The impacts of mandated work from home conditions during COVID-19 on musculoskeletal pain are still not fully understood. It is important to understand how working from home affects musculoskeletal pain so we can better understand the future needs of workers health and safety. 

In the past, studies on the health effects of working from home were undertaken under different conditions to during lockdown. Prior to COVID-19, working from home was usually voluntary rather than mandatory on mass across the world to prevent rapid spread of COVID. 

Physical Considerations 

Nearly 50% of the 488 employees in this study either had high levels of musculoskeletal pain with little change or rapidly increasing musculoskeletal pain. Physical working from home conditions, such as workstation location and comfort, were influential factors in employees' musculoskeletal pain.  

Workers who had to work wherever they could at home during lockdown, were associated with rapidly increasing musculoskeletal pain. The unplanned and rapid shift to working from home during COVID emphasised the importance of having a planned transition with adequate consultation and proper assessments of home-based workstations. 

Psychosocial Considerations 

The study also emphasised the need for better frameworks in understanding the influence of psychosocial factors on musculoskeletal pain, including workloads, management, and work-family conflict. Going forward, best practice is to ensure workers have collaborative and reasonable control over their workload to prevent increases in musculoskeletal pain. If employers ignore the relationship between working from home, work-family conflict, and musculoskeletal pain, there may be gendered impacts of hybrid working arrangements in the future since women are more likely to experience work-family conflict. 

Source: Oakman et al. 2022. “Musculoskeletal pain trajectories of employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic,” International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, vol. 8, no. 1-11. 

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