TMCnet Feature
April 08, 2021

Sitting Disease: Does Remote Work Culture Lead to A Sedentary Life for Tech-Workers

It’s been exactly one year since notable tech giants like Microsoft (News - Alert) recommended its almost 54.000 Seattle-area employees work from home as a mysterious pandemic began spreading across the U.S.  

If you’re working remotely, you can tell it’s of a global pandemic by simply sitting down at your desk and listening to your back scream. The pain burrows itself into your lower left side in what many would describe as a pulsating, fist-sized red orb. 

The pain depth ranges from bearable but irritating, like an annoying buddy who won’t go home, to alerting and constant like a gassy baby. 

If you are constantly fantasizing about doctors opening and fixing your back, then you can tell your back is mad. For those fortunate enough to work remotely throughout the pandemic, we bet yours is pissed off too.

The problem is that for many WFH tech employees, the home office never actually became one- just a minor temporary setup meant to suffice for god knows how long. That makes you wonder, when would life surely be back to an ordinary?

Some tech organizations have a flexible plan in place for bringing back some employees, so of the time. Others not so much – they plan to take the rest of the year to see how COVID case numbers and vaccine rollouts progress. 

In the meantime, everyone struggles with less-than-ideal workstations – desktops too small and too low; chars without back support and armrests; desks that don’t adjust; built-in keyboards and touchpads instead of external ones – added to a sedentary work habit which has taken a physical toll as the pandemic has hauled on. 

WFH tech employees have reported suffering from pain and aches, joint soreness, numbness, stiffness, headaches, and the famous carpal tunnel. That’s concerning enough for some business owners, particularly as many implement permanent remote work policies, and a blessing in disguise for ergonomic consulting, office supplies, and pain-relief solution companies. 

WFH Can Mash-Up Your Neck and Back 

In the office, employees are often encouraged to get up and walk, but remote work doesn’t really encourage them to get up unless they’re hungry or something. 

Does sitting cause back pain? Yes, of course. It’s true what they say; smoking is the new sitting. While all jobs require a mix of walking, standing, and sitting, some require one to sit more than they walk or stand. 

A 2016 survey across all civilian jobs exposed that people working in corporate jobs such as programmers, software designers, and accountants spend more than 75% of their time sitting then both walking or standing, posing a serious health threat to them. 

Sitting implies physical inactivity, and spending too much time in the sitting position means you have a sedentary lifestyle no matter if you exercise. 

Sitting is linked to almost 3 million preventable deaths yearly, ranking as the fourth leading cause of death resulting from a non-transmittable disease. 

This has pushed many remote employees and companies alike to invest in all kinds of ergonomics in order to improve their work-from-home setup – that or they’ll have to live and work in pain. 

Chronic Joints Pains 

There’s no news – sitting for too long may get you to the physiotherapist clinic for rehabilitation and massage.  

The hips and leg muscles, especially the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings, are the major muscles we use when we sit. But when we get used to sitting for too long, what happens is that we put a lot of pressure on these muscles, causing them to become short and tight. 

These muscles are there to protect your back and hips, but if you maintain a poor sitting position, they will immediately cause problems for your back and joints. This could also lead to further complications such as nerve impingement, premature degeneration of the joint structures, and disc prolapse. Not to mention the ongoing sensation of stiffness in the neck and shoulders.  

Remote Work is Here to Stay but Is Breaking Our Backs 

Chiropractors and doctors point to numerous contributing factors – tech employees had professional workstations, and in many organizations, access to ergonomic specialists. 

Back then, our lives revolved around a simple yet healthier routine: getting ready and commuting, attending meetings, taking a walk outside to grab a coffee or lunch and maybe going to the gym.

We’re all on the move, but now all of a sudden, that routine is gone. No more breaks (because we forget) and little transference of the work environment to the home environment. 

A 2020 chiropractic survey found that 92% of the respondents say they’d experience an increase in musculoskeletal conditions like neck and back pain due to work-from-home adjustments. 

Additional polls conducted over the summer found that 57% of tech employees said lack of movement was the key cause those issues were growing during the lockdown, followed by bad posture at 12% and psychological stress 20%. 

Some companies, especially those in the tech industry, have received substantial support to properly set their employees. 

Platforms like Shopify provided their staff with a $1,200 remote-work allowance last March, and an extra $1,440 after the platform announced they would move to a permanent work-from-home structure even after COVID-19 ends. 

At Salesforce, employees received a $250 initial reimbursement in March to help cover the expenses of at-home office-related equipment; The San Francisco-based company has also offered its staff access to an ergonomic evaluation with a professional.  

This mass migration of employees away from their cubicles has led to surprising success for furniture producers whose clientele have historically been businesses instead of individual customers.  

In today’s all-remote environment, it can be hard to be a biped. It may be easier to write an email standing on two legs than fours, but this plus comes with lots of minuses for our skeletons. As a last resort, a smarter and more ergonomically designed office seems to be the choice if you want to work in a healthier posture.

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