RSI cases soar to all-time high as working trends go mobile

Written by Joe Martin

June 5, 2008 // 4:01 p.m.

LONDON, JUNE 4th 2008 – Work-related RSI cases are at an all-time high and the cost to businesses is spiralling, as changing trends see professional staff working on the move more than ever before.

Official research by Microsoft released today reveals Repetitive Strain Injury cases have soared by more than 30 per cent in the last year, costing businesses over £300 million in lost working hours. This worrying rise, the research reveals, is directly related to the rapidly emerging trend of ‘mobile working’ - with office-based employees now working on the move for an average of an hour more per day than they did two years ago using laptops and mobile devices.

The research, which polled over 1,000 office workers, HR managers and office managers, reveals that 68% of office workers suffered from aches and pains, with the most common symptoms including back ache, shoulder pain and wrist/hand pain as a result of working whilst in transit in cramped or awkward positions. The research found that those working for smaller companies are most at risk.

Whilst advances in technology and increasingly demanding workloads have seen a growing need for staff to operate even when not in the office, the report finds it is a worrying lack of knowledge about the risks that is leading to millions of working hours being lost to a crippling injury labelled ‘Blackberry Thumb’.

The findings also show that amongst office staff suffering symptoms of RSI, nearly a third of them did not associate this with anything work-related and did not report anything to their management. Indeed, of all HR managers surveyed, 76 per cent were not aware of the high risk of RSI themselves and 68 per cent did nothing when employees reported problems.

The research suggests that one of the main factors behind the high number of injuries is because not enough companies are replacing their existing office equipment with ergonomic hardware that can significantly reduce the risk of RSI. To add insult to injury, less than half of UK workplaces have an ergonomic hardware programme in place and nearly a quarter of workers are not aware if their company even has one.

Experts recommend a number of ergonomic solutions for workers who use desktops and laptops on a daily basis which will dramatically reduce the number of injuries quickly and cost effectively. These include an ergonomic articulating keyboard, monitor arms, footrests, copy holders, ergonomic mice, laptop holders and ergonomic chairs.

John Allen, Managing Consultant at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) believes there is much more employers can do to minimise the risk. "We are shocked that this research indicates that the number of office injuries is on the increase due to companies not taking the right actions in investing in their staff's well being. This issue needs to be addressed and companies should start assessing the risks and investing in ergonomic solutions where they are needed."

Commenting on the research, Sophie Barnave-Gaffney from Microsoft said, “Clearly, there is an enormous lack of understanding about the need for ergonomics within the work environment and Microsoft has recognised that companies and employees can benefit enormously by implementing a few simple and cost effective measures. This is why we are putting such a focus on ergonomic hardware, in particular mice and keyboards, to reduce the number of work related injuries.”

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