Effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on musculoskeletal pain, physical activity, and work environment in Estonian office workers transitioning to working from home

Work. 2021;69(3):741-749. doi: 10.3233/WOR-210033.


Background: COVID-19 lockdown caused a sudden change in the work culture and environment.

Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 lockdown caused changes in musculoskeletal pain (MSP), physical activity (PA), workplace properties, and their in-between relationships among office workers.

Methods: A total of 161 office workers (64.6%female) with a mean age of 38.2±9.5 years participated. The study was conducted as an online form. Baecke Physical Activity Questionnaire, NORDIC Questionnaire, and questions about the work environment were used. The participants were asked to describe the current situation and retrospectively the situation 3 months before.

Results: We found no significant differences in the prevalence of MSP or between the mean number of body regions suffering from MSP before and during the lockdown. During the lockdown, a significant (p < 0.001) reduction in total PA and sport-related PA and a significant (p < 0.001) increase in work-related PA was noted. A significant drop in both workplace comfort rating (p < 0.05) and workplace ergonomics rating (p < 0.001) was suggested during the lockdown. Our data also suggested several individual factors influencing the MSP among office workers during the lockdown.

Conclusions: Maintaining habitual physical activity level and preparing a more comfortable and ergonomic workspace can play a role in a healthier transition to working from home.

Keywords: COVID-19; musculoskeletal pain; office workers; physical activity; work environment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Estonia
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Pain*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Workplace