Major RSA Matthew Taylor study finds homeworking leads to sedentary lifestyles

Continued homeworking due to the ongoing pandemic has reinforced sedentary lifestyles and led to employees having significantly increased back and shoulder injuries and pain, according to a new study.

The research, carried out by Matthew Taylor, CEO of the RSA, and health and life insurer Vitality, found a reduction in physical activity among UK workers of 28%.

Taylor warned of the crippling impact of successive lockdowns on the future physical and mental health of employees.

He said: “Britain’s homeworkers want better work; work that makes them healthier, happier and allows the pursuit of a larger life.

“At the heart of good work is movement, as it can help make healthier and happier workers and healthier, happier workers help create good, productive work.”

More than half of the UK workforce suffered from two or more musculoskeletal conditions, such as lower back pain (45%), neck pain (34%) and shoulder pain (34%) pre-pandemic in 2019.

Judy Parfitt, chief people officer at Vitality, told HR magazine daily movement must become mandatory for all staff.

She said: "Successive lockdowns have had a significant impact on employee health and wellbeing, and there is a clear need for businesses and HR leaders to make this a strategic priority as lockdown restrictions ease.

“The research shows that while some employees have found it easier to manage their mental health at home, more sedentary lifestyles have led to an increase in musculoskeletal issues like shoulder and back pain."

Exactly half (50%) of employees surveyed said they are feeling anxious about the return to office work.

Parfitt said it is important that HR teams continue to listen to their employees and implement inclusive health and wellbeing initiatives.

"This should be regardless of where they work, for example, the right to disconnect, and scheduled time in diaries to allow employees to keep active," she explained. 

The report has called for UK businesses to urgently incorporate health and wellbeing initiative into their company risk registers and to be prioritised at board level.

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