Remote work, working from home or telecommuting has become one of the most widespread, immediate results of the pandemic along with wearing masks, social distancing, and frequent hand washing that is still common to us all.
Here are a few reminders that includes ergonomic issues; slips, trips and falls; and work-related stress, including mental health. We have the responsibility to make sure we are assessing our own current workspaces and following proper safety procedures to reduce the risk of injury or illness while working remotely.
Working remotely can lead to bodily injuries with long-term effects. Eyestrain and musculoskeletal injuries such as neck or back pain are common with remote workers. Sometimes referred to as overuse injuries, these develop from repetitive trauma due to a lack of movement or proper workspace setup. Mental strain and the lack of social interaction, combined with extended working hours, can result in fatigue and a decline in productivity. To avoid these common injuries while working remotely take time review the items below.
Ensure your workplace follows these guidelines from the Mayo Clinic to prevent fatigue and body injury.
- Choose the right space. An ideal workspace should have adequate lighting to avoid eye strain; an appropriate work surface, such as a desk or table; and is set apart from busy areas in the home to allow for optimal focus during work hours.
- Get up and move. To reduce muscle soreness and pain, try to change your posture frequently. Don’t sit or stand for extended periods of time. Check your posture. Your shoulders shouldn’t curve inward or forward, and your head shouldn’t bend so that your ears are at shoulder-level. To keep yourself from slouching, pretend there is a string attached to the top of your head, pulling you upright. This will help to avoid back and neck pain.
- Keep an eye on your monitor. When setting up your computer screen, make sure the top of the monitor is at eye level. This will avoid neck and eye strain. If working on a laptop, try plugging in a wireless keyboard and mouse and prop the laptop up on some books to make the top of the screen level with your eyes.
- Choose the right chair. When seated, your knees should not be higher than your hips. This will help avoid lower back pain and reduce the pressure on your spine while seated.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Common injuries like slips, trips and falls are just as relevant to the remote environment as they are to the office environment. Take a look around your remote workspace and make sure the floors are clear of any hazards. Risk management consulting firm Willis Towers Watson offers these suggestions:
- Clear the floor of any obstacles. This may include toys, boxes, books, or loose or dangling cords.
- Repair any loose carpeting and secure lifted corners on rugs. Frayed or torn carpeting and unsecured rugs can easily cause trips if the loose areas are caught underfoot while walking. Be sure to repair any worn patches to avoid tripping.
- Watch your step. Stairs are another place where slips, trips and falls can occur. If your workspace requires you to go up or down flights of stairs, be careful not to carry too many items in your hands while on the stairs. One hand should be free at all times to hold onto the railing.
Just like in an office space, proper fire safety is a must for your remote workspace.
- Inspect cords. Electrical cords and extension cords should be in good condition. Make sure they are not frayed, prongs are not bent or damaged and your outlets are not overloaded with too much power. Any cord that feels hot or is giving off excessive amounts of heat should be unplugged.
- Practice general fire safety. To avoid potential fires, make sure the following are present in or near your workspace:
- A working smoke detector: Check the batteries at least twice per year to see if they need replacing.
- A functioning fire extinguisher: Make sure you are inspecting your fire extinguisher regularly and follow proper fire extinguisher usage. Fire extinguishers should be stored in a place that is easily accessible; inspect the physical state of the extinguisher for any dents, slits in the hose, and be sure the locking pin is intact; and check the pressure gauge to make sure the needle is in the green zone.
- Have an evacuation plan in the event of a fire: You and everyone in your household should be aware of the evacuation plan to ensure everyone’s safety. This plan should include identifying an outside location away from the property where you would meet.
- Stress & Mental Health
- Managing stress levels and overall mental health is even more important for remote workers. We should all take an active interest in the mental health and well-being of our fellow employees while working remotely.
- We should all take regular breaks, eat lunch and maintain standard business hours when possible.
- Keep in regular contact with each other. Set aside time for casual conversations as a replacement for what we would be engaging in at the office over a cup of coffee or walking around.
- Dedicate a workspace. This allows you to focus on your tasks free of most distractions. This will help recreate the physical separation from work and home life.
By implementing proper ergonomics and following general safety guidelines to reduce common injuries, you can reduce the risk of common injuries, maintain good mental health and prevent work fires while working in your remote environment.
This remote safety planning gives you the tools and information you need to make your home workspace safe and productive.