EXPERT’S 10 TIPS FOR BUSINESSES & WORKERS TO TRANSITION OUT OF LOCKDOWN AS SOME OFFICES REOPEN…

Employers: Consider ditching ‘hot-desking’ trend as Coronavirus deep-cleaning priorities kick in
 
Employees: Get ready for ‘the new normal’ – desk-working back-to-back (not face-to-face)  
 
Home workers: Avoid awkward makeshift workstations like ironing boards, top back expert warns
 
All workers: Become accustomed to ‘blended working’, part-time office, part-time at home 
Homeworkers are risking back pain, migraines, sciatica and RSI by creating makeshift workstations from domestic appliances like ironing boards, sofa armrests and rickety garden furniture.
That’s the finding of one of the country’s leading health ergonomists and back-injury-prevention experts, who has conducted hundreds of home workstation assessments since lockdown began on March 23.
Nichola Adams normally tours top British companies’ offices around the country advising them on how they can minimise the risk of back injury in the workforce. Her top ten tips are –
FOR EMPLOYERS 
1 TIP ONE: CONSIDER DITCHING ‘HOT-DESKING’ It’s going to be essential when we return to the office to implement a new ‘single-desk-per-day’ regime, and to clean work surfaces, like desks, chairs, monitors, keyboards and mice, at the end of every individual worker’s shift. So, this does sound a death knell for the widespread cost-saving practice of ‘hot-desking’. If workers are nervous about continuing to hot-desk, you’ll need to respect their concerns.
 
2 TIP TWO: DOWNSIZE TO LOWER CAPACITY Because of the continuing rules on social distancing, companies with, say, 100 staff, will now only have capacity for 20-40 employees in the office at any one time. Businesses should plan ahead for this lower capacity. The need to radically reduce the amount of people in the office has already prompted many companies to rotate staff by day or by the week, to widen the spread between teams. A mix of homeworking and office shifts looks likely for the foreseeable future.
3 TIP THREE: GET BUSY SCREENING & CLEANING Screens or barriers may be needed around desks. Pods or self-contained units for workers will have partitions on all sides of the desk to stop the virus spreading when we cough and breathe. Covid-19 lingers longest on plastic, so the more porous your partition fabric, the more the virus is absorbed, meaning there’s less likelihood of transference. Workstations should be cleansed after every shift, also chairs, tables, monitors and office break-out furniture as the virus lands on many surfaces. If used, reception sofas should be cleaned after each arriving guest.
 
4 TIP FOUR: INCREASE SUPPORT FOR YOUR WORKFORCE A new Institute for Employment Studies (IES) survey of 500 homeworkers, found 75% said their employer had not carried out a health and safety risk assessment of their homeworking arrangements in lockdown. People are confused, need help, guidance and want to feel safe. Good advice is scarce. I recommend employers host health and wellbeing workshops, support employees’ mental health, and conduct fresh office ergonomic workstation assessments, which they’re legally obliged to if workstations move. Some staff may feel keen to return to the office, others nervous. Talk to individuals about their concerns.
5 TIP FIVE: DOUBLE EMPLOYEE ALLOWANCES Musculoskeletal issues like back pain and injuries, and neck and upper-limb problems, cost UK plc nearly 7 million working days a year. Part of the problem of homeworking is few people have the right equipment to work comfortably in the long term. In lockdown, many companies are offering homeworkers an allowance (average budget from £150) to buy work furniture. But with rough costs, (chair £100-£150), (table £60-£90), (keyboard £40), (mouse £20) adding up to £300, employers should double their allowance. Also, offer advice on what equipment to buy, or consider sending their office equipment home.
 
FOR EMPLOYEES 
1 TIP ONE: BEWARE ‘MAKESHIFT’ SET-UPS AT HOME The IES survey found, on average, a 50% increase in back-pain issues in lockdown. It’s crucial to seek advice on how to create your homeworking set-up correctly, warns Inspired Ergonomics Founder Nichola Adams. “I’ve seen makeshift workstations using ironing boards, drinks cabinets, coffee tables, bar stools, sofa armrests and old fold-up garden chairs and tables. Around 5% of people are slouching on beds. You can get away with it short-term but for longer-term homeworking, use tables and office chairs,” advises Nichola. “Adjust furniture to support a healthy posture. If there’s space, stick to tables and office chairs. Simple changes can have a huge impact.”
2 TIP TWO: THINK TOILET SEAT! Research on germs by UK ergonomics firm BakkerElkhuizen shows there are 45,670 more bacteria on an average computer mouse than there are on the average toilet seat; 20,598 more on a keyboard than on a loo seat. Returning to your office, take your keyboard and mouse with you so any germs are your own. Leaving work, wipe clean to avoid taking office germs home. Positioning equipment incorrectly can cause shoulder and neck strains, headaches and migraines.
 
