PostureMinder’s Weblog

May 13, 2008

Check your policy!

Filed under: Why is Posture Important? — Dr Phil @ 2:42 pm

I just came across the following article about the many “products” that companies try to sell us that we don’t really need:

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/money/insurance/article2602677.ece

Top of the list is payment protection insurance – e.g. the stuff that protects your mortgage if you can’t work.

Guess what?  Most of them don’t cover you if you have to go off sick with back, neck or shoulder pain, RSI or other computer-related ill-health, or indeed stress.

Given that it costs a fortune, and that probably a third of the working population in the UK work on computers, that’s not much use to many of us.  No wonder the payout rate is apparently only 20% of claims!

March 17, 2008

Professor Dame Carol Black’s review of UK workplace health and well-being

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr Phil @ 11:01 am

Prevention is always better than cure!
Dame Carol Black’s review of work and health is all over the news in the UK today (17th March 2008). It shows that ill-health is costing the UK economy a whopping £103 billion per year.
The media is really focusing on the huge costs of incapacity benefits, which isn’t surprising – over half of the £103bn figure is spent on long-term incapacity benefits. However, over £13billion is down to the direct costs of sickness absences, and the HSE has previously suggested that the overall costs of sickness absence are typically 2-3 times that figure, or up to £40billion.
At a time when we seem to be heading for recession, can companies afford to be incurring these costs? Are they just an inevitable consequence of doing business?
The big variations in absence rates between different organisations (generally public sector has more absences than private, small companies have lower absences than large) suggest not – there are things that organisations can do, and these things typically pay for themselves several times over.
Dame Carol’s review highlights the need to detect problems early and take action in order to reduce these costs, and proposes a huge expansion of occupational health services such as physiotherapy and stress counselling.
Early interventions like this show massive returns on investment, but nowhere near as great as taking cost-effective preventative action in the first place.
At PostureMinder, our concern is for computer workers’ health.
Although computer jobs clearly aren’t as dangerous as deep sea fishing or working on an oil rig, it does carry risks. The sheer number of computer workers means even low sickness absence rates will contribute hugely to the figures found in Dame Carol’s review.
Not only that, for evey person who takes time off with a back, neck or shoulder problem or RSI, headaches or eye fatigue, the HSE suggests there are up to 15 who suffer in silence.
If you’ve ever suffered back pain through hunching over your keyboard, or found yourself stressed and headachy from working too long without a break, you’ll be aware that the hidden costs of underperformance due to these low-level health issues dwarf even the huge figures in Dame Carol’s review.
The proven solution to minimise these problems is incredibly simple – sit in a good posture at your computer, and take regular short breaks. Easy, right?
If you look around your office, how many people do you see following this simple advice? If your office is like most, it’ll be almost no-one!
That’s why we invented our award-winning well-being and productivity software – PostureMinder – to help computer users to help themselves. It gives you a friendly nudge in the right direction whenever you sit badly or forget to take a break, without trying to force the matter and raise your stress levels in the process! This is great for helping you get over an episode of back pain, and even better for preventing them in the first place.
PostureMinder is an essential tool to help people feel better while they work, and protect their health for the future.
With computer-related musculoskeletal disorders on the increase as more people use computers from an earlier age than ever, it’s never been more important for employers to take preventative action.
Phil

February 28, 2008

Tomorrow (29th Feb) is International RSI Awareness Day.

Filed under: Posture Musings — Dr Phil @ 3:19 pm
Repetitive strain injuries are on the increase, and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (amongst other organisations) are busy in the media highlighting this increase and the costs to business of absences due to RSI.
The advice the CSP give for avoiding developing RSI and other musculoskeletal health problems is pretty straightforward – make sure you don’t over-stretch your body while you’re doing your repetitive tasks, and make sure you take regular short breaks. Isn’t it weird how few of us (myself definitely included) find it so hard to do these simple things?

The limitation of single-day campaigns like this is precisely that they are “one-offs”. Once the message has been delivered, that’s it. The same with employers providing DSE training once or twice a year – perfectly sensible messages seem to bounce off the impenetrable shield of our bad habits!

It’s precisely this problem that PostureMinder was conceived to overcome. Instead of just telling you once about how you should be sitting, it proactively helps you to sit like that. When you go back to your bad habits, you get a friendly reminder – nothing severe (some employers have asked for an electric shock, but we’re saving that for version 2.0!), just a gentle message to help you change how you’re sitting.
There’s no point trying to force the issue, people have to go at their own speed and assign their own priority to the issue, so we provide plenty of settings for people to adapt it to suit them.
Now PostureMinder doesn’t directly look at anything to do with RSI. But by encouraging you to take regular breaks, and not to sit in bad postures that are likely to have a knock-on effect on how you type, mouse, and hold your shoulders while using the computer, it’s bound to have a significant knock-on effect on your risk of RSI as well as back, neck and shoulder pain, headaches and eye fatigue. And it’s an effect that won’t be here today, gone tomorrow – unlike RSI awareness day!

