AS an estimated near half of all UK workers have now spent 100 days working from home, a research association warns that businesses must take the health impact of remote working seriously.
The Furniture Industry Research Association says that, while guidance continues to be issued for employees returning to the workplace, support is further required for those working from home beyond lockdown.
The Association suggests that – without this further support – the cost to the UK economy, in terms of lost productivity, could hit businesses hard, further down the line.
While COVID-19 restrictions regarding working were lifted in England in the middle of May, official figures from the Office for National Statistics (See Notes) indicate that only two per cent of the UK workforce returned to their ‘normal workplace’ between 8 and 21 June 2020.
The figures indicate that, as many businesses strive to meet physical distancing restrictions and reduce costs, the remote working set-up is likely to stay for the foreseeable future.
To encourage healthy working from home in the longer term, the Furniture Industry Research Association has produced free guides for employers and employees on ways to optimise the home working environment, as we move out of an emergency situation and into the longer term.
The two guides — one offering crucial advice for employers and the other providing practical guidance for employees — have been authored by FIRA International’s expert team of ergonomists and can be downloaded for free at www.fira.co.uk/homeworking.
The guide for employers covers information they should provide for staff working from home, as well as information on workplace assessments and relevant regulations.
The employee guide is a simple-to-follow practical document, which sets out the best way to work depending on individual set-ups, whether working from a fully kitted out home office, or at a dining table in a shared flat. It also includes tips on ways to boost mental health as well as physical health.
FIRA International’s chief ergonomist, Levent Çaglar, says that, while the mutual benefits of flexible working have become clear over the last three months – such as greater productivity, less time spent commuting and a better work-life balance – for home working to succeed, longer term, employer and employee must both carefully consider the difference an optimised work environment would make.
Levent explains: “After 100 days of working from home the time has come for people to take stock of their environment and ask how their health may be being affected.
“Employers must properly support remote workers to optimise their home workplace, otherwise they’ll take a further hit in terms of lost productivity. This could be time wasted from working with multiple documents on a small screen or physical days lost to sickness absence, because of back, neck and shoulder problems.
“This isn’t about paying out for expensive kit, but making sure that employees understand how to make their work environment as ergonomic as possible – and much of this is to do with regular breaks and movement, rather than equipment.
“An ergonomically set-up workstation promotes comfort, increases productivity and boosts mood, which is crucial in this current climate. In contrast, a poorly designed set-up can lead to inefficiency, difficulty in getting motivated and staying focussed and aches and pains from adopting poor posture, for prolonged periods of time.”
The ergonomic home working guides are available to download free of charge on the FIRA website www.fira.co.uk/homeworking.
Notes to editors
- Based on figures from Office for National Statistics on homeworking and COVID-19
About the Furniture Industry Research Association
Established over 70 years ago, the Furniture Industry Research Association was set up by the industry, for the industry. The Association provide invaluable technical support to the entire furniture supply chain and fund research projects for the benefit of the industry. For further details, go to www.fira.co.uk
FIRA International is part of the Element Group, and specialise in providing a comprehensive range of independent testing, certification, consultancy, training and inspection services to the furniture industry.
FIRA International exists to help their customers to make certain that the materials, products, systems and operations are safe, quality, compliant and, ultimately, fit for purpose.
About the authors:
With over 30 years of ergonomics and human factors experience in the industry, Levent Çaglar understands the damage that poor workstations can cause. He is internationally-renowned for providing independent and practical ergonomics solutions, and provides ergonomics input into the design, development and assessment of furniture from concept to final product stage for US, European and British manufacturers.
Claire joined FIRA International in 2017 as an ergonomist after working as a human factors analyst in the nuclear industry for five years. She has experience carrying out a varied range of Human Factors assessments. She regularly delivers presentations on ergonomics and sits on British Standards Committees for office furniture and educational furniture.
Holly Russell, Pagoda PR
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