5 Changes That Can Help Lessen Employee Absences for Back and Neck Pain


Even though there’s no OSHA ergonomics standard, it is an employer’s duty under the law to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards. So when is the last time someone sat down with your employees to discuss the way they sit, move, and lift? Did you know that addressing workplace ergonomics can lessen absences—and healthcare expenses?


According to Portland, Oregon chiropractor Dr. Samantha Stuart, simple ergonomic changes can make a big difference in the management of back and neck pain and in preventing future health problems. The problem, she says, is lumbar and cervical spine compression caused by poor posture.

Stuart stresses the importance of improving habits at work and at home. For example, she recommends that side sleepers who are experiencing lower back pain place a pillow between their legs to realign the spine and prevent compression. “The same goes for adjusting the height of an office chair or repositioning a computer screen or keyboard,” she says. “These are simple changes, but they can have a significant impact for relieving chronic pain and improving quality of life.”

Professional ergonomist Kevin Butler says the key to physical and mental wellness at work is engaging the body in movement. Here are five tips he recommends for employees:

  • Stand up. Get up and move very 60 minutes. Stand whenever you can. Take advantage of standing height desks or workstations if they are available. When you’re on your feet, change positions often and don’t lock your knees.
  • Adjust your screen. To avoid neck strain and shoulder cramping, raise your monitor to eye level. Use a stand or a stack of books if needed.
  • Sit properly. Sitting up straight may not be the best strategy for you. If you have an ergonomic chair, learn how to adjust it. Remember to lean into the chair back, which lets the chair do its job of supporting you. “Perching” on the edge of the seat doesn’t provide back or torso support.
  • Take a load off. No matter what position you’re in, avoid remaining static for an extended period. Try setting an alarm on your calendar or download an app to remind you to get up and move. Refill your water. Do a lap around the building. Walk over to a colleague’s desk to convey a message rather than sending email.
  • Lighten up. Work gets stressful and laughing is an excellent antidote to stress. Seek out something or someone funny and find something to laugh about. It will do your (mind and) body good.

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