Menu close

Plan breaks when you work from home

Efficiency is sky-high when financial employees work from home and are not exposed to normal disturbances from colleagues, like at the office. However, a lack of breaks and too little movement during the working day can affect your health, according to senior consultant Jasper Lorentzen from Finansforbundet (Financial Services Union Denmark).

25. Feb 2021
4 min
Af Carsten Jørgensen
cjo@finansforbundet.dk

Senior consultant Jasper Lorentzen, who is a specialist in the work environment and is responsible for The Financial Sector’s Work Environment Education, has spoken to several members over the last month who complain about pain in the back of their heads, shoulders and back in connection with working from home due to the corona situation.

“The pains can stem from a home office that is not ergonomically correct. However, it can also be because they forget to take breaks where they move about during the day. We know that the efficiency of financial employees is very high when they work from home, perhaps in part because they are not exposed to the natural disturbances from colleagues, like at the office,” says Jasper Lorentzen.

“The problem is just that we often forget to take breaks because we no longer have all those informal meetings at the coffee machine or on the hall,” he says, and he therefore encourages everyone to actively plan breaks when working from home.

“It is important to replenish your energy, to move – by going for a walk, doing some stretches or lifting weights – and to get away from the monitor. Many studies show that exercise during work hours has a positive effect on health,” says Jasper Lorentzen.

Cardiovascular training is good for the heart and circulatory system, and it prevents lifestyle diseases that come from being static, while strength training can reduce the pain that many people suffer from. Of course, not everyone can or wants to perform focused training during work hours, but all the small things that involve movement help, according to Finansforbundet’s consultant.

The manager must lead the way

It makes sense to plan common breaks with your team or your section which involve physical movement. There are many videos with exercises on the internet, and some of the workplaces have their own offers for physical exercises for employees.

“However, the problem with training at the workplace is that it often starts well and then dies out. Some employees take on the responsibility of organising it, and after a while, there is a risk that it fizzles out. If the managers take the lead and prioritise movement and physical exercises in conjunction with fixed meetings or times of day and if they make a focused effort and accept that some employees will spend work hours coordinating it, then it will be implemented in a much stronger way,” believes Jasper Lorentzen.

Social isolation

At The Financial Sector’s Work Environment Education, which Jasper Lorentzen is responsible for, one of the other subjects among the health and safety representatives is loneliness. Many financial employees feel lonely from working at home and being physically away from their colleagues.
“Many people miss the social interaction, even if there are lots of good initiatives for being together online, and so they get lonely. If you also forget to move about and take breaks during the work day because you want to fulfil your duty and do good work, it can go wrong,” says Jasper Lorentzen.

Your employer is responsible for your home office

In a normal situation – for instance without a corona pandemic – the employer is responsible for providing the necessary furniture, so that you can work without being exposed to physical stress that affects your health. As a minimum, you need a table to match your height, a good office chair, a separate monitor and keyboard, and a mouse. Working on a laptop PC without an external screen is no good. It would mean excessive strain on your shoulders and neck.

“The exact requirements for the furniture can be found in Arbejdstilsynet’s (the Working Environment Authority) Executive Order on Visual Display Units and the guideline on screen work,” indicates Jasper Lorentzen, senior consultant at Finansforbundet.

Some employees request a printer for their home office. However, this has nothing to do with ergonomics and is therefore generally not covered by a home office – however, if you have a function where a printer is very important and where the absence of a printer may lead to stress and a lack of well-being, you should try to get the employer to provide one. From a work environment perspective, the employer just needs to provide the resources that allow you to do your job in a way that does not negatively impact your health.

Jasper Lorentzen would like the work environment organisation in the company to be involved in the dialogue on setting up the home office, and for the home office to also be included in the workplace risk assessment. It does not need to involve a visit to the employees’ home offices; it can be done via a questionnaire completed by the employees.