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Business management

The company that’s aiming to combat the pain of homeworking

Aches and pains associated with working from home have become commonplace – but Physiowizard is on a mission to make sure remote workers stay healthy.

Remote working has led to an upsurge in muscle, back and joint problems for millions of people who now spend most of their days at home.

But one enterprising company is fighting the trend by offering an online app to help employees identify and treat health issues directly from their desks.

The PhysioWizard tool uses augmented intelligence to assess musculoskeletal (MSK) complaints, as well as other health issues. Users are prompted to enter their symptoms, then the app suggests an appropriate course of treatment – or refers them to a clinical professional for help.

This service can help contribute to a happier, healthier working environment and reduce sickness-related drag on profitability for organisations, the developers claim.

The growing problem of work-related pain

The impact of lockdowns and poor homeworking conditions have led to a surge in MSK injuries: a 2020 survey by healthcare provider BUPA found that as many as two thirds of homeworkers had injured their back, neck, or joints as a result.

At the same time, only 11% of them had sought the correct medical help, with most using over-the-counter painkillers or ice baths to ease their discomfort, said BUPA.

The UK is facing a hidden pandemic of back, joint and muscle pain as our workforce has struggled to adapt to the widespread challenges of working from home

Kirsten Lord
Founder, PhysioMedics

According to NHS statistics, MSK conditions account for 40% of all sickness absences from work, with many cases becoming long term and subsequently impacting mental health too.

Kirsten Lord, founder of PhysioMedics, which developed the PhysioWizard app, says: “The UK is facing a hidden pandemic of back, joint and muscle pain as our workforce has struggled to adapt to the widespread challenges of working from home. With large numbers of employees remaining home-based for much of their working week, many companies are seeking to address these issues as a matter of priority.”

Simple fixes to ease homeworkers’ pain

Kirsten, who is also a respected physiotherapist and member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, says that many home office set-ups are not ergonomically equipped to ensure that workers will not injure themselves while spending hours in front of their computer screens.

And, as MSK injuries increase, a greater burden is placed on the NHS, which is already operating under the strain of Covid-19.

“There are some simple things that you can do to improve your homeworking life,” says Kirsten. “For instance, if you normally work sitting down, try standing up. This can be as simple as using an ironing board positioned at the right level to support your laptop.

“Also, try cutting down meeting times. Can you get as much done in a 15-minute meeting as you can in a one-hour meeting? In many cases, the answer is probably yes.”

Tips for healthy homeworking:
  • Change your working position regularly 
  • Perform stretching exercises while sitting at your screen
  • Walk and talk while holding conversations
  • Work standing up for a portion of your day
  • Ensure your working day has defined start and stop times
  • Take regular screen breaks
  • Never work on a sofa, or lying down

 

As well as MSK conditions, working at home can be the cause of mental health problems, says Kirsten. “Lockdown has made people more isolated,” she says. “People have put on weight, there’s more anxiety and depression, and an increase in how chronic their pain is. 

“The longer you are in pain, the faster you can develop mental health issues, and the more likely you are to feel pain for longer,” she says. “You can actually feel more pain because of your mental health status.”

The PhysioWizard tool, which is CE-marked and fully customisable, is now being offered to corporations around the country. NatWest recently adopted the app for its thousands of employees.

Fiona McAslan, HR Well-being Lead at NatWest, said: “Our employees are our most important resource and we are excited to be able to offer them the chance to take greater control of their health by providing them with the easy-to-use PhysioWizard tool. This is part of our broader well-being proposition, where we have extensively dialled up the proactive support available for colleagues’ physical health, mental health, financial well-being and the increasing importance of social well-being.”

 

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