DVIDS – News – Army occupational health expert discusses health impacts of telework


By V. Hauschild, French Army Public Health Center
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland – In March 2020, under the leadership of the White House, the Department of Defense implemented procedures to mitigate risks associated with the impending COVID-19 pandemic. This included a “maximum telework” posture for nearly 1.4 million active duty members and 800,000 civilian workers at DOD.

With the new mandate in place, many DOD employees found themselves working from home for the first time. Most of them have found a way to cope and many of them are choosing or being encouraged to expand their use of telecommuting from home.

Many teleworkers report positive effects of increased flexibility, including more free time and less commuting. But science shows there are downsides too.

“While most of the existing studies focus on teleworkers outside the federal government, the duties of DOD employees in a telework-from-home setting have reported similar, if not exactly the same, health issues to those of their non-working counterparts. -DOD, ”Scott explains. Monks, Assistant Physician in the Directorate of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Army Public Health Center.

Monks says common health themes in studies focusing on teleworker include musculoskeletal pain, weight gain, and behavioral health issues.

While not specifically related to telecommuting, other health issues can also be made worse by long hours of sedentary work in front of a computer. Conditions such as digital eye strain or “computer vision syndrome” and sleep disturbances caused by excessive blue light are examples.

Monks recognize that not everyone has or develops the same health issues, and some may consider the telecommuting experience more positive than negative. But for most people working from a home computer, there are likely negative health consequences that need to be improved.

“The existing evidence shows that musculoskeletal pain is one of the most common complaints of office workers,” says Monks.

Monks says the lower back and neck, followed by the shoulders, wrists, and elbows, are where most workers complain of pain.

This was shown by a study conducted during the pandemic and published in the August 28, 2020, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, which interviewed teleworkers and found that 41% had lower back pain and 24% had lower back pain. neck pain. The study concluded:

• The family environment seems unsuitable in the mobile worker population, with an increased risk of musculoskeletal problems, especially those affecting the spine.
• An increased sedentary lifestyle and poor posture due to the use of non-ergonomic equipment seemed to favor the development of musculoskeletal disorders, in particular low back pain and neck pain.

If telecommuters experience pain or discomfort due to extended shifts, Monks recommends that they consider the ergonomics of their workspace and their working habits at home.

An evaluation of ergonomics at his home workstation may be necessary. Many DOD employees may seek the assistance of a certified ergonomist located in their medical treatment facility or in their safety office to help them assess and suggest corrective equipment and / or adjustments for their workstation. residence.

However, another study published in the December 23, 2020, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found a reduction in musculoskeletal pain seen in teleworkers. The study attributed this to the increased frequency of physical activity among teleworkers and the shift from aerobic activities before the lockdown to more strength training and stretching exercises.

This supports the Department of Health and Human Services’ well-established, evidence-based recommendation for healthy adults to participate in 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes per week of activity. vigorous. Additionally, adults should aim for two or three strength training sessions each week.

Even when these goals are achieved with dedicated exercise sessions, there are still health concerns if you spend the rest of your waking hours sitting in front of a computer or surfing a channel on the sofa.

“The best way to avoid musculoskeletal pain while telecommuting is to make time for regular activity breaks,” says Monks.

Monks suggests one simple thing everyone can do is take breaks during their workday every hour or two. Set a timer as a reminder if needed – and get up, stretch, take a walk around the house or yard, or do push-ups.

“The combination of a more ergonomic work environment, increased physical activity through dedicated exercise sessions, and several short movement or stretching breaks each day will likely reduce your risk of MSK pain,” says Monks. .

Better yet, Monks says, these same actions can reduce the risk or severity of other potential health impacts associated with telecommuting, such as vision problems, weight gain, and behavioral health disorders.

The Army Public Health Center provides several resources for more information on –

• Improve the ergonomics of your workstation at home or in the office: https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/workplacehealth/ergo/Pages/default.aspx
• Injuries common to military populations and effective prevention strategies: https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/workplacehealth/ergo/Pages/default.aspx
• Resources on weight management and a healthy lifestyle: https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/healthyliving/Pages/default.aspx

The US Army Public Health Center improves military readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats, developing and communicating public health solutions, and ensuring the quality and effectiveness of the army’s public health enterprise.

Date taken: 10.06.2021
Date posted: 10.06.2021 13:28
Story ID: 406848
Site: we

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