Coronavirus confinement and

working from home advice

What unprecedented times we live in! The majority of the UK workforce are now adjusting to working from homeand being virtually housebound. How will we all cope? We are having to be inventive in our working methods and activities to enable us to survive physically, mentally and financially.

Up to now, many of us have been working “on the go”or from home with laptops, tablets and smartphones, on a more occasional basis. Now this is a permanent situation for the foreseeable future, we need to review how we do this, to ensure that we do not begin to have issues from poor postures and also poor mental health from being isolated from others.

If a mobile type of deviceis used “as it is” on a work surface or on your lap, this can lead to poor neck posture, shoulders rounded forwards, and a bending of the back posture. Repetitive thumb or other finger or wrist use issues due to swiping, tapping the screen and prolonged holding of heavier devices can also cause additional issues.

These types of injuries are known as musculo skeletal issues and can lead to pain and discomfort and may cause prolonged periods of illness and difficulty performing work and home tasks. For those with ongoing medical conditions, this can also exacerbate symptoms and cause their overall health to further decline.

Therefore individuals should conduct a Home working DSE risk assessment, similarly to an office based Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Risk Assessment under the HSE Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992/2002. Employers have a Duty of Care for all employees to be set up correctly, when performing work tasks, and additional responsibilities underthe Equality Act 2010 for those with health conditions and disabilities.

The following tips may be helpfulfor home working and setting yourself upto succeed:

1. Make a daily timetable for working and relaxing and resting. We all function better with a routine. Dress and present yourself suitably for video based tasks and to make you feel you are in work mode. Maintain the balance between work and home mode. Good sleep, exercise and also continuing with hobbies can also help maintain good mental health.

2. Plan what tasks you hope to achieve during the day, with realistic achievable goals and list tasks you have got done then plan for the following day. Choose when you are bestable to focus on tasks/most energised! Maybe complex/tricky tasks in the morning...work in short bursts and be flexible with your routine.

3. Talk to colleaguesand teams via technologies daily, both voice and video call systems like Zoom or Skype, using webcam etc, about work tasks but also have a virtual coffee together, to help you feel connected to others. However, give yourself focussed ‘do not disturb’ time tooas well as time when you are available to others.

4. Take plenty of rest breaks for a few minutes, e.g.for lunch/coffee breaks, try to get some air. Do some daily exercises. Download Apps for healthy working.

5. Take many short microbreaks during tasks, 5-10minutes/ hr, to vary your posture, have movement and vary use of joints and muscles during repetitive work tasks. Several short breaks throughout an hour of working is more suitable than one short break at the end of the hour. Look away from the screen regularly, to allow you to blink more frequently and rest your eyes. E.g. 20-20-20: look awayevery 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, to a distance of 20 metres and BLINK++! Keep H20 fluids up too.

6. Sit, stand or walk regularly during tasks to vary your posture. E.g. Stand or walk when you are taking a phone call. Take a laptop to a higher work surface for a short break from sitting, e.g.5-10 minutes standing and using the laptop briefly at a higher kitchen work surface. Or use an upturned cardboard boxto turn your sitting worksurface into a standing worksurface, to achieve the laptop and additional equipment-keyboard/mouse at your standing elbow height.

7.  Use a work surface that you can leave set upfor the worktasks, at right angles to a window, otherwise it may be too bright. Ideally, keep a kitchen table free of work equipment, for you to eat at and a try to keep the relaxing areas and your own bedroom work free if you can. A surface approx. 1000mm wide and 700mm deep should be just enough, or wider if you can. (Try to use a work surface without a thick under edge/drawers, such as a dining table, traditional bureau desk, as this is designed for eating/writing, so you sit lower. For IT equipment use, you have to sit higher, so the thigh space may be too restricted by the under table edge/drawer). Usually IT/office desks are 72cm high.A camping table approx. 70cm high could be a suitable temporary solution.

8. Sit on a chair with a back rest (avoid working on asofa or bed),which allows you to position your elbows (with shoulders relaxed down) horizontal tothe keyboard/mouse height. Ideally use an office chair if you have one. Unlock the back restfor movement if you can. Adjust any other settings/lever sit has and adjust the gas stem/sitting height as mentioned above. If you are using a fixed height e.g.dining/kitchen chair, add cushions under you to achieve the elbow height discussed above.If these make you feel too unstable, purchase a block of foam online.

9. If your feet are off the ground, usesome books/a box under your feet as a foot rest (or lower the worksurface height if you can). Purchase a foot rest if for longer term.

10. Sit with your back in contact with the chair back rest for support, at all times. Take even more breaks from sitting if your chair is locked/fixed in one position.

 

11. Sit lower to the work surface if you are performing lots of paperwork tasks, but if you are doing both IT and paperwork tasks, ideally raise the paperwork higher on a paperwork angled platform, behind the keyboard, so you can sit at the same height whether writing or keyboardingand slide it closer over the keyboard to write.

12. Use a separate keyboard and mouse wired/wireless, so they can be closer to you, so your elbows remain by your side during useor rest. Or you can buy a ‘Laptop kit’online. Do not rest your wrists on a wrist rest or mouse rest during use, only during breaks. Better still have a keyboard and mouse closer so your arms don’t have to reach forwards and so do not get tired.

13. Raise the laptop screen itself, so it is at eyeline, whether sitting or standing. A pile of books under the laptop can achieve this or use a riser. Better still, attach the laptop with a suitable cable to a bigger screen/widescreen monitor/ultra-wide screen monitor (instead of 2 screens) and ensure it is raised at eye lineand about arms-length in front of you. Adjust the height and distance accordingly if you wear glasses/contact lenses.

14. Use a desk lamp or re-position a free standing desk lamp if the work space is dull and if you need to refer to paperwork. Ensure you are sufficiently warm, as you can become cold quickly when sitting still.

15. Use a headset or earphones/ bluetooth etc to ease mobile phone/ webcam/ virtual meeting use.

Information sources from Healthy Work

Stay safe, stay home, save lives.