Is working from home (WFH) not working out for you? Has the circuit breaker broken you?
In fact, productivity as a result of WFH has increased by 47%, according to a research done by Forbes magazine. Companies such as Twitter and Fujitsu have even gone as far as making WFH a permanent option.
Here are some interesting facts:
The average worker starts work at 8:32 a.m. and ends work at 5:38 p.m
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the most productive days, in that order
Telephone calls are up 230%
Email is up 57% and chat is up 9%
If you want to match or beat those statistics, one of the best things you can do to improve your productivity is to ‘get comfortable’.
Over the past few months at PhysioActive, a lot of our patients have been coming to see us with complaints of lower back pain and neck pain. Poor workstation set up is often to blame. Many of us thought this working from home phenomenon was going to be temporary, but here we are now over 5 months on from when Circuit Breaker was introduced and our bodies are finally rebelling to all those hours hunched over a laptop and sitting on the dining room chair on back to back zoom calls.
Well, fear not. If this sounds like you, we can help! Not only can we do what we’re known for by providing relief from pain, we can also help you achieve an optimal workstation set up. As humans, we are designed to move, not be sat at a computer for 8 hours a day. Much of the ergonomic equipment available today has been designed with this in mind such as height adjustable or standing desks, and office chairs with endless features to enable us to sit dynamically. In the ‘home office’ environment, some of these snazzy pieces of furniture / equipment may not be as readily available and, therefore, we must become more creative with our set up.
As an ergonomic physiotherapist, I can provide a 1:1 assessment to ensure that you are sat comfortably and therefore going to be at your most productive. We can do home visits or even conduct virtual group assessments for small companies and businesses. We also work alongside other companies and can assist in recommendations of ergonomic furniture and equipment with special discounts too. Some companies are now even supporting their workforce by providing them with financial support and allowances to help set up an optimal workspace from the comfort of their own home!
Thank you for taking the time to read this and if you find yourself right at this moment slumped over your desk then please take this opportunity to get out of that chair, have a quick stretch and walk around - your body will thank you for it!
Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information regarding your ergonomic needs or give one of our 5 clinics a call.
PhysioActive is available in Orchard, Raffles, East Coast, Jurong & Novena!
Quick Q&A with Laura O'Byrne: Manual Therapist and Clinical Pilates Instructor at PhysioActive
Today we take the opportunity to welcome a new physiotherapist to the team. Laura O'Byrne who was originally born in South Africa. She completed her schooling and obtained her first degree – Health Science & Physiology – in Ireland before moving to the United Kingdom, where she completed her degree in Physiotherapy and worked within the NHS before moving to Singapore. Laura is a member of the MCSP in the United Kingdom and a fully registered member of the AHPC in Singapore.
Laura is an experienced manual therapist with a strong interest in postural and spinal dysfunction. She is able to put this into clinical practice through her pilates training and specialist interest of ergonomics in the workplace. Find out more about Laura here...
How did you come to be in Singapore?
That's quite a funny story… The Ministry of Health was recruiting in the United Kingdom and Ireland. My friends were going for an interview and I went along for the open day. When we arrived, the man who was interviewing them asked if I was a Physiotherapist too. My friend replied that I was. When he asked if I wanted an interview, she said that I did indeed. I was a little horrified when she told me, as I was not prepared for an interview! Anyhow, I completed the paperwork, had the interview and a couple of weeks later I got an email offering me a position. I accepted, thinking it would just be for a year. Four years later, I have no plans to leave!
Where did you work before PhysioActive?
I was recruited by the Ministry of Health to help them in the set-up and transition process from Alexandra Hospital to the new Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. I was there for three years, after which I worked in a private capacity at a Pilates clinic before joining PhysioActive. In Britian I worked in the National Health Service in a muscolo-skeletal role in Nottingham and in a rotational position in Norfolk, where I gained invaluable orthopaedic experience.
What is your specialism?
I am very interested in spinal and postural dysfunction, which results in another particular interest of mine, which is ergonomics which can help people achieve an optimum working environment. I also enjoy working with ankle rehabilitation and I find that incorporating Pilates into a functional exercise programme delivers great benefits.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Coffee, most definitely coffee! Although I enjoy Singapore’s dynamic night-life, I am quite a morning person – provided the sun is up before me!
