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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 14-16

Invited Lecture 12: Ergonomics and Health: Working from Home under COVID 19

Department of Physiology, Occupational Ergonomics Laboratory, University of Calcutta

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2468-838X.303751

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Brief Biosketch Professor Gangopadhyay did his PhD (Physiology), University of Calcutta in 1993 in Ergonomics and Work Physiology. He was also awarded title FABMS by Indian Association of Biomedical Scientists in the year 2005. Professor Gangopadhyay is the Editorial Member and of various International Editorial Board Advisers and Members. He is actively involved in research activities mainly on Ergonomics study on major accidents, burn accidents and Integrated ergonomics and occupational health studies of workers engaged in crane operation. Under his supervision, about 12 PhD scholars were awarded PhD. 1. Ergonomics Understanding of Ergonomics The word ergonomics is derived from the Greek word 'ergon' meaning work & 'nomos' meaning laws. It can be defined as “science, technology and art of human at work”. Ergonomics may also be defined as “the application of the human biological sciences in conjunction with the engineering sciences to the worker and his working environment, to obtain maximum satisfaction for the worker which at the same time enhances productivity”. Ergonomics seeks to change the things to better match capabilities, limitations & needs of people. 2. Health when Working from HOME Under Covid-19 The result of COVID 19 is now we are bound to work from home as strict laws been imposed for observing complete lockdown situation. it is calculated that more than 80% of total employees are now working from home and most of these people feel that they are more productive when working remotely. However, it takes 30- 45 days to get productivity to the same level as working from the office. Most employees do not have proper Work Stations at home and ultimately those create severe health-related problems. 3. Fatigue The higher amount of work causes fatigue. It is usually associated with physical and/or mental weakness. Physical fatigue is the inability to continue functioning at the level of one's normal abilities. Mental fatigue, on the other hand, rather manifests in sleepiness. At home, work and time will act as stressors for these persons, who are bound to work from home. Here, among them, mental and/ physical fatigue is identified predominantly. 4. Stress-Free Condition Home is normally known to provide a stress-free condition. But, when one will be bound to work from home and bound to complete one's work within a stipulated time frame then it will create excessive physical as well as mental stress. On the other hand, stress-free condition means comfort to users. This comfort may be given by a properly organized work station. The result is the enhancement of productivity. 5. Ergonomics, Work Environment and Musculoskeletal Disorder Ergonomic Hazards Ergonomic hazards include uncomfortable workstation height and poor body positioning. These physical factors, within the home environment, harm the musculoskeletal system. Musculo Skeletal Disorder A musculoskeletal disorder is a condition where a part of the musculoskeletal system is injured over time. The disorder happens when the body part is called on to work harder, stretch farther, impact more directly or otherwise functions at a greater level than it is prepared for. The immediate impact may be minute, but when it occurs repeatedly the constant trauma cause damage. Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) Musculoskeletal disorders can affect the body's muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Most work-related MSDs develop over time and are caused either by the work itself or by the employee's working environment. There is compelling evidence that work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) affect persons more who are engaged to work from home. However, in addition, poor environmental conditions, such as extreme heat, humidity, noise, and poor lighting, may increase the chances of developing the following types of problems.
  • Tendonitis
  • Tenosynovitis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Epicondylitis
  • Raynaud's Phenomenon
  • Rotator Cuff
  • DeQuervain's Disease
  • Ganglionic Cysts
6. Applying Ergonomic Controls/Guidelines: Ergonomics may be applied to control the following factors
  1. Posture
  2. Keyboard Height
  3. Monitor Height
  4. Chair Adjustments
  5. Self-management and breaks
So, it's important to establish proper or correct ways of following factors to decrease MSD during working from home:
  • Posture
  • Desk height
  • Keyboard height and angle
  • Monitor height and angle
  • Chair adjustments (height/tilt/lumbar)
7. Health Intervention Health Intervention is an effort to promote good health behaviour or to prevent bad health behaviour or fatigue. Ergonomics has a great contribution to the application of low-cost effective interventions for the enhancement of productivity. The following Ergonomic interventions can be applied to improve the productivity of persons working from home:
  • Modifying the existing workstations
  • Designing new tools
  • Applying work-aids and
  • Adequate training
These are the keys for productivity improvement during COVID 19 situation.

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