Repetitive Strain Injuries and Working from Home
As the number of new coronavirus cases per week continues to soar, many companies have extended work-from-home policies well into 2021. As a result, more employees continue to work from their dining room tables and kitchen counters, spots that aren’t ergonomically designed like their desks at work to reduce the risk of repetitive strain or stress injuries (RSIs).
Computer Work Is Top Stressor
With the most common jobs to move home during the pandemic being those that involve long hours at a computer, employees in such positions should beware of the signs of RSI. These jobs include customer service representatives, data entry clerks, administrative and accounting staff, sales representatives, medical coders and more.
Computer work is a common cause of RSIs, due to the repetitive motion of typing on a keyboard. Combine that repetitive motion with sitting too low, not supporting your arms or back, or stretching to reach a mouse, and the risk of getting an RSI while working from home rises. While most employers take great steps to protect employees in the workplace, the quick move home has posed challenges.
RSIs and Prevention
What are some common RSIs and how can you help prevent yourself from getting one when working at home? An RSI happens when stress is repeatedly placed on a joint, pulling on surrounding tendons and muscles. With the repetitive action, the area doesn’t have time to recover, and you start to feel pain. The area is also likely to swell, as the body’s natural reaction is to increase the amount of fluid around the tendon or muscle to help reduce the stress. You can also get an RSI by sitting in one position or an awkward position for too long.
Common RSI conditions include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – this is swelling inside the tunnel formed by bone and ligament in the wrist. The tunnel surrounds nerves, which get compressed by the swelling and can cause pain, tingling and numbness.
- Cervical radiculopathy – this RSI comes from a compressed disk in the neck and is often caused by cradling a phone on your shoulder.
- Epicondylitis – otherwise known as tennis elbow, this is caused by repetitive motion and not just the result of swinging a tennis racket.
- Ganglion cyst – another wrist RSI, caused by the swelling or lump that forms when a jelly-like substance leaks from a joint or tendon. This is different from carpal tunnel but also often caused by overusing fingers and wrists.
You can take some simple steps to help prevent RSIs while working from home, such as:
- Take a break – set an alarm as a reminder to take regular, short breaks.
- Stand up and stretch – extend your back, arms and fingers. Wiggle your wrists.
- Give your eyes a short rest – look up from the computer, and focus on something in the distance. A good rule of thumb is to look into the distance for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of computer viewing.
- Sit in a chair that provides back support – and make sure your feet can rest flat on the floor or use a footrest so that your thighs can be parallel to the ground.
- Make sure your elbows are in line with your keyboard – this helps you avoid strain. Also, your monitor should be about an arm’s length away and at eye level so you can look straight ahead and not strain your neck by looking down.
- Use a headset for phone calls – or speaker phone. Avoid cradling the phone on your shoulder. And if taking notes while talking, consider speech-to-text software.
- Try standing while working – not all day, but for as much as 20 minutes an hour.
OSHA requires that employers provide a safe and healthy environment for employees. But when it comes to home offices where the employee is doing office-like work, the agency doesn’t inspect or expect employers to inspect those premises for safe conditions.
Employers are still responsible for injuries employees incur while working from home, so most employers want to see their staff working in safe, injury-free settings. Many employers have set new policies for working from home that include providing ergonomic equipment or stipends for employees to purchase such.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
If you have sustained a repetitive strain or stress injury while working from home, you need an Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Laura Lanzisera today for a free consultation or give us a call at 404-991-5097.