Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the most common occupational illnesses, a trend that is increasing year on year (up 14% since 2010). But how does the rise of working from home forever change the prevalence of back pain in a post-Covid world? Conducted by Ifop for PERCKO, a startup specialised in products to relieve back pain, this study of physical suffering in the world of work highlights the prevalence of back pain in a workforce that often tends to underestimate its effect despite the profound impact it can have on their professional and personal lives.
Conducted on a sample of the French workforce, the study’s results raise similar questions across borders. Why does back pain affect men and women differently? If working from home aggravates back pain, should we rethink its rollout? Are employees right to call for their employers to provide ergonomic equipment?
Some key figures that they found are:
- Back pain is the MSD with the highest prevalence among employees, affecting more than two-thirds of them (69%).
- MSD-related pain is overwhelmingly attributed to work (according to 77% of those with MSD-related pain). This rate is highest amongst those working from home full-time (93%) vs. labourers (91%).
- The rate of chronic sufferers of back pain is highest among those working from home full-time (46%) compared to those who never work from home (31%) (sample: those suffering from back pain at least once a week).
- A majority of those working from home consider their company’s contribution to the purchase of ergonomic equipment insufficient (60%).
- Three-quarters of employees (73%) want their employers to finance quality seats for those working from home.
Gautier Jardon, a senior researcher at the Politics and Current Affairs Hub, explained: “MSDs are caused by both physical factors (age, gender, diabetes, obesity, etc.) and occupational factors (repetitive movements, stress, etc.), and represent a public health problem that the public authorities have been trying to tackle for some time.
“An interesting takeaway from this study is that disorders such as back pain are far from being in decline or the preserve of labourers: A new aggravating factor resulting from the evolution of work, working from home, seems to play a role in the prevalence of this type of suffering, which strongly affects the professional and personal lives of employees.
“We have learned that employees have high expectations of companies – legally responsible for guaranteeing their health and safety at work – to finance adequate equipment for those working from home (ergonomic chairs, etc.).
Oliver Barham from PERCKO said: “This study reinforces the trend we saw with a previous PERCKO study conducted during the lockdown in 2020 which showed an increase in back pain with the rollout of WFH. It seems that the cause, unsuitable working equipment, remains unchanged. This really calls into question whether companies are truly committed to making WFH a sustainable option for employees. To make it work it is vital that employers ensure that there is adequate ergonomic equipment to support employees at home and at the office. Our back relief vests, which launched us into the UK market during the lockdown, are just a piece of the puzzle.”
Since 2014, PERCKO’s goal has been to build a world where everyone lives free from the pains and frustrations linked to back pain. Their mission, each and every day is to provide products that do just that. They are a team of British and French enthusiasts, surrounded by experts in biomechanics, physiotherapists, and osteopaths. The patented technology they develop underpins our non-stigmatising products designed for all. Products that already benefit over 150,000 users.