BACK pain and other musculoskeletal problems have replaced stress and anxiety as the top cause of short-term sickness among staff at West Sussex County Council.

With the vast majority of staff having to work from home because of Covid-19 restrictions, kitchen tables and sofas have replaced ergonomically designed chairs and desks.

Not everyone has the space or money to set up a suitable home office and, over the past eight months, strained muscles and joint pain have made themselves known.

The Argus:

During a meeting of the performance and finance scrutiny committee, Sue Evans, interim director of human resources,  said the council was doing all it could to support staff and most were doing well.

Mrs Evans, who chairs the New Ways Of Working group, said people were being encouraged to look after themselves.

She added: “That’s the key – looking after yourself.“Nobody can sit on your shoulder and tell you to sit up straight or to mind how you look after your back and to move regularly and whether you might be better in an upright chair rather than on a sofa. There has to be some level of personal responsibility here.”

A report to the committee showed that, since the start of the pandemic, short-term sickness levels among staff had fallen. The council employs more than 5,000 people and, between April and August, the sickness figures were one-third lower than in 2019, with Covid-19 having had ‘little/no impact’ on long-term sickness levels. Mrs Evans assured the meeting that staff who simply could not find suitable space to work from home could be moved to a Covid-safe office.

Others had been allowed to take equipment home.

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