Why has there been an increase in tech injuries? What can be done about it? Read on in this article.
Undoubtedly, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of daily life for people worldwide. Whether it was social distancing or wearing masks for most of 2020 and 2021, the effects of the pandemic will likely be long-lasting.
One change that impacted millions of Americans was the sudden shift to remote work. In September 2021, research from Gallup found that 45% of full-time employees were working partly or fully remotely. Gallup suggests this remote work trend will persist into the future.
While this remote work shift is saving companies on operating costs, how is it impacting the health of the American workforce?
Below, we’ll discuss why tech-related ailments and injuries started to increase since the pandemic and provide some tips for remote workers to keep themselves healthy moving forward.
A Notable Increase in Tech-Related Injuries
In 2020, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses dropped by 5.7% compared to the total amount in 2019.
Before the pandemic, it was reported that U.S. companies spent $62 billion annually to account for workplace injuries and accidents that cause employees to miss six or more workdays.
While BLS data shows that the total number of work-related injuries or illnesses has gone down, other research suggests American employees are struggling with other nonfatal, tech-related injuries or ailments while working. And while some of these injuries are more emotional or financial, such as the 667% increase in phishing attacks, more than ever are physical in nature.
A new study was conducted by Harmony Healthcare IT, a data management firm, which analyzed Google search volume data to determine common tech-related ailments Americans are experiencing during the pandemic.
The findings in this study were significant. Here are some of the statistics from the survey:
- 40% increase in searches for tech-related ailments since the start of the pandemic
- 78% increase in searches related to eye strain when working at a computer
- 142% increase in searches related to back pain when working at a computer
Generally speaking, this study shows that the pandemic and the significant shift to remote work has taken a toll on Americans and their health.
Most Common Tech Injuries People Experience During the Pandemic
The study mentioned above included some of the most common tech-related ailments and provided a detailed map showing which ailment was most prevalent by state.
These were the most common tech injuries reported by Harmony Healthcare IT’s study:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Wrist, hand, and finger pain
- Eye irritation
- Leg, hip, and butt pain
- Shoulder and elbow pain
Some of these ailments shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering how much time people spend on technology, such as laptops, video games, and smartphones. Gaming addiction, for example, may be contributing to these tech-related injuries.
Remote workers often report aches and pains, joint soreness, numbness, stiffness, and injuries like carpal tunnel and migraines. Employers with permanent work-from-home policies, in addition to hybrid work models, are feeling concerned for many reasons.
Who’s liable if a remote team member suffers an injury or illness that’s work-related? Normally, workplace injuries fall on the employer and Workers’ Compensation kicks in. In unprecedented times, the waters get murky.
Generally speaking, employers need to have a duty of care for in-office and remote workers and ensure remote workers can do their jobs safely. Some government agencies are asking employers to prioritize protecting the health and safety of remote employees.
How Americans Can Avoid Common Tech Injuries in 2022
A safe home working environment looks a bit different for every team member. However, with ergonomics in mind, there are some things American employees can do to avoid some of the most common tech-related injuries. Below are some tips you can use to ensure a comfortable and safe working environment at home.
Create a Dedicated Workspace
Evaluate your living space and determine what room is optimal for you to work in. You’ll need space to fit a desk and a chair for comfort while using your computer.
Avoid working on your bed or couch, which can negatively affect your posture and cause aches and pains. When setting up a workspace, think about the position of your head, neck, back, wrists, hands, and posture. Good ergonomic posture is similar to sitting in a car, with your feet flat, legs extended, and your body tilted slightly backward.
Invest in Ergonomic Tech and Furniture
A quick Amazon search will provide plenty of ergonomic products to help you remain comfortable while working from home.
Chairs, standing desks, footrests, and laptop stands are all great choices. If possible, purchase a fully adjustable chair and ensure your laptop screen or computer monitor is at eye level.
Use Natural Lighting
Natural light exposure is an essential component of working from home. It can help us achieve high productivity levels, boost vitamin D levels, fight seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and improve our sleep habits.
You can also purchase light therapy lamps if your living space cannot provide enough natural lighting for your workstation.
Drink Water, Eat, and Take Frequent Breaks
Moving every 20 minutes can improve your circulation and reduce feelings of joint stiffness or pain. Be sure to hydrate throughout the day, eat three meals with snacks in between, and take time away from the computer screen to avoid tech-neck.
These tips will help you prevent some of the most common tech-related injuries that can occur while working from home.
Prioritize Your Physical Health While Working Remotely
Many American workers left their ergonomic workstations and adapted to work in a home office, bedroom, living room, or basement. Kitchen countertops became desks and couches or beds replaced office chairs. Failing to prioritize your physical health can lead to tech-related injuries. Do your best to use ergonomic principles to avoid them.