Ergonomics in the age of the virtual meeting

Coronavirus Updates Expert Opinion
Ergonomics in the age of the virtual meeting

Are you working extra-hard through the pandemic to plan a conference or meeting? Then taking a moment to listen to your body and making changes to reduce your risk of musculoskeletal injury have never been more important, says leading UK health ergonomist Nichola Adams

Like so many others, I have had to pivot to provide my services remotely rather than face-to-face. My team at my consultancy Inspired Ergonomics and I have continued to provide ergonomic advice to prevent and reduce back pain when working, in the form of one-to-ones and workshops.

But with everything now taking place online, and with planners of UK and international meetings and conferences doing so much of their preparatory and event work virtually, all my clients are reporting working more hours at their computers than ever before. While previously, pre-Covid, we would naturally have movement incorporated into our work, with the need to travel to meetings, every moment is now spent at our computer.

Thankfully, there are some wonderful tools that enable us to still connect with others. In addition to all the online meeting tools, there are now many online conference platforms, like Remo with hang-out rooms and a choice of speaker sections. It is an exciting new world to be part of, breaking down barriers of location. It is certainly changing my world as I can be having a meeting with someone in London, for instance, and then the next call will be with a client in New York.

However, many of my clients are reporting as many as 6-7 meetings in one day, with the evolution of the back-to-back Zoom meeting. It would simply not be possible, in the physical world, to go directly from one meeting into the other, and yet this is exactly how these are being scheduled in the online world. Taking breaks between online meetings is essential, not only for the body (which needs regular movement to stay healthy), but for the mind.

We now seem to be paying the price of the increased computer work time and reduction in movement breaks with our physical and mental health. Over the hundreds of ergonomic assessments I have conducted and the workshops I’ve hosted, I have witnessed a number of potential impacts on our human bodies, all affecting our wellbeing.

Luckily, our bodies are very bioplastic, so we can quickly reverse the negative effects. If you are currently working hard through the pandemic to plan a conference or meeting in the New Year, and if you are struggling from shoulder, neck, wrist or back pain, or even eye fatigue, then taking a moment to listen to your body and make changes to reduce your risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder has never been more important.

Building regular movement into your day is also key. For tips on how to do this, see our blog at www.inspiredergonomics.com

Combining the Greek words ‘ergon’ (meaning ‘work’) and ‘nomoi’ (meaning ‘natural laws’), ergonomics is the science of making products and tasks comfortable and efficient for human use. Nichola Adams, MSc Health Ergonomics, Tech CIEHF (Technical Member of The Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors), is one of the UK’s leading ergonomic back pain experts and the founder of Inspired Ergonomics 

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World. Write Paul an E-mail

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