What happens when Canadians WFH?

Is working from home more helpful than harmful? What have Canadians found? On June 28, I attended a webinar hosted by the Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness and Performance (CISWP, at Conestoga College in Kitchener). They opened the webinar by noting that research is inconsistent concerning the benefits and disadvantages of working from home (WFH). Some studies suggest that productivity increases, and that job satisfaction increases. Other studies support the exact opposite.

According to the webinar, in 2016, 4% of Canadians worked from home. (I was surprised that the number was that high.) Since the pandemic, that number has increased to 40%. This is lower than the US for the same time periods, where WFH was up from 17%  pre-pandemic to 44% during the pandemic. Statistics Canada reports that 80% of us want to continue to WFH, at least part of the time.

CISWP performed a survey between October-December, 2020, and the survey revealed some interesting Canadian statistics about working from home since the pandemic:

  • 59% of respondents reported neck/shoulder pain, 47% reported mid/low back pain, 32% reported lower limb pain, and 20% reported hand/finger pain.
  • Respondents spent an average of 83% of their day seated.
  • 30% of respondents were not using an adjustable chair.
  • 20% were not using a dedicated workspace. (This means that they worked from the kitchen table, sofa, or various other multi-purpose spaces.)
  • 76% experienced symptoms of burnout.
  • 45% reported that they were less “comfortable” at home than at work. (They didn’t report how many were more comfortable at home….presumably, many felt the same in either location.)
  • Despite all of the above, 71% of people reported a preference for working from home for 3 days/week, post-pandemic.

The researchers pointed to many available free resources for employers to provide to WFH employees, including these posters from msdprevention.com.

They provided the following suggestions for successfully working from home:

  1. Employees should honour a routine. Just like when you “go” to work at the office, you should: get ready, “commute” to your dedicated workspace, schedule your time, respect your limits, connect with people “in person” (camera on, on video chat!) not exclusively though email.
  2. Organizations should:
    1. institute wellness checks
    2. communicate frequently and effectively
    3. allow scheduling flexibility
    4. accommodate the needs of employees who care for children or others
    5. provide the technology and ergonomically designed equipment to allow people to work “ergonomically”.
    6. role model healthy WFH habits (Supervisors should set up a proper workstation and practice what they preach! Invite employees to walking meetings, challenge them to stretch break activities, respect their own schedules, etc.)

Our experience has shown that most companies truly want to support employees in working effectively from home, but they have struggled with determining at what point to draw the line when investigating “hardware” to optimize comfort. As companies determine a WFH plan beyond the pandemic, we hope that they will sort out the logistics of who owns responsibility for the furniture that is necessary to optimize performance and comfort in a WFH environment. An employer who is accountable for strain/sprain injuries should have some responsibility for providing a healthy work environment, which is, we understand, a tall order for employers who have little control over that environment.

As for us, we can:

Help you to provide ergo training to help with WFH set up, customized for your workplace, here. (We can also provide a live webinar version of this session.)

Conduct remote office assessments using household equipment only (no purchases), here. We can also do in-person assessments for WFH employees, if needed.

Help you with setting up a process to get furniture and equipment out to remote employees, if you’re working on a long-term WFH plan. If you are not sure whether an employee “wants” or “needs” a piece of equipment, we can help with that too. Contact Carrie@TaylordErgo.com.

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