Physiotherapists have warned that spending long hours in front of a screen presents serious posture and stress dangers.
A new survey for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) reveals that UK office workers are putting their mental and physical health at risk by working more than two hours extra each night on their commute and at home.
About two-thirds (64 per cent) of the 2,010 office workers polled said that they continued working on smartphones and other devices after they left the office, and spent an average of two hours 18 minutes doing so.
These stints were on top of an average of six hours 22 minutes in front of a screen in the office during their regular working day. The main reasons cited for doing extra work were to 'ease the pressure of the working day' (35 per cent) and 'too much work to do' (33 per cent).
While 29 per cent of people surveyed said additional work at home helped reduce their overall stress levels, a worrying 24 per cent want their boss to offer counselling services for stress. The survey revealed 53 per cent of those who work at home out of office hours, said that this had increased in the past two years, but of these people, just 8 per cent said their boss was trying to do anything about it.
Physiotherapists are concerned that 'over working' is storing up both physical and mental health problems for the future - particularly since 66 per cent of those surveyed reported suffering job-related ill health such as headaches and back pain. According to the survey, fewer than one in four people considered their posture when looking at screens outside of work.
Lisa Roberts, Technical Director at the Occupational Health Division of leading risk management firm Santia, commented:
“With the rapid advance in mobile technology, working away from the office has become more tempting and commonplace. This trend is not without its consequences, and although it may be helping people to spread workloads by allowing them to get more done during their commute or at home, overall stress levels can still remain high, and of course, poor posture can be a contributory factor to various health problems.
“To overcome this problem, employers need to ensure that staff workloads are reasonable, and regularly monitored. It is after all, in an employers’ interest to help maintain staff wellbeing to avoid the costs and consequences of long term sickness absence and poor morale. A range of simple solutions can be applied, including workstation or occupational health assessments.”
Simple low cost measures include:
- Encouraging staff to report any concerns about their health at an early stage
- Encouraging staff to take regular breaks and be physically active during lunchtimes
- Displaying leaflets and posters promoting good posture, health advice and activities for staff
- Arranging and supporting activities that help staff to get active, like lunchtime walking clubs
- Creating links with local gyms and clubs
- Implementing a Cycle to Work scheme and taking advantage of a tax exemption enabling you to loan to staff cycles and cycling equipment as a tax-free benefit
- Encouraging active travel to and from work e.g. cycling, walking and running
- Encouraging workstation assessments to reduce and treat musculoskeletal disorders.
Access to physiotherapy, fitness classes and ergonomically-designed chairs were three services that many workers in the survey said they would like their employer to pay for.
The CSP is concerned that poor posture when using smartphones and other mobile devices - which many people do their additional work on - can lead to back and neck pain. Dr Helena Johnson, chair of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said:
“The results of this survey are a huge concern to physiotherapists, who see the consequences of poor posture and bad working practices each day. While doing a bit of extra work at home may seem like a good short-term fix, if it becomes a regular part of your evening routine then it can lead to problems such as back and neck problems, as well as stress-related illness. This is especially the case if you're using handheld devices and not thinking about your posture.”
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