Hunching over our smartphones, laptop and tablets is causing spine degeneration in young people typically seen in seventy-year-olds. Here we look at the impact this is having on businesses, and what we can do to help stop it.
The UK is now a ‘smartphone society’, according to Ofcom’s latest study into our most-used devices. More of us now own mobiles than ever before (about two-thirds of us), with the average person spending around two hours every day browsing the Internet from their smartphone. While our devices are fantastic for sharing news, spreading knowledge and connecting people across the globe - just what is this new behaviour doing to us physically?
There’s no doubt that portable devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops are great for flexibility and agility in workplaces. In fact agile working is becoming increasingly commonplace as savvy businesses follow in the footsteps of forward-thinking organisations like Google and Facebook, allowing employees greater freedom to work when, how and where they want.
Now we can tackle spreadsheets on the train, login to our emails from our home offices, and sync all of our work over cloud systems. The office walls are no longer boundaries. The line between work and life is blurring. But is this always a good thing?
As more workplaces embrace flexible, agile working — logging in remotely from home or out on the road — more and more people are suffering the negative effects of mobile technology.
According to a recent white paper by Dr. LeRoy Perry, founder of the International Sport science Institute (ISI): “Literally billions of people around the world are developing bad posture from using laptops, tablets and mobile phones.” And he says businesses are footing the bill.
‘Tech neck’ is the term dubbed for the aches and pains associated with the forward-bent, head-hanging posture we tend to adopt when using mobile devices. Over time this position can become habitual, which eventually contributes towards long-term conditions such as ‘kyphosis’, a permanently curved top cervical vertebrae (commonly known as a hunchback).
In his paper. Dr. LeRoy Perry wrote: “Young adults and even pre-teen children exhibit the ‘hunch over’ or curvature of the top cervical vertebrae equal to an average seventy-year-old’s degeneration symptoms”.
As employers, we want to increase the longevity of our workforce. We invest time, money and effort into finding the right people: surely we want to help those people be as happy, healthy and productive as possible for as long as possible?
So what can we do to tackle tech neck in our increasingly agile working world?
Employers are often put off by the initial cost of ergonomic office equipment. This is generally because ergonomic products tend to be more costly than their standard counterparts, due to the extensive research, design, testing and extra components that go into their production. However, experts including Dr LeRoy Perry and our own Posturite ergonomics have debunked that myth.
If matched properly to each individual and used correctly, ergonomic products not only improve the quality of the user’s life, but also actively save employers money. This is why employers should stop seeing ergonomics as an outgoing, and start considering it as a long-term investment.
What's the return on investment?
According to The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every $1 (68p) spent on ergonomic intervention in the workplace, $6 (£4.80) is saved through things like:
- Reduced absenteeism - sick leave costs UK employers a massive £29 billion every year, according to PwC.
- Increased health - being in discomfort or pain can limit a person’s ability to work to their full potential.
- Increased wellbeing - Some MSDs can leave people in agony, severely impacting their morale and potentially affecting their mental health.
- Productivity - happy, healthy employees who feel valued by their employer are more likely to feel empowered to put energy into their work, which is a major factor in the quality of their output.
Products to combat tech neck
At Posturite we advocate ergonomic intervention: the use of specially designed equipment that encourages correct positioning and posture to limit stress on our joints, muscles and bones.
When using a laptop, we recommend using a laptop stand to raise the monitor to eye level (laptops cause hunching due to their portable size). We also recommend plugging in an ergonomic keyboard when possible, along with a mouse to combat aches and pains associated with using the inbuilt laptop mouse.
We've made life easier by creating ergonomic laptop packs, which include everything you need for better posture on the go.