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Government Advert 'Irresponsible'

The Government has released a COVID-19 advert urging the nation to 'stay home, protect the NHS, save lives', with the strapline ‘every online meeting is making a difference’. But British Safety Council (BSC) says the advert inappropriately uses a picture of a person sitting on a sofa cross-legged using a laptop.

The BSC is therefore urging the Government to withdraw this advert immediately, as it implies that people working from home should be working from their sofas. This shows a complete lack of understanding around health and safety, the musculoskeletal conditions that can arise from a poor work set up and the wider impact on worker health and wellbeing, which is well documented to have deteriorated during the pandemic.

By way of example, the Institute for Employment Studies carried out a home worker wellbeing survey between March and April last year. The results, based on 500 responses, revealed a significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints. More than half of the survey respondents reported new aches and pains, especially in the neck (58 per cent), shoulder (56 per cent) and back (55 per cent), compared to their normal physical condition. Hunching and twisting while sitting or balancing laptops on sofas to work can be a material cause of these conditions.

The BSC is also calling on the Government to adhere to and champion the guidance developed by its own regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in the same way it expects employers to comply with the law.

Mike Robinson, Chief Executive at the British Safety Council, commented:

“The Government should be leading by example on health and safety matters but has fallen well short with this advert, which sends the wrong message about worker health and wellbeing. The Government advert risks legitimising poor practice, the costs of which ultimately end up on the NHS, at a time it is hard pressed in managing COVID and the largest vaccine rollout programme ever in the UK.”

“The advert needs to be withdrawn straightaway. We would happily advise the Government on what is a more appropriate picture for its message.”

Working from home should not look like this


Advice on home working from Posture People UK says the need to work from home might mean that people are indeed currently having to work on the sofa balancing their laptops and a cup of tea. Whilst this posture is never recommended, in the present climate it may be the only option.

Tips to help if you need to work on a sofa

  • Is this really the only option? Sitting on the sofa might initially feel comfortable but long term your back is going to suffer. Have you got a table in your home that you could work from instead? Swap positions so you sit for some of the time at the table and some of the time on the sofa.

  • Put a cushion under your bottom. Most sofas are lower than a standard chair, so when you sit your hips are lower than your knees. To help counteract this, sit on a cushion to try and raise your hips up a bit. Or use a sitting wedge to help correct the squidge factor. If you are suffering from sciatica then a coccyx wedge will be even better.

  • Put another cushion in your lower back to provide some lumbar support.

  • Stop reaching over to use your laptop on the coffee table. In terms of ergonomic crimes, this is one of the big ones. The strain it will put on your lower back will have you reaching for the pain killers quicker than anything. Bring the laptop to you, balance it on a cushion if you must (careful your laptop doesn’t overheat). A much better option would be to use a laptop tray table.

Move regularly!

This is not a position to sit in for hours working on your masterpiece. If you are going to sit on the sofa you need to build in very regular breaks (every 20-30 minutes is suggested). The basic rule is if it hurts when you get up, you’ve left it too long. So, shorten the time between working and the next break. The breaks don’t need to be that long, a quick stand and a few paces around the room will do.

If you’re still struggling now might be the time to bite the bullet and invest in a proper workstation at home.


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