September 2023: Preventing Remote MSDs & Case Study 37 – 404,266,869 Observations

The Flexible Location Work Model for knowledge workers, commonly known as ‘Hybrid’, is now ubiquitous, yielding significant benefits for employers and employees using computers for their work.  The flip-side of that reality involves the rising tide of neck, back and other pain incidence in remote workers.  

Your intrepid author has been reviewing a major article by EU-OSHA:  “Musculoskeletal disorders and prolonged static sitting“ which was published exactly at the time when the world was just coming to terms with COVID-19, unfortunate timing in the least.  Given the duration of time elapsed since the article’s publishing, where people have been working remotely for all or a percentage of their work days, the message is ever more urgent today.

Some of the very clearly written points in the highly-informative and fact-filled article include:

Beyond the main points of the article, specific mitigation guidance included:

For the studious reader here who is interested in detailed explanations of how and why prolonged static postures lead to musculoskeletal disorders, the article is a must-read.

It’s not surprising that, with musculoskeletal disorders entrenched as the highest injury and healthcare spend for the office, employers continue working to mitigate well-understood ergonomic risks facing computer-users working on-site, remotely and in hybrid-mode.  

You’ve hired terrific intelligent people as your computer-using employees.  You’ve even outfitted them with the best furniture and equipment available today, however, it’s well-understood that “how an employee uses their workstation” (their behavior) will largely dictate their comfort, injury risk and productivity.

It would be ideal to hire legions of ergonomists on staff who would live with every employee at their on-site office and home-based office today.  They would teach employees key actionable Best Practices of computer ergonomics and help them assess and tune-up their hybrid and at-home work area.  Thereafter, they would personally coach employees to learn to automatically move about and stretch periodically while they work in neutral postures, without having to think about it.

It’s obviously cost-prohibitive to hire professionals to personally coach every employee.  Instead, the most successful model, a “Do It YourselfModel (DIY), is called for which invites employees to “share in the responsibility” of having a comfortable, safe and productive work environment through habituating well-established Best Practices.

In the case of people working on computers in on-site offices, shared-workstation offices and home-based offices, the Best Practice behaviors are (1) working in neutral postures and (2) providing brief recovery time during work coupled with movement designed to break up prolonged static postures.

That sharing of responsibility is a naturally symbiotic partnership required for employee ownership of their time working on the computer.  Further, leveraging a DIY Model identifies most risk exposures early-on which can be resolved before they develop into large expensive problems.

Case Study 37 – 404,266,869 Observations

Below, we’re looking at an actual ErgoSuite Enterprise chart where we’ve chosen to utilize Least Squares Linear Regression Lines (trend lines) to reliably model extensive underlying data’s movement over time.

Most people have heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words“. Well, here’s “a picture worth 404,266,869 keystrokes and mousing seconds”. This is an actual ErgoSuite data chart analyzing a year’s usage of ErgoSuite’s Employee Tools by a large population of knowledge workers:

This chart summarizes a comprehensive twelve-month research project, analyzing 404,266,869 keystrokes and mousing seconds belonging to a large population of knowledge workers including a diverse spectrum of job functions.

The live chart illustrates the achievable efficacy of DIY Behavioral Office Ergonomics for reducing fatigue, increasing comfort, effecting actual behavior change.

When we properly empower employees, who can then meaningfully share in the responsibility of their comfort and safety and learn to automatically pace themselves while working in more neutral postures, then they will fatigue at a slower rate, be more comfortable, work at a lower risk profile, have fewer injuries and consume less healthcare services.

In respect of the data and outstanding results, we’ll keep the commentary brief and simply report on the details here:

The only way these new behaviors become sustainable is when the employee learns to change their behavior where they can automatically pace themselves, stretch and increase daily movement without having to focus on it. This is no different from how a musician benefits from the coaching of a metronome while developing their rhythm. This is the ideal time to positively reinforce neutral postures and awareness training.


When employees automate good ergonomic behaviors including working in neutral postures, providing brief recovery time during work with movement and gentle stretching and breaking up harmful prolonged periods of static postures, they’re more comfortable and work at a lower risk profile. 



Other hazards such as optics, contact stress and environment issues need to periodically be addressed as identified, however, when you read every country’s regulations and laws regarding office ergonomics, you clearly see the huge prominence of the  key employee behaviors – posture, pacing and movement.

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