A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: Even telecommuting from home comes with risks — here’s how to set up your work station


As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly progressed across the country and started to worsen, on February 25th I reached out to Andy Barker, president of Houchens Insurance Group, to suggest that we begin to develop a business continuity plan, for our entire organization.

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As the 42nd largest commercial Insurance brokerage firm in the U.S., we quickly formed a business continuity planning committee that consisted of the Human Resource manager and IT manager to help us prepare and address a full-fledged pandemic. Each of us had our roles and within days, we had a plan in place to keep our employees safe and our operations seamless, in the event we had to close our doors.

Fast forward three weeks later and we are all working from home, never skipping a beat. Luckily for our organization, our IT department had already laid the foundation and we were all able to flip that switch giving the entire organization full access to email, software applications and servers. We had to rewrite a few employee policies and procedures, but we were all equipped and productive in our own homes the very next day.

With our proactive stance, Andy Barker stated, that “we now have the capability of a full disaster recovery plan and this process has made us prepared for that. It also gives us flexibility in time of need that we could work from home if needed on a short term basis.”

With any natural or manmade disaster, those businesses that develop such a business continuity plan are statistically more likely to survive after the order has been lifted by our Governor to return back to work.

Luckily for us in the insurance industry, as long as there are businesses with employees, vehicles, properties, and liabilities to insure, there will be an essential need for the insurance industry to remain open and operational, even through the worst of times. Being able to reach out and respond to our customers during this time, has proven to be crucial and quintessence to our existence.

Globbalworkplaceanalytics.com estimates that 56% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible (at least partially) with remote work. Before the pandemic, only 3.6% of the employee workforce worked at home half-time or more. Exactly how many are currently working from home, has yet to be calculated. I would estimate that nearly 30-50 million.

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The fact is work-at-home will save U.S. employers over $30billion a day in what would have otherwise been lost productivity during office closures due to COVID-19. The transition to mandatory telework makes it clear that an in-home connection is vital to the functioning of the 21st-century economy.

Even the nation’s largest employer, the federal government, issued new  guidance on liberalizing telework, and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget urged agencies to “maximize telework flexibilities.” Amazon, the nation’s second-largest private employer asked its Seattle- and Bellevue-based employees to do the same.

Teleworking does not eliminate the benefits of face-to-face work and social interaction, but at a time that requires all of us to engage in social distancing, such technology has enabled remote workers to stay productive and leverage it to their advantage.

But any new work environment has its share of risks and I’m not talking about spousal arguments over the thermometer. For instance, working from a laptop can be considered harmful if used for prolonged periods of time, and it can very well lead to cumulative trauma or repetitive motion type injuries, if not set up properly.

Since repetitive motion injuries are invisible, small injuries can go unnoticed until a more serious soft-tissue injury occurs. You should listen to your body because for prolonged periods of telecommuting from a poorly design workstation you can start experiencing aches and pains, your body will be telling you that you should redesign your workstation.

To help you better design your home office, here are some helpful tips:   

Chair and posture

• Use the backrest of the chair to provide full support to your lower back.
• Make sure that your chair allows clearance behind you when seated against the backrest.
• Maintain proper body posture by:
• Sitting with your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle
• Keep your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest
• Change posture frequently, common posture includes upright sitting, reclined sitting and declined sitting and standing.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com

Keyboard

• Adjust the keyboard or chair height to keep forearms, wrist, and hands in a straight line.
• Place mouse and other input devices near to and at the same height as your keyboard
• Keep your elbows close to your body

 
Monitor 

• Place the monitor directly in front of you—about an arm’s length away
• Position the top of the monitor screen at, or below eye level

 
Work area and lighting

• Allow ample clearance to move your knees and legs under the keyboard and desk.
• Avoid contact stress with the edge of your desk and keyboard
• To reduce glare and shadows on your work surfaces:
• Adjust window shades or decrease overhead lighting
• Adjust the monitor screen or add an antiglare filter
• Add a task light to properly illuminate paper references

Accessories

• Get a head-set if you regularly talk on the phone for extended periods of time. 
• Use an adjustable ergonomically designed standup desk to allow you to alternate between standing or sitting while using your computer station.
• Use an adjustable document holder to:
• Place reference materials as close to the computer screen as possible
• Keep materials at the same height and distance as your computer screen
• Use your ergonomic accessories to support body posture (e.g. lumbar support, armrests, monitor blocks and external keyboard)

 
Remember while working from home you may need to be resourceful and may have to improvise and find a way to better protect your health. Don’t hesitate to ask your employer if you can bring home your PC and chair if that will make you more comfortable and ergonomically correct. You should remember to take breaks and stretch frequently and be thankful that you can work from home and still earn a living during these unprecedented times.
 
Be Safe and Healthy my Friends!


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