Back pain in the workplace is more common than you might think, especially for those with jobs involving lifting, or for those spending prolonged periods in one position. Ignoring the problem will end up hurting your profits, as well as your staff.

Back pain

Statistics confirm that back pain is a considerable cause of absenteeism in the workplace. If you are serious about your bottom line, then it’s time to get serious about backs. Read on for facts, figures and remedial tips to back your staff, prevent musculoskeletal pain at work, and keep a healthy bottom line.

Back pain and absenteeism: the stats

According to statistics published by the Office of National Statistics, Sickness Absence in the Labour Market 2016, musculoskeletal problems (including back pain, neck and upper limb problems) account for 22.4 per cent of the total days lost through sickness absence. That’s a total of 30.8 million days lost due to musculoskeletal pain in one year.

Similarly, figures published by the government’s Health and Safety Executive on work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs), estimate that 8.8 million days are lost from WRMSDs in a single year. Causative factors are highlighted as manual handling, lifting and carrying, particularly the development of back pain. Additionally repetitive movement such as keyboard work and repetitive action, or being in awkward of tiring positions were other causative factors.

Prevention is better than cure

There are lots of things employers can do to ensure the health and well-being of their employees at work, and that includes spinal health. It may require some initial investment, but in the long term it will pay dividends if it prevents bouts of absence from back problems caused at work.

Ergonomic workstations

One of the fundamental requirements to prevent back pain at work is to invest in decent office chairs. A good office chair should be fully adjustable to suit the person sitting in it. Lots of office chairs look great, but are uncomfortable to sit in and offer poor support.

A good office chair, such as Corrigo Design’s ergonomic chairs, will be fully adjustable and equipped with the following:

  • Adjustable seat height
  • Adjustable armrests
  • Adjustable lumbar support (both height and width)
  • Adjustable backrest
  • Sufficient backrest width
  • Sufficient seat width and depth
  • A seat made from breathable material with sufficient padding
  • The ability to swivel or rotate

It’s a good idea to choose a chair supplier that will come and set up the chairs for you and help individuals to adjust chairs to the optimum position for spinal support.

Back pain

Encourage regular breaks

One of the biggest problems for those in desk jobs is being stuck in the same position for long periods without taking a break. Encourage your employees to get up, stretch and walk around for a few minutes every hour or so. If you are worried about productivity, regular breaks and periods of rest actually boost productivity not hinder it. According to research by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the cycle of intense work followed by a real break enables the “eureka” moments that are the foundation for breakthroughs.

Provide a break out area

Encouraging staff to leave their desks for breaks is one thing, but the words are empty and meaningless if there is nowhere for them to go. Encourage staff to hold mini-meetings and take regular breaks by providing a break out area where they can change position and get away from their workstation.

Offer a lunch-time stretching class

Exercise is key to spinal health. Keeping muscles toned and supportive can make all the difference to potential back problems. If you have the space, a lunch-time stretching class is a great idea to keep your employees supple and energised ready for the rest of the day. If space is a premium, encourage employees to take a walk outside during their lunch break. There are lots of good reasons to leave your desk during your lunch break, and one of them is that your body needs to move.

Offer standing workstations

One of the difficulties for employees in desk jobs is staying in one position all day. Offer a desk-hopping standing workstation so staff can do some of their work in a different position. A timetable will ensure everyone gets a turn.

Give employees gym membership perks

Core strength and body awareness are fundamental in preventing back problems. Back pain can be caused by weak stomach muscles. Encouraging your employees to keep fit is in your interest as well as theirs.

Provide education on spinal health and communicate about well-being at work

Many people aren’t aware of the causes of back pain and what they should be doing to prevent it. Educating your employees on how to sit at the computer, the importance of breaks, core strength and other related aspects of well-being will help. Well-being at work is good for your business, so perhaps organise for a professional to come into the office and talk about keeping healthy at work. Encourage your staff to communicate what they think will help them feel better at work too.

 Offer periodic on-site massage

An increasing number of businesses understand the importance of dealing with stress in the workplace. Massage for employees is becoming a popular means of adding to employees benefits and improving well-being at work. Tight muscles can contribute to back pain. Massage not only helps to reduce stress, it is also an effective way of reducing muscle tension.

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