3 TIP THREE: SWAP HANDBAGS FOR BACKPACKS Mrs Thatcher famously clobbered politicians with her handbag, but now heavy handbags can cause neck and shoulder injuries to women who haven’t been used to carrying them in lockdown. Out-of-condition muscles mean, to avoid injury, it’s wiser to distribute the weight of your belongings evenly using a backpack, preferably with adjustable, padded straps. As many of us may be avoiding public transport, backpacks are also ideal when cycling or walking to work.
4 TIP FOUR: WATCH YOUR BACK Government guidelines recommend that office workers should no longer be sitting face-to-face at their desks. Instead, employees social distancing correctly are being encouraged to sit back-to-back or side-by-side, and six feet apart. This may mean desks moving position, so a fresh ergonomic workstation assessment is recommended.
5 TIP FIVE: MAKE A STAND With companies reducing their capacity and allowing fewer employees in the office at any one time, work rooms will be less full. Provided you follow social-distancing guidelines, this new environment allows you to stand up and walk around more often, along the guided route. Take regular screen breaks, stand up and move about to help improve blood circulation, ease muscle tension build-up and prevent injury. Do this at home, too.
Nichola Adams, who has conducted hundreds of assessments remotely during lockdown, says: “A lot of businesses and employees with whom I’ve consulted now believe they may be going back to work in September or next January.
“There’s fear of a second wave and many employers are being very cautious about the health and welfare of their workforce in the office. Some tell me they’re worried they may be sued if an employee falls ill.
“With many of us facing up to another six months at home, there’s now a lot of confusion about what people should be doing, especially as there are still so many unknowns ahead.
“Homeworkers are struggling. One lady in her 20s, who works for a London law firm, was using her ironing board as a laptop desk and a rickety fold-up garden chair to sit on.
“The ironing board was too high, giving her severe neck and shoulder problems. The garden chair had a gap at the gap, so without support, she got lower-back pain – all compounded by her moving less than she normally would in the office.
“Others use dining tables that are too high, or their beds, slouching and craning their necks. One lady used her sofa arm as a mouse mat. People think they know how to set up a workstation correctly, but they need professional support and advice.”
Leading UK osteopath Gavin Burt, whose north London practice Backs & Beyond has just re-opened, said patients whose employers had arranged for their office chairs to be transported home were reporting the least back pain.
“I wasn’t expecting such a high number of patients telling me this,” he said, “but it seems that the small adaptation of having a proper office chair at home, even if only used at the dining table, has helped workers substantially reduce the amount of both neck and shoulder, and back pain that they have been suffering from since the beginning of the lockdown.”
Nichola Adams, MSc Health Ergonomics, Tech CIEHF (Technical Member of The Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors), Reg Member ACPOHE (The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics), is the Founder of Inspired Ergonomics (inspiredergonomics.com) and one of the UK’s leading back-pain experts, advising companies on how to minimise the risk of back pain in the workplace.

COPING DURING THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN AND TRYING TO DEAL WITH IT WHILE IN PAIN…

This week has been a week where I seem to have struggled with whatever I have done. We all have them and I’m hoping next week will be much better.

I feel guilty in that I think I have brought some of my pain on myself by doing more than I normally would do during the COVID-19 lockdown. But, I’m sure I’m not alone and a few of us have ‘had a go’ at something over the last eight weeks.

Mine was my little shed in the garden which I have sat and looked at for the last twelve months and decided a make over with lots of help from the other half could be manageable.

The end product is just what I wanted but being a bit of a perfectionist at heart has meant more work for me. The edges and finishing touches were done by me which ended up taking longer than painting the shed. It’s not that I was holding anything heavy but it’s the position you get into to achieve what you want. We adapted a stool for me for lower areas and a big cushion for anything lower down but it just took time.

I’ve rested up a few days but it seems to have really stirred up pins and needles and pain down my arm, in fact it’s affected my hand so badly that I’ve dropped a few things. Now I know I’ve not done any permanent harm but I have obviously provoked a reaction. Injuries happen, it’s a part of normal life.

Because I write my blog so regularly I somehow feel expectations are high and I feel almost guilty if I don’t write my regular post. There are moments in the lives of many people when they are not even sure what brought the pain into their life, only that it is agonizingly there.

Pharmi Web wrote that the University of East Anglia researchers are launching a new study to see how Covid-19 and lockdown are affecting people with bone, joint and muscle pain.

Their previous research has revealed the challenges and poor health outcomes caused by social isolation and loneliness for people with conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia. The study will be of great interest to us all.

The daily sun dose we are having is beautiful and I am sure the last eight weeks would have felt like eight months without it but I am definitely ready to see my family for real as soon as I can.

FEELING EXHAUSTED ALL THE TIME ? IS YOUR BRAIN TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING?…

Many people suffering from any form of chronic pain suffer from lack of energy which can be caused by the pain they are in and also certain medications, but is your brain trying to tell you something ?

Lack of energy is one of the main symptoms of depression and combined with other symptoms like feeling down or hopeless, little interest or pleasure in activities you normally enjoy, feeling worthless or guilt, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite, problems concentrating or suicidal thoughts. Any or all of these can be a real sign that you may be suffering from depression.

