If you’re an office worker who has spent any part of 2020 working from home, you may have found it to be cozy in the beginning. Laptopping on the couch or next to the fridge can have its upsides, sure, but even the most professional of setups have drawbacks. As numerous outlets have noted, improper workstations anywhere can lead to injuries, and with so many people working from home this year without adequate space or familiar equipment, CivicScience decided to gauge workers’ sentiments about their current workstations. Apparently, it’s not just the work-from-home crowd who are bent out of shape.
Among working adults, 37% reported being ‘very’ comfortable with their work setup, whether that be their desk, chair, monitor, or keyboard.
Forty-four percent are only ‘somewhat’ comfortable. And the portion who are flat-out uncomfortable outweighs the percentage of adults who don’t work at an office-style workstation at all. Combine this with other sedentary habits and it’s clear how ergonomic issues like back pain or repetitive strain injuries end up affecting so many people over time.
Not surprisingly, desk workers who are still working remotely are a bit more likely to be uncomfortable than those who are working as usual.
And yet plenty of workers who are back in the office are only moderately at ease. No matter where someone’s office-style workstation is, comfort seems to be rather elusive.
In this way, maybe the pandemic’s work-from-home effect has revealed a problem that has always been there. It’s telling that just under half of desk workers have turned to chiropractors for help. Still, workers who are uncomfortable with their current workstations are almost three times more likely to be planning a first-time visit than those who are very comfortable, suggesting that work-from-home could be starting to take a physical toll. And even workers who are somewhat comfortable aren’t immune: 8% say they plan to see a chiropractor for the first time—twice the rate of workers who are very comfortable.
And the least likely to be planning to see a chiropractor? That distinction belongs to workers who don’t usually work a desk job at all.
Workers who don’t usually work a desk job also don’t turn to medication for back pain nearly as often. Only about one-third of them do, compared to 56% of office workers who aren’t comfortable at their workstations.
Desk workers who claim they’re very comfortable at work don’t fare much better, an indication that back pain could result from a more widespread problem, like an all-around sedentary lifestyle. In fact, a recent survey showed a whopping 83% of the general population (18+) want to improve their posture. Although, a second survey showed 56% actually pay attention to it during the day.
When cross-tabulating comfort with workstations and how much attention someone gives to their posture, desk workers are far and away more likely to report correcting their posture throughout the day.
When it comes to common remedies, workers aren’t only turning to pain meds and chiropractors, however. Plenty are finding relief in ergonomic equipment, as well. In the past six months, 31% of adults have purchased some type of ergonomic equipment for their workstation. Chairs are the most popular item, with 9% of adults having bought them since May.
Again, the pandemic may have some sway here: Recent purchases of ergonomic working accessories have been much more popular for those working remotely and away from their normal setups.
Pain medications and chiropractors still have an audience—and judging by desk workers’ comfort levels, that probably won’t change any time soon. But ergonomic equipment is gaining in popularity. Injuries related to desk work take a while to manifest, and many workers may not know their workstations are causing them problems. If working remotely does become the new norm once the pandemic subsides, it will be interesting to see if ergonomic-related ailments and purchases continue, and what that could mean for workers’ comfort and productivity.