The coronavirus pandemic continues to be a major concern in the UK, forcing many employees to work remotely. Employers in the process of reopening may notice that the workplace looks quite different than it did prior to lockdown. Given that working remotely will continue to be a common trend during the pandemic, it is important to be aware of these issues and plan accordingly.
The use of display screen equipment was already a common element of everyday work before the pandemic, but with remote work resulting in an even greater reliance on technology, employees may now be spending even more time staring at screens. Employers should make sure that their workforce is aware of health issues that may stem from extended use of display screen equipment and how to best avoid them.
Health Concerns Associated With Display Screen Equipment
Extended use of display screen equipment can result in a number of potential health problems, both mental and physical. These problems may include:
- Eye problems—Staring at a screen for an extended period of time can cause the eyes to become strained. These effects can be exacerbated if an employee’s screen or overall workstation is not set up properly.
- Posture issues—While traditional work environments may have desks and chairs suited for extended use, many employees will not have the right equipment at home. Not being able to arrange chairs, laptops or other equipment in ideal positions can lead to poor posture.
- Strains—Working with display screen equipment often means sitting in one place for an extended period of time. If an employee’s workstation is uncomfortable, this can place excess stress on a number of body parts that may be forced to reach or strain, such as the neck, arms, wrists and hands.
- Fatigue—Using display screen equipment can cause employees to become fatigued and even lead to increased stress.
Solutions for Using Display Screen Equipment
While extensive, improper use of display screen equipment can have serious health consequences for employees, there are a number of solutions that organisations can provide to help their workforce remain healthy and productive while working remotely. Employers should offer these tips to their employees:
- Screens—Make sure that your screen is bright enough that you do not have to squint or strain your eyes to read or perform other tasks. It may be necessary to alter other lighting elements in your work environment through the use of window blinds or curtains. Screens should be positioned approximately an arm’s length away, and the top of the screen should align with your eyes. You can use books or boxes to raise a screen if necessary.
- Chairs—Your chair should be pushed up close to the desk or table so that and your back can rest against the back of the chair while still being able to comfortably reach your keyboard and mouse. You should be able to rest your feet flat on the floor. If a chair is not adjustable, cushions or boxes can be used as a footrest. Placing cushions or a rolled-up towel between the lower back and the backrest can also provide better back support.
- Breaks—Regardless of whether you’re working in a traditional or remote environment, it’s important to take regular breaks—ideally every hour. Be sure to stand up and move around during your breaks.
- Check-ups—If requested, employers are legally required to provide eye tests for employees who use display screen equipment. Inform your employer if you believe that you may have a vision problem. Working with screens is taxing on the eyes, and may cause you to become aware of an issue that you had not previously noticed. The examination should be a full eye and eyesight test conducted by an optometrist or doctor.
- Glasses—Depending on the results of the aforementioned eye test, employers may also be required to pay for glasses for their employees. If results show that you need special glasses prescribed specifically for your use of display screen equipment, your employer will be required to pay for them.
Considerations for Employers
As the pandemic continues to affect everyday life for both employers and employees, it is important that all parties prepare for the long haul. Working remotely has been a rising trend for years, even before coronavirus-related lockdown measures were implemented, and it is expected that many employees will request to continue to working remotely even after the pandemic ends. With this in mind, employers should be prepared to provide guidance for employees working remotely, such as the proper use of display screen equipment.
Contains public sector information published by GOV.UK and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. The content of this blog is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of all matters relevant to its subject matter. The content should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting legal advice and not be relied upon as such. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice. Further, the law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly. Content by Zywave, Inc. provided by TH March.