How to ensure your home workstations promote mental & physical wellbeing.

It’s mental health awareness week in the UK; a prime opportunity to reflect on how we’ve been working for the past year and to hone our approaches going forward.

For all the positives we’ve recognised from a world gone remote, studies have also indicated declining mental and physical health among many homeworkers in the UK.

When work management tool Asana surveyed 13,000 workers globally for its Anatomy of Work Index 2021, it found that 75% of UK workers experienced burnout in 2020. In terms of physical health, over one third (37.7%) of musculoskeletal disorder cases in 2020 were linked to work, up from 1.4% in 2019, according to analysis by health and safety consultants Arinite. Arinite has linked the rise in musculoskeletal injuries to the significant increase in home working. 

The impact of poor mental and physical health on performance is well established. According to CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing Report 2021, the most common cause of long-term absence in the UK is mental ill health, followed by musculoskeletal injuries.

As many organisations commit to remote working in some form going forward, employers must rethink their approach to employee wellbeing and address issues that have arisen from a sudden switch to homeworking.

At Hofy, we believe a safe and comfortable homeworking environment is key to good mental and physical health. Here’s our advice for ensuring your teams are set up for healthy home working.

1. Assess employees’ workstations thoroughly

It’s important that you periodically assess employees’ workstations to identify ergonomic risks when they’re office-based. It’s arguably even more important to assess their workstations when they’re home-based, given that you can’t see how they’re working and they’re more likely to be using non-standard equipment (such as a dining room table).

A Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment is effectively a workstation risk assessment that UK employers are legally obliged to carry out for all home and office-based workers. Employers can use the assessment results to ensure their teams have the equipment and resources they need to work safely.

We want to help you ensure your teams are set up as safely as possible. That’s why we offer our DSE self-assessment free within our platform and don’t cap the number of assessments an employee can take.

For more information about DSE assessments, see our comprehensive guide.

2. Ensure your teams have the ergonomic basics

Ensuring teams have the necessary equipment to work safely and comfortably at home is key to wellbeing. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries saw a 75% reduction in absenteeism in 4,000 employees who swapped their usual set up for ergonomic office furniture. 

According to Nichola Adams, founder of Inspired Ergonomics, desk-based workers should have a minimum set-up of:

  • An ergonomic chair
  • A desk
  • An external monitor and/or laptop stand
  • An external keyboard
  • An external mouse

Not every employee needs an all singing, all dancing chair. But we recommend a minimum adjustability of seat height and depth, and height-adjustable armrests for most people.

For specific product recommendations, see the home office guide we put together with remote working consultancy agency Remote Kontrol.

Photo Credit: Luke Peters

3. Provide specialist equipment before absences arise

Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) conducted a case study in 2014 on how they provided workplace adjustments to employees with disabilities. LBG found that, when employees received the adjustments they needed, workplace absences fell by 89%.

In the LBG case study, 74% of employees who sought a workplace adjustment had a physical disability. The most common physical disability (46%) was a back condition.

Invest in specialist equipment for individuals with physical disabilities before absences occur. Invest in a task chair with adjustable lumbar support for those with back pain; a headrest for employees with neck pain, and so on. We’ve included specific product recommendations at the bottom of this page.

If your employees take our DSE self-assessment, you’ll receive a detailed breakdown of their results - from the positioning of their chair’s seat pan to their monitor height. That way, you can precisely pinpoint any problems with their workstations and find the most appropriate remedy.

4. Encourage and facilitate physical activity at work

The benefits of physical activity span better sleep, self-esteem and mood to reduced risk of depression, according to UK mental health charity Mind

Encouraging physical activity means telling your teams to step away from their desks. The UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines report doesn’t recommend a daily time limit on sitting, but does recommend breaking up long periods of sitting with 1-2 minutes of activity.

However, facilitating physical activity means tackling the time spent sitting too. The BHF Physical Inactivity Report 2017 estimates that the average man in the UK spends 78 days a year sitting; the average woman, 74 days. According to the NHS website, sitting for extended periods is believed to slow the metabolism, which helps to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down fat.

To encourage physical activity while sitting, invest in equipment that promotes movement. We stock a range of ergonomic chairs that promote ‘active seating’. An active chair keeps you moving while you sit. The chairs are designed to encourage the same natural posture shifts we make while standing or walking. See our recommendations below.

Ensure healthy homeworking with Hofy

We believe everyone's home working environment should promote a wholly healthy way of working. From delivering high-quality ergonomic equipment, to eliminating H&S risks from employees' workstations, see how we can help.