What do you do in your spare time?
Travel where ever and whenever possible! I enjoy reading, going to the cinema, gym, dancing, socialising and, of course, the all-important Singapore pastime: eating!
Overcoming Work Related Back Pain & Musculoskeletal Injury
At PhysioActive a very large percentage of our clients present with musculoskeletal injuries. This includes neck- and shoulder pain, lower back pain, headaches and elbow and/or wrist pain as the result of work related injury.
Common patterns of complaint are morning stiffness for 15-30mins after getting out of bed and progressive muscle tension towards the end of the day. Rest usually alleviates pain and muscle tension. Common causes of such complaints can be divided into external factors (ergonomics) and internal factors (condition of one’s own).
Poor working posture
Prolonged sitting in front of the computer, worse if using a laptop
Lack of insight into work ergonomics and prevention
Usually it is a combination of external and internal factors leading to health problems. But how exactly can these factors lead to pain? What is the mechanism behind it? This can be very easily explained with the help of the ‘Load and load capacity model’.
Every human being has a certain load capacity, physically and emotionally. If the daily load (sitting, typing, stress etc.) exceeds the load capacity, then we overload our body, e.g. resulting in back- or neck pain. Muscles have to work too much and get exhausted resulting in muscle spasm and pain. Joints get chronically overloaded resulting in joint pain. This will lead to further compensation mechanisms creating even more tissue pain. This is a vicious circle which is almost impossible to escape without professional help.
So depending on the level of external- and internal factors the pain can vary in intensity. The usual pattern seen in our clinic are patients complaining about spinal problems on and off for years. And there lies the risk of severe and chronic degenerative changes of the spine, called Spondylosis. This is a non-reversible condition and depending on the severity, patients may require surgery. That’s why it is so important to start with prevention and take action before chronic symptoms set in.
What Can I Do To Prevent Back Pain At Work?
Whilst some organisations undertake a formal corporate ergonomics programme, there are several easy steps to take yourself. Serving to reduce symptoms at work or even prevent them from occurring altogether. Including:
The preferred sitting posture is obviously an upright neutral position with a good lumbar support as shown in the diagram. Shoulders should be slightly pulled back and the head should not be shifted forward. This maintains the natural curve of the spine and prevents excessive loading of the lower back. However, to keep this posture, the back muscles (core muscles) need to be active and if not trained people experience muscle ache already after a few minutes in this position. Therefore achieving comfort in this position is a gradual training process.
No matter how perfect you sit the human body is not able to maintain only one position for hours. One sided loading will fatigue the spinal muscles and overload the joints, thus leading to back pain. Hence regular changes of your posture are the solution. You may even sit slouched for a while as long as it is not for the whole day!
In order to be able to sit with the above posture, your work place equipment needs to be adjustable to your height. The position of the screen should be always at eye level and straight in front of you to avoid continued downward/upward or side movement.
Mini Rest Breaks
You should take regular breaks from your desk every 30 minutes – take the time to walk around or do workplace exercises and stretches.
Work Place Exercises
There are very easy exercises which you can do in a sitting or standing position. At PhysioActive we can show you a number of exercises to keep the spine and the muscle flexible to prevent stiffness and tension.
Having strong core muscles to support your back is the most important issue in preventing (and reducing) back pain. A regular program of 20mins 3 times a week is already sufficient to get strong core muscles. Having an optimal work place set-up and progressively changing your posture habits will make back pain vanish from your work!
Office workers are at an increased risk of musculoskeletal problems, which has been shown by numerous research articles. 73% of office workers report one or more musculoskeletal symptom (Institute of Occupational Medicine 2007). The research shows that the most commonly reported symptoms are problems with the eyes, head, neck, shoulders and back. It also shows that neck, shoulder and back problems are often reported together. Recent research in Europe has shown that low back pain and neck pain is the leading cause of disability.
The office worker is particularly at risk because they are likely to do the following:
Work long hours
Poor and incorrect use of workstation
It is also a very costly problem as the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council published data this year saying that ergonomic health issues cost Singapore $3.5 billion a year.
Improving office ergonomics can have a significant impact on a company. It can help in the following ways: