An assessment of ergonomic issues in the home offices of university employees sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Work. 2021;68(4):981-992. doi: 10.3233/WOR-205294.


Background: As millions of workers have shifted to telework, special accommodations for workers with respect to ergonomics may be required to ensure the workforce remains healthy.

Methods: A survey about home office ergonomics and discomfort was sent to faculty, staff, and administrators by email and was completed by 843 individuals.

Results: Over 40%of the participants reported moderate to severe discomfort (severe low/middle back pain, moderate discomfort in eyes/neck/head, and discomfort in the upper back/shoulders). Laptops (always and often) were widely used (85%) with most using the laptop monitor (55%) of all respondents. Further, less than 45%of the seating conditions were reported as having adjustable arm rests.

Conclusion: As teleworking in makeshift offices becomes more common, the risk of significant discomfort and potentially more serious musculoskeletal disorders may result from poor static postures. Companies may need to accommodate workers by allowing them to take home office chairs, external monitors, keyboards, and mice as laptops are insufficient, ergonomically.

Keywords: Telework; human-computer interface; musculoskeletal disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Computer Peripherals
  • Ergonomics*
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Teleworking*
  • Universities