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Home workers lack DSE support, survey finds

More than one in three remote workers says they have experienced new back pain since working regularly from home, according to a survey by health insurer BHSF. Three in five say employers failed to support them in setting up a workstation at home that promotes healthy posture.

Home workers lack DSE support, survey finds
Image credit: © iStock/urbazon. Twenty seven percent admitted working at a table rather than a desk

The survey of 897 UK employees who work at least two days a week from home, found that one in five employees had received a workstation assessment in person. BHSF says that although businesses are investing millions of pounds on office ergonomics, they are failing to extend the same care to home workers, with women feeling particularly let down and those over 50 being particularly vulnerable. The not-for-profit insurer added that a failure to protect employees who are benefiting from flexible working practices could result in a rise in musculoskeletal issues in the future.

Three-fifths of respondents said they had received no help or guidance from their employer on how to set up their workstations correctly. Only 36% had received support. Of these, 60% had received an ergonomic assessment – 22% in person and 38% online. Since they began to work from home, 37% admitted they had noticed new back pain.

Women reported a higher level of dissatisfaction. Only 30% said they had received help to set up their workstations, compared with 45% of men. The survey also found that women were less likely to have a dedicated office in their home – 30% had workspace set aside, compared with 43% of men.

Older home workers were also more vulnerable. Only 26% of those aged over 50 could remember receiving assistance from their employer to set up workstations correctly. 

A contributing factor to the back pain reported was the lack of a proper workstation. Of those surveyed, 27% said they worked at tables rather than desks, 11% worked from their sofas, and 3% admitted working from their beds.

Stuart Nottingham, physiotherapy lead for BHSF, said: “There is a lot more that employers could be doing to help prevent back pain in their employees, from ensuring their home workstation is set up correctly to providing them with guidance on active working strategies such as getting up from sitting on a regular basis, or advice on simple exercises they can do to prevent back pain and other musculoskeletal problems.”


Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton was previously acting editor of IOSH Magazine. Before that he was editor of SHP and he has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner


  • Not wanting to be

    Permalink Submitted by Regsy on 16 October 2018 - 12:57 pm

    Not wanting to be controversial here but if Employees are aware of DSE at work in the workplace they should be aware of the need when working at home, there are thousands of guides out the and the HSE does a very good one, you don't have to be a specialist to work through it either. So should employees who maybe are benefitting from being allowed to work from home actually be proactive and sort out their home based working area?

  • It's the employer's

    Permalink Submitted by Tracey on 16 October 2018 - 02:31 pm

    It's the employer's responsible to make employees aware of this and carry out workstation assessment etc - albeit it an online one in most cases i've found.

  • It's enough of a battle to

    Permalink Submitted by Dave on 17 October 2018 - 10:22 am

    It's enough of a battle to get employees to set their workstation in the office before we can deal with people working at home. The comment above from Regsy is right though, we tell all our employees how to do a self assessment, with information about how to set up their workstation. This is transferable to home and if you can't set something up similarly at home then maybe you shouldn't be working from home at all......

  • We need to educate users

    Permalink Submitted by Philip Johns (Healthy Home & Office) on 22 October 2018 - 01:57 pm

    We need to educate users about the benefits of creating healthier working environments, self assessments? is this not asking someone to provide answers to question which even if they understand the question they will probably not have an understanding of the options which may be available to assist them, lots of things to try now - E-mail assessments, pictures and a brief conversation can highlight and solve many of the basic problems, lunch and learn seminars are also a great way of raising awareness of many work related problems and showing people how they can ease any current problems and reduce the risk of potential future problems.

  • I agree with Regsy and Dave

    Permalink Submitted by Spirou on 22 October 2018 - 04:00 pm

    I agree with Regsy and Dave on this one.
    We provide information, guidance links, online assessment, telephonic interventions, face to face assessments, etc, and still staff members tend to ignore the advise provided. There is only so much that we can do. People are just not using the tools provided, from the moment they join the business and throughout their employment with us.


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