Musculoskeletal issues have become a significant concern in the workplace, especially with the rise of remote work. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s spring budget commitment to investing £400 million in supporting individuals forced to leave work due to such conditions highlights the importance of addressing this issue.
Employers now have an opportunity to review and enhance their support for employees with musculoskeletal problems. By prioritizing musculoskeletal health, businesses can mitigate the impact of absenteeism, boost productivity, and foster a healthier workforce.
How are Musculoskeletal Issues Affecting the Workforce?
Musculoskeletal issues are on the rise; even more so as remote working becomes part of everyday life. Suzanne Marshall, Head of Clinical Strategy at GoodShape, says that musculoskeletal health and its impact should be a top priority for employers.
Repetitive movements, poor posture, and inadequate workstations contribute to poor musculoskeletal health, leading to decreased productivity and increased sickness absences. Suzanne Marshall emphasizes that organizations need data-driven insights to understand the impact of these issues on their workforce. She adds there is a need for more support and resources by employers to eliminate the problems.
Musculoskeletal conditions have also become a leading cause of workplace absence, resulting in a substantial loss of working time and financial burden. According to Champion Health, around 7 million working days were lost in 2022 due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
According to statistics from the NHS, about 470,000 workers suffered from musculoskeletal issues in 2022. A majority of the symptoms were made worse by COVID-19. Data from the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital showed that remote workers are at higher risk. This increased during Covid as social distancing meant employers couldn’t review home setups.
What Can Be Done?
The first and most important thing is early intervention. Employers should be offering adequate support to resources to help employees identify early signs of these issues. Furthermore, employers should encourage them to work on their physical health or offer physiotherapy specialists, if needed.
To create a healthier workforce, organizations should establish proactive processes, including tailored return-to-work forms and access to occupational health services. Employers must recognize that musculoskeletal conditions may have psychological symptoms. Hence offering mental health support will also need to be a priority.
It might even help to schedule one-to-one meetings with employees susceptible to musculoskeletal issues and offer assistance programs. Online classes on the risk associated with these issues, posture information and encouraging timely breaks will help reduce the chances of musculoskeletal issues affecting the workplace.