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Personal Tablet Use for Work - A Pain in the Neck?

  • 2 min read

This article is aimed at managers in ergonomics, health & safety, occupational health, HR or facilities roles and those who have a general interest in health, wellbeing and productivity.

Tablet computers are everywhere. Although overall sales are currently in decline, the worldwide market for the second quarter of 2015 exceeded 44 million units. Interestingly, the majority of these sales are still to individuals rather than employers.

If this is the case, and your organisation does not provide tablets for employees, surely you have nothing to worry about? There is plenty of evidence that prolonged tablet use brings about musculoskeletal conditions but if, as an organisation, you do not issue them, is there a problem?

I believe this should be a major concern to employers and, potentially, an enormous cause of lost productivity.

Evidence suggests that many people are using their personal tablets for work. Early results from our Tablet Use Survey indicate that nearly 80% of tablets are privately owned but 85% of tablet users are doing at least some work on them. Whether you see it as a duty of care or productivity issue – or both – employers need to be aware of the high levels of tablet use by their personnel. Whether or not you have a BYOD (Bring your own devices) policy, such use is hard to manage or control.

Significantly, nearly half (47%) of the respondents have experienced musculoskeletal pain which they attribute to tablet use. As more young people enter the workplace with a history of tablet and smartphone use in unmonitored environments, it seems likely that this proportion can only increase.

Nearly 85% of survey respondents so far have indicated that they use either a computer or a tablet for certain activities, depending on the circumstances. Anecdotally, we also see the length of time spent on work-related tablet activity increasing as users find more apps and become more familiar with their tablet. I have said many times that the ergonomics issues relating to tablet use today are similar to the situation we faced with laptops twenty years ago. For example, only about 10% of respondents ever use a separate keyboard.

My purpose here has been to give an early idea of the key indicators and food for thought about the potential issues. When we publish the full results, I shall be providing further comment as well as more ideas about what I think we need to do about the explosive growth in tablet use.

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