Mobile Working – Do not forget to move.
Although Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are preventable, they remain the most common work-related health problem in the EU. MSDs continue to be the most significant illness group causing sick leave. And they are among the disease groups that not only occur more frequently with increasing age, but also last longer.
What does this mean in terms of our rapidly changing working world? What risks do we need to keep an eye on? What challenges do employees and companies face? And how can we meet these challenges?
Digitalization has changed our way of working and opened numerous opportunities to work from anywhere and at any time. COVID-19 has accelerated this development even further, transporting us overnight into the virtual world, where working from home has become a reality for many of us.
The “New Normal” has turned our business casual attire to home casual and our in-person meetings into virtual meetings. We replaced our ergonomically equipped office environment into a sometimes poorly designed home office workstation, with more screen time, long sitting periods, and less physical activity. Provided with too little knowledge of how to set up a healthy workplace at home, but suddenly with more personal responsibility to take care of it.
If we look at the results of studies on MSDs and research on the impact of digitalization on health, the focus in the case of mobile work is not only on ergonomic risks due to inadequate workplace design but also on sitting for too long and lack of exercise. Given that virtual work will continue to be an important part of our working reality in the future, it is important to tackle these issues at an early stage.
At Siemens we focus at three areas of action:
1) Ergonomic equipment, training, and consulting for workplaces at home:
With information, training and consulting we try to support our employees to set up an ergonomic workplace, to find the right way to work and to stay healthy in the home office. And we equip the workplace at home with the necessary technical equipment, such as screen, ergonomic keyboard, mouse, headsets, etc.
2) Online health services:
With our online health services, we provide our employees with a wide range of informative and interactive formats for healthy behavior. The virtual offers range from lectures and webinars to online courses and workouts to motivate our employees for a healthy lifestyle, to sit less and to move more.
3) Ergonomic risk assessments:
To proactively manage MSDs, early and regular identification and assessment of risks is an important factor. We test digital solutions for ergonomic risk assessment based on AI video analytics on smartphones. This app-based solution allows to identify, assess potential ergonomic hazards during any work-related activity.
Our one-year pandemic experience shows that employees in the home office don't just have to deal with sitting too long or ergonomics. Mental well-being also requires our close attention.
Particularly issues such as social isolation, missing a sense of belonging on the one hand and multiple burdens due to homeschooling and inadequate space for home office are of concern to employees and need to be addressed.
Remote work will continue after the pandemic, primarily in hybrid forms, with employees splitting work time between home and office. As MSDs and psychosocial effects are closely linked, it is essential for companies to keep both issues in mind, to take steps to mitigate the consequences and help employees navigate the emerging new world of work.