I decided to highlight this during Mental Health Month. Many people suffering from chronic pain can feel alone especially with the COVID-19 virus putting in lockdown. This can then put many of us at a greater risk of depression and so it is essential you get help when you need it.

It is important that you talk to you GP first who may initially offer antidepressants but there is access to CBT ( Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which is well known to help with depression.

Light therapy can help especially during winter months but at the moment we have enough light and sun to give us adequate amounts to lift our spirits. Unfortunately not everyone has access to the fresh air and sun due to difficulty getting outside because of our condition so help for them is very important.

There are other tips to help boost your energy levels which can have a positive effect on how you feel. The classic tips are to avoid junk food, curb your alcohol intake, exercise for energy, cut down on caffeine, check your Iron intake and Vitamin D levels.

You are certainly not on your own with this you only have to look online starting with the NHS Every Mind Matters, and Mental Health.Org,

The Houston Press say “Mental health experts are predicting a second pandemic of sorts, an epidemic born from coronavirus worries and lockdowns.”

Therapy For You wrote “May is National Walking Month, where you’re encouraged to leave the motor at home and stretch your legs exploring every space the UK has to offer. Even just a 20-minute walk around your area can do wonders for your mental wellbeing, from helping you get more sleep at night to encouraging helpful hormones that boost positivity.”

Mind have a great article on how CBT works. “ CBT is usually a short-term treatment, so you wouldn’t be expected to continue with the treatment for a long time. For example, a course of CBT might be delivered in 12 hour-long weekly sessions, spread across 12 weeks. In some areas, you may be offered four sessions initially, with the opportunity for more if you need them.“Some research suggests that computerised CBT could be helpful for some people, although it’s not yet known how well it works.”

Whatever is available you first need to speak to your GP about how you are feeling and he will point you in the right direction.

SEEING YOUR GP DURING COVID-19 & HELPING WITH RESEARCH…

Dr. Sarah Jarvis MBE, and Clinical Director at Patient recently wrote how we must NOT ignore any concerns about our own health or a loved ones health during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Whatever you are worried about, be it a lump, pain or an ongoing health condition, you should seek help through your GP. GP surgeries across the UK are open via phone or video calls so check your GP’s surgery to see how they are making appointments.

You can also arrange a remote GP & Pharmacy appointment through Patient Access in many locations. The Patient also has details on how to get the most out of your GP appointment.

Also on Patient is a link to contribute to COVD-19 research by telling the NHS about your current experience of COVID-19. There is also the app which I previously wrote about and I check in on it daily.

Download the C-19 COVID Symptom Tracker App and self report daily. Help slow the outbreak. Identify those at risk sooner. 

Take 1-minute to self-report daily, even if you are well to help the scientists identify high risk areas in the U.K. who is most at risk, better understanding symptoms linked to underlying health conditions. See how fast the virus is spreading in your area. 

By using this app you’re contributing to advance vital research on COVID-19. The app will be used to study the symptoms of the virus and track how it spreads. 

This research is led by Dr Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and director of TwinsUK a scientific study of 15,000 identical and non-identical twins, which has been running for nearly three decades. 

The COVID Symptom Tracker was designed by doctors and scientists at King’s College London, Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals working in partnership with ZOE Global Ltd – a HealthPost science company.

They say ‘We take data security very seriously and will handle your data with huge respect. Your data is protected by the European Union’s “General Data Protection Regulation” (GDPR). It will only be used for health research and will not be used for commercial purposes. You can read more about how your data will be used, your rights and the steps we take to ensure it’s protected in our privacy policy or in the FAQ‘ 

You can read more at King’s College LondonBBC NEWS, The Guardian, and The INDEPENDENT

Available from the App Store or Google Play.

SAY A BIG “THANK YOU” TODAY ON INTERNATIONAL #NURSE & MIDWIFE DAY…

There could not be a more fitting tribute to all the #Nurses in the world today on International #Nurse & Midwife Day. A big “Thank You” is what they have asked for and I am sure from the bottom of all our hearts we cannot “Thank You” enough especially during this COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Royal College of Nursing has put this message out for International Nurses and Midwife Day

“Today, we’re saying thank you to nursing staff everywhere for the remarkable contribution they make to the lives of millions of people.

International Nurses’ Day is celebrated around the world each year on 12 May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. This year in particular it’s an extra special occasion because not only does it fall during International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, it also marks the 200th anniversary of Nightingale’s birth.

Ordinarily this would be a time for mass celebration, but as nursing staff across the world stand united in responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must use today to shine a light on the remarkable work all health and care staff are doing for the entire nation.

That’s why we’re asking the public and patients to say thank you to #nursing staff everywhere to show our members and their colleagues how their professionalism is truly appreciated.

You can read Florence Nightingale’s amazing story and legacy on The Royal College of Nursing Website.

They have asked us to share this video https://youtu.be/WJSiIhphvLwo to say thank you to nursing staff using #Nurses Day.