We are commonly asked for ergonomics and back care tips for teachers. Whether it’s knee, joint or most commonly back pain, the general consensus seems to be that the teachers see this musculoskeletal pain as ‘part of the job’.
The habits that you pick up and the way that you work on a day-to-day basis can lead to serious long-term complications. We’ve made this guide to show teachers that a good way of working can prevent posture-related problems, ease current symptoms and re-affirm that pain in any workplace isn’t just “part of the job”.
Unfortunately, there is a disparity between the classroom vs. a traditional office or workplace. Although you still might spend the majority of your day using a screen, you also need to shift your focus to tasks at low-height so that you are on the child’s level. In order to compensate for this, you will need a height-adjustable chair that sinks down lower than usual. It will also need to offer a better level of support as you’ll find yourself hunching over to work at a child’s eye level. One great solution that we have come across is the Kiga chair. We installed this in a local school and received some rave reviews. You can read more about it here.
Although teachers do have a varied job role, we would strongly recommend conducting a Display Screen Equipment assessment to make sure that their workplace is safe and fit for purpose. We’ve made a guide to everything you need to know about DSE that you might find helpful!
Our top tips for teachers
- If you work with infant school children, avoid sitting on primary school furniture or stooping to meet the child’s eye level. Instead, lower your own chair and if available use the chairs chest support to keep your back aligned
- Never work with your laptop flat on the desk. Raise it with a laptop stand so that the top of the screen is eye level. When used in conjunction with a separate mouse and keyboard it will prevent you from dropping your neck and overreaching in order to type
- Ferrying books to and from the classroom will eventually take its toll on your back. Try and stay away from bags that distribute the weight on one shoulder and use a secure backpack instead
- When you are working at your desk with your computer, make sure that you have set your chair up correctly so that it can support you correctly. If you’re not sure how to adjust your chair, we have an easy to follow guide here.
- Make sure that you take micro-breaks, change your posture and rest your eyes regularly.
The cost to the workplace
Like any job, we think the best working tools and working environment will enable happy, healthy and more productive staff. Beyond the wellbeing of teachers, there is a serious issue with the number of working days lost to musculoskeletal issues. HSE reported that 9.9 million working days were lost to work-related MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) in 2013/14 with the average worker taking 15.9 days off work in a 12 month period. When you factor in sick pay packages, and substitution, absences in school can start to become a costly affair and not just to the students themselves. Loughborough University reported that ‘75% of Primary school teachers surveyed suffer from ongoing discomfort and pain due to back shoulder and neck problems’. If you can ensure that your teachers are working safely, then you can directly help to prevent musculoskeletal disorders than are contributing to the 9.9million working days lost and ensure better wellbeing for the whole team.