An ergonomic expert and University of Alberta professor says as the work-from-home situation continues for many across the province, health issues related to the setups are increasing.
“We hear a lot about people having upper back discomfort, lots with neck issues, and then a lot of reporting lately around severe eye strain,” said Dr. Linda Miller, a clinical assistant professor in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.
“It’s been pretty significant for a lot of people.”
Miller, who is also the president of Edmonton-based company EWI Works that focuses on workplace ergonomics, says she wasn’t surprised at the increase she and her colleagues have seen in health complaints from clients.
“If you can’t actually get proper posture and you’re not able to maintain a good upright posture, it’s very hard to actually not have discomfort associated with working on a laptop, or sitting on a hard chair,” she said.
Miller said another aspect adding to the increasing health problems is that many Albertans who work from home are also generally moving less.
“I was quite surprised at how much people’s movement has actually dropped with working from home,” she said. “The vast majority of people have seen a drop in their activity during their day because of everything being focused on the computer.
“People are actually reporting they’re working much longer. They’re having a lot more difficulty concentrating.
“If you’re sharing space with another partner or with your kids, it’s actually quite hard to concentrate.”
As Alberta’s COVID-19 situation continues and many companies have extended work-from-home situations, she suggests if you haven’t yet set up a proper workplace — now is the time.
A good first step is simply getting a separate keyboard and mouse for your laptop and then propping the screen up to eye level.
“Have a start time, schedule your breaks,” she said. “Make sure that you’re not eating at your work station.”
EWI Works also offers a free at-home workspace setup check that includes some simple changes that could help with posture and eye straining.
Miller said clients also report negative psychological effects related to working from home.
“There’s a lot of people that are actually really missing their colleagues,” Miller said. “They enjoyed that separation between home and work, and going in to actually get their work done, and coming home and focusing on their family and friends.
“Now we don’t have that separation, we also don’t have those easy conversations with each other that we would have had if we’re in the office.”
In Alberta, current COVID-19 rules do allow for distanced walks and outdoor gatherings up to 10.