Many employers have, or have started to, implement changes in the workplace to help prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSKs). Some are simple changes like ergonomics, replacing static desks with adjustable height desks so that employees don’t have to sit for hours on end, or providing automated lifting devices or trolleys for moving heavy objects.
The main musculoskeletal disorders employees complain about
The example of lifting heavy objects is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to musculoskeletal disorders (MSKs), and they can happen in any workplace. Whether it’s a warehouse or high street shop or office, different types of MSKs can occur. UK government health and safety statistics report that 480,000 workers in 2019/20 were suffering from new or longstanding MSKs, which resulted in an astonishing 8.9 million lost working days. That’s not only a lot of suffering for employees but also a lot of time lost for businesses.
The report also said that “manual handling, awkward or tiring positions and keyboard work or repetitive action are estimated to be the main causes of work-related musculoskeletal disorders based on 2009/10-2011/12 LFS data.” This not only points towards computer work as a main culprit, but also what we do outside of work to relax (e.g. watch tv, use mobile devices).
Work benefits that tackle musculoskeletal disorders
The actions taken by businesses don’t address the full problem that employers and employees face today. The covid-19 pandemic has meant that many employees have been forced to work from home, relying on their own, sometimes outdated, equipment. For example, many will not have that adjustable height desk at home or have an comfortable ergonomic chair. To add to this, companies that offer in-house gyms and recreational facilities, such as relaxation rooms and table tennis, aren’t being used during the covid-19 pandemic.
So, what’s the solution?
The answer: employers that offer health / home office equipment benefits
Through an app, it’s now easy for employees to order office furniture for the home, and a whole host of other healthcare benefits including massage and yoga. These benefits have become increasingly important during the pandemic. The Future of Work report found that healthcare benefits are considered most important amongst Swedes, followed by the Dutch and French. At the other end of the scale, interest in healthcare benefits is lowest in the UK. Could this be because 60% of Brits say they are satisfied with the national healthcare service (NHS) and find it adequate for their needs?
Companies have already started to highlight the need for creating home office spaces that mimic the real office to cut down on potential MSK injuries. For example, during the pandemic, some companies provided its work-at-home employees with a home office allowance, which they could use to purchase home office equipment, such as desks, lamps, or chairs.
Wellness and health benefits including the aforementioned massage and yoga are also being offered by companies through an app. Now employees can book times more easily, and even check how much allowance their employer is offering them for gym memberships and other health related events.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at work have a campaign called Lighten the Load 2020-2022, which highlights the risks of getting MSK injuries, and provides guides to prevent them from happening. There are also some simple exercises that employees can follow to help them avoid musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.
In our study of 39,000 employees around Europe, 43% of UK participants said benefits adapted to working from home were the most important to them.