Health & Safety

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Dangers of Long Hours 'screen slaving'

15 September 2012

Physiotherapists have warned that spending long hours in front of a screen presents serious posture and stress dangers. A new survey for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) reveals that UK office workers are putting their mental and physical health at risk by working more than two hours extra each night on their commute and at home. The results were released to coincide with the CSP's Workout at Work campaign - encourage people across the UK to be more physically active in order to combat stress and avoid musculoskeletal disorders, like back pain.

CSP want to raise awareness of how important it is to look after your mental and physical health to ensure a good work/life balance and want more employers to do a lot more to improve the health of the nation's workforce.

Survey Conclusions

About two-thirds (64%) of the 2,010 office workers polled by the CSP said they continued working on smartphones and other devices after they left the office, and spent an average of two hours 18 minutes doing so. These stints were on top of an average of six hours 22 minutes in front of a screen in the office during their regular working day. The main reasons cited for doing extra work were to 'ease the pressure of the working day' (35%) and 'too much work to do' (33%).

While 29% of people surveyed said additional work at home helped reduce their overall stress levels, a worrying 24% want their boss to offer counseling services for stress. The survey revealed 53% of those who work at home out of office hours said this had increased in the past two years, but of these people just 8% said their boss was trying to do anything about it.

Physiotherapists are concerned that 'over working' is storing up both physical and mental health problems for the future - particularly since 66% of those surveyed reported suffering job-related ill health such as headaches and back pain. The CSP is concerned that poor posture when using smartphones and other mobile devices - which many people do their additional work on - can lead to back and neck pain.

Fewer than one in four people told the survey that they considered their posture when looking at screens outside of work. Long hours can also contribute to stress-related illness.

Better Working Habbits

The CSP are urging employers to be more aware of the need to keep their staff healthy and to encourage better working habits among staff.

Simple low cost measures include:

  • Encouraging staff to report any concerns about their health at an early stage,
  • Encouraging staff to take regular breaks and be physically active during lunchtimes,
  • Displaying leaflets and posters promoting good posture, health advice and activities for staff,
  • Arranging and supporting activities that help staff to get active, like lunchtime walking clubs,
  • Creating links with local gyms and clubs,
  • Implementing a Cycle to Work scheme and taking advantage of a tax exemption enabling you to loan to staff cycles and cycling equipment as a tax-free benefit,
  • Encouraging active travel to and from work e.g. cycling, walking and running,
  • Encouraging workstation assessments to reduce and treat musculoskeletal disorders,

Access to physiotherapy, fitness classes and ergonomically-designed chairs were three services that many workers in the survey said they would like their employer to pay for.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said that Employers should be concerned if staff are regularly taking work home with them and finding it hard to switch off and re-charge. Managers should be asking staff regularly about their workload to ensure people's health does not suffer. In addition, it is in employers' interests to work with staff to support their wellbeing.