What do you think will happen if you need to let go of some of your staff who have been hunched over a laptop for two months as a result of home working during the pandemic? We asked Chartered Physiotherapist and Health and Safety Consultant Andria O’Donovan of Safetyfirsttraining.ie to give us some insights on our obligations as employers and some tips for homeworking with computer screens.
By Andria O’ Donovan Chartered Physiotherapist & Health & Safety Consultant (www.SafetyFirstTraining.ie)
Most of us have on occasion wished we could stay at home to work imagining more flexibility and less commuting. However, now that this is not a choice anymore and many of us have been directed to work from home, we may soon start to realise the many benefits of going to work. Structure to our days, routines which may have included the gym, ‘me time’ either in the car or on public transport and time to decompress before engaging with children and partners, an environment properly set up for comfort and productivity and, the opportunity to socialise and connect with others are a few of the benefits we may well have underestimated.
Most people working from home will be using a computer or laptop and the phone also know as Display Screen Equipment (DSE). Prolonged use of these and sitting for extended periods of time can have potential adverse health effects. These include aches & pains and back and neck problems due to poor posture, stress and fatigue and eye effects and headaches. In fact, prolonged sitting has been called the new smoking!!
It is a legal requirement under the Safety Health & Welfare at work Act 2005 and the General application regulations 2007 that people working with computers must have a safe place and systems of work even if that is in the home. More information can be found on the Health & Safety Authorities website www.hsa.ie under Workplace Health.
It is mandatory that people working from home have the following:
- A desk adequate in size for the tasks carried out
- A height adjustable chair with 5 star base with castors and a backrest adjustable in height and tilt and separate from the seat pan (the part of the chair the person sits on)
- An adequate sized monitor and a keyboard & mouse
Note: A laptop is for temporary use only. A laptop stand with an external keyboard and mouse or a docking station must be used.
The Do List:
- Raise chair so that elbows are at a 90-degree angle when typing
- Adjust the backrest so that back support is at belt level approximately
- Place feet flat on the ground or on a footrest
- Bring chair close to the desk
- Position the monitor fingertip distance away when arms are extended in front of you (50-70cms) with the top of the screen at or below eye level
- Use a headset rather than hold the phone between the ear and shoulder
- Get up every hour and change posture and give the eyes and muscles a break
Fatigue & Stress:
Woking at home may become stressful & require a period of readjustment especially if there are children or other family members around who may distract you and place additional demands on your time and energy. This is normal and you are not alone. Do not bottle things up if you are getting irritated and stressed. Talk to your partner or work colleagues. A problem shared is a problem halved. If you feel yourself getting stressed walk away, take some time out so you can regain calm and perspective. Nothing is worth damaging your mental health or family relationships for. While self-care is to some extent common sense, we often neglect it and as result stress and burnout creep upon us.
- Do create a structure to your day with adequate breaks. Get up on time, shower and dress comfortably and smartly especially if you will be talking online and have a good breakfast.
- Do Practice meditation and learn deep breathing exercises
- Take a half-hour walk minimum each day and move and stretch at hourly intervals
- Drink at least two litres of water per day and eat healthy food. Avoid sugary treats as they are bad for the energy levels and the mood not to mention the waistline.
- Ensure you have eight hours sleep each night
- Get enough relaxation & downtime but avoid too much alcohol as it is a depressant
Avoid spending too much time on social media. Too much phone use has been associated with anxiety and depression and can interfere with our relationships in adverse ways.