January 31, 2008

Compensation Culture?

Filed under: Posture Musings — Dr Phil @ 1:46 pm

A lot of people who see our awarding-winning software take to it from the point of view of reducing the costs of absences and underperformance due to ill-health. Others see it as a cost-effective way to show their concern for the health and well-being of individuals.

There is, of course, another side to all this – the dreaded and much talked about compensation culture!

At the moment, computer-related musculoskeletal disorders such as back, neck and shoulder pain, aren’t really on most companies’ radar from a compensation point of view, or even in terms of general costs. Sure, the odd person will go off sick and need rehabilitation back into work, but in the UK at least most companies are partially insulated from the costs of this through our NHS.

Obviously some costs are incurred through providing private medical treatment, and through covering for absences, but the vast majority of the costs of these conditions are hidden – poor performance, making more mistakes, low morale, staff turnover etc.

In terms of the compensation culture, only RSI-related claims seem to have been brought to-date, and even then only in small numbers. There have been a few prominent cases, such as the bank worker who was awarded £250,000 compensation for developing RSI after not being trained properly.

However, widespread computer use at work or home has only really been with us since the early 90s. As other posts I’ve put up mention, there’s evidence that computer-related musculoskeletal disorders are a widespread and growing problem, especially amongst young people.

The no-win, no-fee lawyers have been very successful with a series of health problems, such as mining illnesses, asbestosis, vibration and hearing injuries. As the number of people employed in manual work continues to reduce, these are likely to dry up as sources of income.

Either the lawyers will need to find new health conditions to focus upon, or the number of lawyers will need to reduce as work dries up. In the history of civilisation, I’m not convinced the number of lawyers had ever decreased at any point!

With getting on for half the workforce using computers on a day to day basis, if I was an injury lawyer I know where I’d be looking. Employers with an eye on the longview shouldn’t just be thinking in terms of meeting their legal obligations – they should be looking to demonstrate that they have gone beyond the bare minimum and taken every reasonable step to look after their staff.

Training and good quality ergonomic furniture are obviously key to that. I believe PostureMinder is a cost-effective addition to this equation – it’s about giving your employees the tools to help themselves. By providing it to employees you’re making a statement that you care.

No-one knows what the future will bring, but it’s always worth taking out a little insurance.

Why computer posture is only going to get more important…

Filed under: Why is Posture Important? — Dr Phil @ 1:25 pm

Most people who read blogs, and particularly those of you who stumble upon this one, probably know all about the minor aches and pains that can arise when using computers for long hours.

Most of us also know that those minor aches and pains can, if ignored, sometimes develop into much more serious issues that can cause a lot of pain and potentially threaten our ability to work. OK, so this isn’t a dramatic risk like working on a fishing boat or down a mine, but it can still be career-threatening and life-changing.

These problems are only likely to get more common. Computer use is growing, both in and out of work.

I like to point out the following – when I was growing up, extensive computer use (including gaming) was only for computer geeks like myself. But with the advent of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and CompetitiveUrge.com, even cool kids are using computers for long periods at a time and from earlier ages than ever before.

This has worrying implications – studies of schoolchildren in Scotland and Scandinavian countries in recent years have shown that they start suffering musculoskeletal pain from an early age. Much of this is down to carrying heavy schoolbags and poor school furniture, but they’ve also shown clear correlation between the amount of time spent using computers and experiencing pain symptoms.

The 2007 ViewSonic survey of 1500 computer workers reported 71% of respondents suffered back pain at their computer. But when they looked at the figures for 16-24 year olds, that jumped to 80%.

Either these young peoples’ problems will settle down in time – or the fact they’ve been using computers from a young age, together with other social trends such as obesity, mean that posture-related problems are going to significantly increase over time.

I know which my money’s on…

Phil

January 29, 2008

Welcome to PostureMinder’s weblog

Hi Everyone,

This is the start of my blog about our award-winning PostureMinder software. Here I’ll be posting musings on office ergonomics, posture, healthy working, back pain etc.

I’ll also be posting news about the adoption of PostureMinder and peoples’ experience of it. If you’ve tried our free trial at www.postureminder.co.uk, we’d love to hear your feedback through your posts.

Stay well (and sit well!)

Phil

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