September 9, 2014
When determining what constitutes a well-designed office, it’s easy to overlook the overriding need to ensure a workplace is designed first and foremost to be inclusive. Given the fact that musculoskeletal disorders remain the largest single cause of days of work lost due to sickness absence, it’s worrying to discover that many organisations fail to meet the needs of those dealing with such conditions. The new report ‘Self-management of chronic musculoskeletal disorders and employment’ from the Fit for Work UK Coalition and The Work Foundation found that despite sufferers’ efforts to remain at work, many are forced to ‘self-manage’ their condition without adequate support; with for instance an employee being forced to partake in a hot desk policy when they required their own, fixed workspace. As the report states, this lack of help is ‘all the more perverse’ when you take into consideration the role that work can play in helping to contribute to mental and physical wellbeing. The research, which consisted of interviews with individuals living with a chronic musculoskeletal disorder who were either in work, or planned to return to work in future found that the larger the organisation the better the level of support given to the individual. And aside from being supported by HR and occupational health, it stresses the need for line managers and colleagues to recognise and support those who may be suffering from an ‘invisible condition’ which may for example, require specially adapted workstations. In one example, an individual who worked in an office that used hot desking described how getting a desk to herself was not an option, meaning she had to use workstations not designed to accommodate her condition, which could lead to her condition worsening.
Commenting on the report, Sue Browning, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: “Growing numbers of people are living with such a condition and it makes no sense to lose or under-use such a significant part of the workforce. “Aside from economic arguments, we know the physical and mental health benefits of work so it is essential that people with chronic MSDs do not feel marginalised or excluded from that environment.” There are a series of recommendations in the report aimed at employers, government, healthcare professionals, colleagues and line managers which you can read here.