeworking will be a significant part of those arrangements in most organisations. As such, more consideration (and budget) needs to be attributed to homeworker needs. At the moment, it seems that employers fall into three categories:
- Those who are doing their best within their operational and financial constraints
- Those who don’t understand how big an issue this is, and
- Those who realise how big the issue is but are avoiding action in fear of ‘opening the floodgates’.
All three categories of employer need to be reviewing their plans and taking action now. We know that lack of space is the biggest issue but it is essential to take a holistic view of each individual’s circumstances. Although many argue that the DSE Assessment process is no longer fit for purpose, it still provides a sound framework on which to base your approach, even if you elect to create your own process. This can be done through online self-assessment and will highlight the key issues that need action in a systematic and cost-effective way.
If you want to do more but are not sure where to start, review what you are currently doing first.
- Is it working?
- Are you getting best value from your budget?
- Do you have a good referral process for those with problems?
- Are the number of musculoskeletal cases growing?
- Are you doing post-intervention reviews to ensure they are working?
At the very least, boost your training programme for homeworkers so that they are empowered to help themselves within the constraints of their available setup.
- We are getting great take-up for our frequent free Posture Tips webinars and they can be delivered as an in-house session for Lunch & Learn or similar programmes.
- Our animated Posture Guide makes it easy to see the best way to configure your sitting posture and workstation layout. It is also works really well on a mobile at info
- We also have a free Stretching Guide that can be accessed here.
One final and significant point: the second biggest issue for homeworkers (after space constraints) is unquestionably the problem of desks and tables with central drawers that are too deep. Despite the fact that many office furniture suppliers are promoting these as homeworker products, the drawer depth makes it almost impossible for the user to set up their chair (even a good one) at the correct height to provide proper support. Watch out for this problem because it is a common one.
We would love to help. Please contact us if you would like assistance.