Taking Care of Your Back in the Workplace

According to Bupa, back pain is one of the leading causes of workplace absences in the UK. Between 2019 and 2020, almost 9 million workdays were lost due to musculoskeletal related issues (Bupa, 2022).

It’s Back Care Awareness Week so we’ve pulled together some tips on how to take care of your back in the workplace.

Up Arrow

1. Perform a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) and Work Station Assessment

For roles where you spend majority of your day at a desk you should ensure that you perform a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) and Work Station Assessment periodically. If your work space is set up incorrectly it can lead to health problems including a bad back, eye strain, skeletal problems, headaches and work-related upper limb disorders. This in turn can lead to higher instances of absence.

A poorly set up work station can lead you to be hunched over at your desk which can cause your spine to be incorrectly aligned. When performing a DSE Assessment you should check whether your seat and screen are too low or high which can lead to back and neck ache. Some things you should look out for are:

  • Your feet should be flat on the floor so adjust your chair or purchase a foot stool if required
  • Your wrists should be comfortable and relaxed on the work station at roughly 90 degrees to your shoulders
  • Your eyes should be roughly level with the top of the display screen

Equipment wise, the seat back and seat height should be adjustable with good lumbar support and there should be adequate space under the desk to allow you to have a good posture.

Remember that a bit of time spent now can save a lot of pain in the future.

Up Arrow

2. Lift objects properly

If your role includes a lot of manual work such as construction or stock handler, it’s important to ensure you are being safe when lifting heavy objects or doing repetitive tasks. Where possible you should try to modify tasks to ease the demand on your body. If you can use a lifting aid to help you lift heavy loads this can greatly help you avoid straining. 

When lifting heavy objects, it’s best to lift with your legs rather than your back. The best way to do this is:

  • To get close to the object you are to lift and spread your feet apart
  • Bend your knees into a squat position and keep your back upright
  • Grasp the object tightly
  • Push up with your legs keeping your arms close to your body
  • Avoid twisting but rather move your feet when turning
  • Gently place the object down and slide it into place where possible

Alternatively, if there is someone available to help you lift then spreading the weight between multiple people will help protect your back.

Up Arrow

3. Keep active in the workplace

It’s important to strengthen your back muscles to help prevent injury. Check out Healthline.com’s article on 15 exercises that are great for strengthening your back.

As an employer, it may be worth considering whether it would be feasible to introduce exercise into your staff’s daily routine. Not only does studies show that exercise can increase productivity and performance by boosting creativity, sharpening memory and improving concentration (Forbes, 2019) but it can also benefit your company by improving employees mental and physical health. This in turn can lead to higher job satisfaction and employees needing to take fewer sick days. 

For employees, it is worth discussing with your line manager to see if this is an option that would work for both you and your employer. After all, prevention is better than cure.

Up Arrow


Up Arrow

About the author

Alison Wild Bcom Hons MAAT MATT Taxation Technician Commercial Tax Pensions Insurance And Marketing Specialist AuthorAlison Wild BCom (Hons), MAAT, MATT, Taxation Technician is a highly respected industry professional who has been working with and advising SMEs in areas including tax, pensions, insurance and marketing for over 25 years. She is a member of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and Association of Tax Technicians (ATT) and also has over 20 years' experience as a residential landlord.