One small shift to vastly improve your home office health
Updated: Feb 5
We all know that cutting corners in our working environments is bad for our health.
Hunching over the lap top on the sofa...sitting at a bad height at the kitchen table...or the stress of never being able to find anything because the office is never properly organised...
All of this contributes to poor mental and physical home office health.
But we know this! And we have known it for a long time, but a lot of us stay stuck in the 'make do' mentality.
We need to make the shift to making our health at work a priority
A 2007 study by Lloyds pharmacy found that we are less healthy in Britain now than we were in mediaeval times!
We have higher cholesterol, we exercise less and we have poorer diets.
But even if we do eat healthily and go to the gym several times a week, spending 8 hours a day sitting badly in front of our screens will keep us in poor health.
We ought to be paying a lot more attention to our workplace health, but as a culture in the UK we tend not to. Even when it is hitting businesses hard in the pocket.
In 2017, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey found that sick staff cost British firms £77 billion annually in lost productivity. And the trend appears to be getting worse.
So firms are losing money, office workers are suffering, but this is all fixable.
We need to make the shift to put our mental and physical health at the top of our priority list. With a little investment of time and money on both the part of employers and employees we can easily be better off and healthier.
And yet...we know this and still do nothing about it.
Perhaps we think that these problems are only short term. It is very easy to think 'oh yeah, I'll sort that out someday.'
Well meet Emma!
Office solutions company Fellowes created a life-sized model of how office workers could look permanently by 2040 due to bad office conditions.
With a permanently hunched back and increased ear and nose hair, the prospect is pretty bleak!
"Like a postman needs good shoes, office workers need good chairs and desks!" Paul Skinner from Backworld
In the UK we need a major cultural shift in our attitude.
And luckily there are professionals out there whose job it is to help us achieve this!
Meet Paul from Backworld!
To understand more about why we need to badly to put our home office health first, I spoke with Paul Skinner from BackWorld.
He is a trained DSE assessor (Display Screen Assessor) and he is the kind of expert that many of us in the workplace don't realise that we need.
BackWorld has its premises in Exeter and an online shop. They provide a huge selection of office accessories that make our lives safer and a lot more comfortable.
BackWorld mainly sells ergonomic chairs and with every purchase customers have access to a trained DSE assessor who will come to your workplace and carry out a full on site set up, delivery and ongoing care.
I asked Paul what are the main things that people don't take into consideration when choosing an office chair, and he gave me a long list!
"In the UK especially, most of us just grab a chair and sit down. We spend hours and hours each day in our office chair, but to create a functioning space it takes a lot more than choosing a cheap desk chair and sitting in it.
We are all individuals of different shapes, sizes and physical histories and our office set up should reflect that.
A full ergonomic assessment from someone at BackWorld can take up to an hour. This is just for one person. The time it takes to get right is reflective of how specific our individual needs are."
2. An ergonomic chair needs specialist adjustment
"Having the expert knowledge for how to set up an office chair is essential for getting the most out of it. An ergonomic chair is a significant investment, but it only brings long term benefits if an expert adjusts it specifically to you. A super-duper, stylish, ergonomic design will do you no good at all without the expert knowledge.
I once helped a woman who thought she was using her ergonomic chair correctly, but she was still experiencing upper back pain. This was a symptom of her lower back not being supported. I recommended a better quality chair, and adjusted it correctly for her, and her pain disappeared.
Another lady I helped was having such bad back troubles she was unable to come into work. I found out that she had had a bad horse riding accident in the past. By fitting a chair that supported her pelvis in the right way it transformed how she was sitting. She was once again able to come into the office and resume work as normal."
3. DSE assessments (Display Screen Equipment)
"Some companies take DSE assessments seriously but most don't. And it is usually the smaller companies that don't do them.
At Backworld we can carry out assessments at the work place or at home. They are invaluable for solving any current health problems, or to prevent problems occurring in the future. By carrying out these assessments we can get right to the specifics of an individual's needs. So like the lady who had the horse riding accident, we can make sure your office set up is 100% right for you."
4. Office health culture needs to change
"At BackWorld our best selling office chair costs £1000. And spending that much on a chair seems like a huge extravagance for a lot of people in the UK. Especially for those who are self-employed, or those working in small companies where the budget for occupational health is a lot smaller.
However in Sweden, for example, there is nothing unusual about spending this much. Their most basic, standard office chair starts at around the same price. They prioritize the culture of office health much more than here.
It is a generalisation, but in the UK we place importance on getting all the tools we need for our jobs, such as a good computer or a car. But we tend not to view our office set-up in the same way.
But there are many businesses for whom the cost of a chair doesn't matter. And that is the change we need to see in our workplace culture. The health of employees is paramount and without them there is no business.
Like a postman needs good shoes, office workers need good chairs and desks!"
"In Norway, if you employ more than 30 people you are legally obliged to provide them with a sit/stand desk. The body is not designed to sit still all day.
There are accessories you can buy for example that can turn your desk into a standing desk. Again you should consult an expert for this to have a positive impact. Going between sitting and standing allows the blood to flow better.
Many people in lockdown have been using their ironing boards to act as desks in this way. Although I wouldn't recommend this!"
6. Good health costs more
"But it is absolutely worth it. When you buy a chair from Backworld you will pay more than your standard office suppliers. But you receive a lot more value for your money. Our service includes delivery, assessment and set-up, which takes around an hour, and removal of all packaging etc.
I provide a tailor-made service that you won't get from non-ergonomic suppliers. The long-term benefits to your health are worth the extra investment."
What will make us put our health first?
Will it be when those physical niggles start to impact our lives outside of work too? Or when the issues are so irreversible we need to change our daily lives to manage them?
Many of us don't think twice about paying for gym subscriptions, or for premium food boxes, or supplements for our health, so why doesn't our home office life get the same attention?
For the majority of people working takes up the largest part of our lives, so it makes sense to invest in a space that will keep up safe and healthy.
The cost of office equipment can feel overwhelming but it is worth asking your employer for help. Especially if they are having to downsize offices or get rid of them completely.
Many companies offer finance deals too so you can spread the cost.
Make small changes immediately so that you don't become like Emma and develop permanent damage that is completely avoidable!
Transform your home office health today with NEXT DESK!
NEXT DESK is your complete home office that gives you control of your working set up.
With its folding design and ample storage you can create a permanent space to set up around your precise needs.
Stay healthy and productive with one, simple and stylish solution.