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As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, approximately 42% of the U.S. workforce is now working from home (about 67 million workers) and a large portion will continue to do so for the rest of this year. Although there are some concerns around productivity and long-term sustainability regarding remote work, there are some potential financial benefits. It is estimated that employers can save about $11,000 per year for every person who works remotely, while employees can save between $2,500 and $4,000 per year from not commuting to and from work and save personal time.

Pre-COVID, many office employees were experiencing back, neck, shoulder, and wrist pain. This is worrisome on its own since an office is a more controlled environment where individuals have a dedicated workspace. And now that we find ourselves working remotely, which many of us were unprepared for, there is an elevated MSD risk due to the makeshift workstations we’ve created with items we had available to us at home—this is a big concern. I know I’m not the only one who initially found himself working on the couch or at the dinner table! Due to those less-than-optimal conditions, my back and shoulders ached throughout the workday, and I was less productive as a result. However, as an ergonomist, I knew what the root causes were and how to correct the problem over time.

Unfortunately, not everyone is well versed in office ergonomics, and if we let that discomfort go unchecked, it could propagate into a chronic problem, such as an MSD. During these unprecedented times, it is crucial that employers provide adequate training for their employees in how to identify poor workstation conditions and how to correct those issues themselves. That being said, knowledge and training only go so far when we have inflexible equipment that we can’t adjust to meet our needs. For that reason, employers should also provide the necessary resources for employees to acquire the correct equipment to improve their workstations. Not only will this reduce MSD risk and discomfort, but it will also improve the productivity of your workforce. For example, if an employee who makes $50,000 per year has a 1% increase in productivity as a result of investing in appropriate office equipment, that’s a $500 return on investment every year.

If you’re looking for some resources, our work-from-home toolbox provides great info on how to optimize your workstation setup and office equipment for every budget.