Why home office ergonomics are even more important in 2020

A poorly set up remote workstation can cause musculoskeletal problems and lead to sickness absence, but GPDQ’s online workstation assessments can help prevent issues before they arise

It’s easy to neglect employees’ wellbeing when the closest you get to them is a video call. But regularly monitoring your onsite and remote workers’ mental and physical health is vital for a happy and productive workforce. It also helps avoid downtime and the costs attached to sick leave. 

“We know the most common reason for people taking time off sick is musculoskeletal injury, especially back problems, which can cost companies a lot of money,” says GPDQ partner and occupational physiotherapist Alex Bell. 

“But what people often don’t know is that presenteeism – turning up to work when feeling sick, injured or overly fatigued, whether the person works from home or in a physical office – can cost companies more than absenteeism.”

People who work when sick not only have work-related performance issues, but they can create more serious problems. For example, onsite employees and those undertaking a mix of remote and office-based work could spread the flu virus, Covid-19 or other infectious disease, putting a workforce out of action for weeks.

An ONS study found more than 140 million working days were lost to sickness in 2018, equating to 4.4 days per worker. The same ONS report also found that the most common reason for absence was preventable illness such as flu. 

“The sooner you see someone, the quicker it is to fix the problem”, says Bell, whose GPDQ Workstation Health Assessments for remote and onsite employees involve two lines of approach: reactive, where an existing problem is treated, and proactive, where factors that could potentially lead to a health problem are identified. Poor posture, for instance, is a major cause of neck and back pain and repetitive strain injury and can limit a person’s quality of life and ability to do their job. 

Physical health problems can also lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Likewise, people with a mental health problem can be at greater risk of a physical illness. Last year, mental health problems at work cost the UK economy almost £34.9bn – that's £1,300 for every employee.

GPDQ Workstation Health Assessments speed up healthcare delivery, making it easy for people to get the treatment they need without NHS waiting times. “There are huge benefits to seeing, assessing and treating people quickly,” says Bell. “If you’re off work for six months or longer, there’s an 80 per cent chance you’ll never return to work. If you’re in pain for longer than three months, there is the potential for psychological impact that will affect your recovery.”

“Covid-19 changed the future of healthcare overnight, but the switch from face-to-face appointments to video consultations can make it easier for companies to mitigate risk”. No longer limited by geography or the need to attend physical appointments often miles from home or the office, the remote assessments enable Bell and the GPDQ team to quickly gather enough information to assess, triage and treat a remote or onsite worker. Only between 30 and 40 per cent of people need a face-to-face appointment or referral, making remote appointments an efficient, cost-effective way for employers to manage workplace wellness and their duty of care.

Dr Anshumen Bhagat, GPDQ’s chief medical officer and a practising NHS GP, added: “Many of the illnesses we pick up in the workplace, particularly in office environments, can be prevented through effective risk management.

“By taking each individual’s health, lifestyle and circumstances into account and assessing risk more proactively, we can ensure a healthier and more productive workplace for our clients.”

For help keeping you and your employees safe during Covid-19 and achieving better health beyond, email business@gpdq.co.uk.