November 2023: Employee Behavior and Developing Back Pain in Sedentary Knowledge Workers

A recent study, among a growing number with similar findings, confirms that an integral component of employee ergonomic risk is their behavior, in particular, how the employee works (or not) in neutral postures, provides recovery time while working and breaks up deleterious sedentary behaviors and static postures with meaningful movement.

The article:  “At-Home Employees Tend to Sit in Ways That Promote Back Pain” reports on a study published by researchers at Seattle Pacific University and presented at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting.

Persons who work remotely are at increased risk for low back pain (LBP) because of poor ergonomics and extended time spent sitting” noted Katie Thralls Butte, PhD, and colleagues at Seattle Pacific University in a presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting.

In addition, significant studies have shown that remote employees have reported widespread weight gain and muscle loss due to increased sedentary behaviors leaving them more susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries.  

Employers across the globe are engaging projects of mitigating significant risk exposures facing their computer-using employees working in both traditional offices and home-based offices.  Today, most offices at employer facilities include shared workstations where hybrid employees can work when in “the office”.  Complicating the progress, surveys and studies are confirming rising levels of pain and discomfort across knowledge workers. 

Further, many employers are focused on a more subtle yet equally important side of that risk recognition, which concerns all of the employees who have been remotely working at least part of their schedules and developing unhealthy habits for a long time now. 

These insights provide clear advantages to employers focused on their Employee Value Proposition, comfortable and satisfied employees, reduced injuries  and organizational productivity.

An Additional Dimension

Following our review of a long series of major medical studies on the serious consequences of prolonged static postures, an article recently caught the eye of your intrepid author:  “Move for three minutes every half hour to counteract effects of sitting” which reports on a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The study, conducted by an international consortium of scientists led by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, found that those who took active three-minute breaks every half an hour, displayed signs of better metabolic health such as lower fasting blood sugar levels, a stabilized sugar levels and the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol also rose in their bloodstreams. 

This is of particular concern as it’s been well-established how employees working in poor ergonomic conditions with discomfort are much higher consumers of healthcare services and have higher incidence of health issues including musculoskeletal disorders.

The study looked at obese people which accounted “pre-pandemic” for 39% of adults aged 18 years or older according to the World Health Organization. 

Based on current incidence rates, it’s reasonable to acknowledge that at least one in every three employees are considered obese by current scientific measures.  That is different from another level above “obese” which is “morbidly obese”.

A Decisive Factor Is Time 

Experts unanimously agree that time is a huge factor in both musculoskeletal disorders and knowledge worker discomfort.  

Every single day that ergonomic conditions are permitted to remain below Best Practices and standards (or worse yet, unknown) leads to significantly increased future intervention costs, higher injury incidence and rates, reduced employee satisfaction and morale, and reduced productivity.

Effective Strategies Employers Are Using Today 

We’re hearing strong feedback consistently from clients around the globe who are utilizing ErgoSuite as a plug-in-play, rapid-deployment and long-term sustainable solution to address priority focus areas for their office and home-based office employees.

At the high-level view, clients are leveraging their ErgoSuite platform as their front-line surface area for employees and centralized EH&S management toolset for identifying status and trends and managing outlying situations:

search for anything in our site:

Reach out so we can exceed your expectations too