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Thursday, June 04, 2020

The flipside of WFH: Lines between office and personal time blurred, back pain and eye strain

Creating one's own workstation at home has led to an increase in complaints of back pain, eye strain and associated sleeplessness.

Written by Ruchika Goswamy, Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published: May 20, 2020 10:48:12 pm
Several say that work from home arrangement has blurred the lines between working and personal hours.

The WFH (work from home) option during the ongoing lockdown may be appealing in terms of flexibility, but many professionals are also missing out on working in ergonomically-designed office workstations. Creating one’s own workstation at home has led to an increase in complaints of back pain, eye strain and associated sleeplessness.

Neelam Sekhon, a project contract specialist at an IT firm, said that while the lockdown has given her some respite from her daily commute, the work from home arrangement has blurred the lines between working and personal hours. “With the lockdown, the volume of work has definitely increased and that tests our limits. Before the lockdown, professional and personal lives were two different and independent entities, but now they are somehow not as they often collide. I try to manage it in such a way that both complement each other… this situation has unearthed our ability to multitask and plan our tasks accordingly,” she said.

Sekhon also said that since the situation was overwhelming, she tries to engage with her team so that they stay calm and positive amid the circumstances. Sekhon added that she followed a simple exercise routine and yoga to keep fit. “I also involve my children as they tend to get agitated staying at home. But with the work load, there are times wherein more screen time lead to strain on the eyes,” she said.

Sanaya George, a 27-year-old HR executive, pointed out that with the lockdown in place and people juggling between office work and household chores, several employees reached out to vent about their experiences.

“On normal days, employees do not tend to reach out to us as much. But since the lockdown, several just call to feel a sense of connectivity, as no one is able to go out and meet anyone apart from family members. Female employees especially call to share their grievances about how the balance between office, household chores and tending to children at the same time is difficult and how a normal day’s task has become monumental,” she said.

Given the lack of a proper office set-up, including a desk and a comfortable chair with a backrest, Sumit Jaju, a IT project manager, said this leads to back and neck ache. “… There are chances that I strain my back and neck due to long hours of work. The first and foremost thing I will do once this eases is to set up a home office for myself. But on the other hand, the lockdown has helped the IT sector be more productive and at the same time, spend more time with family. As for personal space, it once was a little awkward that you are on a work call and it gets disturbed due to unpredictable distractions. But now, it has become a new normal,” he said.

Kasturi Joglekar, associate director at an IT firm, said while her set-up at home has helped her do her work with ease, the entire family had to come to an understanding of personal space and divide chores to alleviate the burden.

Business analyst Saurabh Kalokhe said the lockdown has made working hours flexible. “The work load fluctuates as per days and requirement. But to maintain communication, I and our team have video calls, when we not only talk about work but also share things. Like I play the guitar, my dog pops into zoom calls and my colleague introduced us to her new baby. This helps us maintain positiveness,” he said.

Dr Chetan Pradhan, trauma surgeon at Sancheti Orthpaedics Hospital, said he gets a minimum of 10 calls daily related to complaints about neck pain and backache. “Prolonged hours sitting at the computer, coupled with cooking and cleaning chores in the absence of domestic help, has led to a rise in the number of complaints. There are two groups – one is of the IT employees who are by and large are unused to physical activity and hence there are complaints of soreness. On the other hand there are complaints from the… elderly lot, who are living by themselves. Housing societies are not allowing domestic help and some of the elderly have… ailments and they are unable to cope with additional work at home,” he said.

According to Dr Mayur Kardile, consulting spine surgeon at Jehangir Hospital, there are at least a minimum of five calls every day related to back ache and neck pain. He advised people working from home to keep walking around after every 20 minutes after prolonged hours at the computer. “Use headsets or earphones, ensure that the computer or laptop is at eye level and exercise daily to strengthen the back muscles,” he said.

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