Work-from-home may have been a necessity for public health, but over the past 14 months, it’s taken its toll on our physical and mental health. While the mental health crisis of the last year has been well documented, we’re just beginning to see some of the consequences of makeshift work-from-home workstations. The quick shift from offices with professional chairs, standing desks, and monitors at eye level ended up turning into melting into your sofa, or hunching over your kitchen table for eight hours. Now from deadlines to blurred lines, employees are experiencing new pressures from work in chronic aches and pains.
Employees have found innovative ways to work during this work-from-home period, but chiropractors and massage therapists are seeing an increase in patients suffering the painful problems of work-from-home pressures. Research shows that 92%1 of chiropractors said that patients report more neck pain, back pain, or other musculoskeletal issues since the stay-at-home guidance began. Much of this pain comes from overuse injuries or poor posture.
As a new sense of normalcy begins to open before us, it’s important to understand how work-from-home has affected employees’ physical as well as mental health. Treatment for these physical ailments is necessary, but voids in coverage can mean financial strain for physical therapy, provider visits, prescribed massage therapy and more. Employers and benefit advisers should understand where changes or cutbacks to primary plan coverage may mean an increase in out-of-pocket spending for healthcare that alleviates these physical pressures.
Here’s a broader look at what’s going on and how strategically enhancing benefits can help to address some of the physical consequences of work-from-home pressures.
The aches & pains
Millions of employees were able to leave work at their doorsteps but now are faced with the blurred lines of rolling out from bed into their workstation in their actual bedroom. The human body needs movement, and over the last year we have become more stationary than we were ever designed to be. To break these stationary patterns, employees need to find ways to retrain their bodies.
As much as the lack of movement is creating physical difficulties on our bodies, there is another culprit in the house with us: Technology. Our phones and laptops have become an even more consuming part of our lives through these telework conditions, creating a greater potential for new overuse injuries.
We are forced to either look down to see the screen, or (if your laptop or device is elevated) raise your hands to type. Either way, both options are bad for you. Chronic looking down puts us in a “forward head position” that loads pressure on the discs and joints of the spine, as well as causing muscle imbalance in the neck.1
With this significant increase in screen-time on our laptops and devices, millions of employees experiencing inflammation due to their inactivity. Experts are urging employees to be aware of your positioning, holding your phone up to eye level, and resting your elbows on your body for support so you do not become more at risk of “Text Neck” and “Selfie Elbow”.1
Solutions & tools to relieve pressure
As an employer, your employees may need certain healthcare support/treatment to deal with the physical and mental tolls of current work-from-home conditions. You may consider:
- Physical therapy can be very costly.2 It’s not something that’s one-and-done; it usually takes an initial provider visit and a series of sessions with a physical therapist. Sometimes there’s an MRI involved, which is also costly when it comes to out-of-pocket spend. Even if someone has coverage, it might be through a HDHP and even this hefty spend might not put a policyholder over their deductible.
- Prescribed massage therapy, acupuncture and other wellness treatments can be effective in helping to relieve physical and mental stress and promote well-being, but these are often not covered by primary plans.
- Employees are tapped out. They’re tired, stressed mentally and physically, Addressing their holistic well-being is a way to strengthen productivity and loyalty at a time when business stability and retention are becoming more important.
Even as we start to trickle back into our offices, employees need to continue or even start to listen to their bodies more. Taking care of our bodies and keeping our health as a top priority is a clear lesson, we all learned over the past year. This is a timely opportunity for employers and benefits advisers to look at those exact lessons and make changes that will enhance support for employees in the workplace.
In response to the need for better support for employees, employers can tap into Ultimate Health by ArmadaCare, a complementary health insurance plan that includes prescribed massage therapy and chiropractic care to relieve those work-from-home aches and pains. An employer-sponsored benefit, Ultimate Health can be layered over any primary plan to enhance coverage for select employees or a broad population and can be put in place at any time of the year. Learn more.
1NY Times, 2020
2 University of Minnesota, 2021
3Huffington Post, 2020