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Shock poll results show 'screen slaving' workers putting health at risk

CSP press release published on 19 June 2012

Physiotherapists warn long hours present posture and stress dangers

UK office workers are putting their mental and physical health at risk by working more than two hours extra each night on their commute and at home, a new survey for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) reveals.

About two-thirds (64 per cent) of the 2,010 office workers polled by the CSP said they continued working on smartphones and other devices after they left the office, and spent an average of two hours 18 minutes doing so.

These stints were on top of an average of six hours 22 minutes in front of a screen in the office during their regular working day.

The main reasons cited for doing extra work were to 'ease the pressure of the working day' (35 per cent) and 'too much work to do' (33 per cent).

While 29 per cent of people surveyed said additional work at home helped reduce their overall stress levels, a worrying 24 per cent want their boss to offer counselling services for stress. The survey revealed 53 per cent of those who work at home out of office hours said this had increased in the past two years, but of these people just 8 per cent said their boss was trying to do anything about it.

Physiotherapists are concerned that 'over working' is storing up both physical and mental health problems for the future - particularly since 66 per cent of those surveyed reported suffering job-related ill health such as headaches and back pain.

The CSP is concerned that poor posture when using smartphones and other mobile devices - which many people do their additional work on - can lead to back and neck pain.

Fewer than one in four people told the survey that they considered their posture when looking at screens outside of work. Long hours can also contribute to stress-related illness.

The results are being released to coincide with the CSP's Workout at Work Day on June 19 when physiotherapy staff across the UK encourage people to be more physically active in order to combat stress and avoid musculoskeletal disorders, like back pain.

On Workout at Work Day about 300 physiotherapists will go into workplaces across the UK to demonstrate easy, low-cost ways for employers to help their staff lead healthier lives.

The CSP hopes employers will be more aware of the need to keep their staff healthy, and will use Workout at Work Day to encourage better working habits among staff.

Simple low cost measures include:

  • Encouraging staff to report any concerns about their health at an early stage

  • Encouraging staff to take regular breaks and be physically active during lunchtimes

  • Displaying leaflets and posters promoting good posture, health advice and activities for staff

  • Arranging and supporting activities that help staff to get active, like lunchtime walking clubs

  • Creating links with local gyms and clubs

  • Implementing a Cycle to Work scheme and taking advantage of a tax exemption enabling you to loan to staff cycles and cycling equipment as a tax-free benefit

  • Encouraging active travel to and from work e.g. cycling, walking and running

  • Encouraging workstation assessments to reduce and treat musculoskeletal disorders.

Access to physiotherapy, fitness classes and ergonomically-designed chairs were three services that many workers in the survey said they would like their employer to pay for.

Dr Helena Johnson, chair of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said:

"The results of this survey are a huge concern to physiotherapists, who see the consequences of poor posture and bad working practices each day.

"While doing a bit of extra work at home may seem like a good short-term fix, if it becomes a regular part of your evening routine then it can lead to problems such as back and neck problems, as well as stress-related illness. This is especially the case if you're using handheld devices and not thinking about your posture. Talk with your employer if you are feeling under pressure.

"Workout at Work Day is designed to raise awareness of how important it is to look after your mental and physical health to ensure a good work/life balance.

"It is good that so many employers are taking part in the CSP's Workout at Work Day but as these survey results show, there is still a lot more that can be done to improve the health of the nation's workforce."

The CSP has produced a new free leaflet in association with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) called 'Under Pressure'. This looks at the link between physical activity and mental wellbeing, with advice on staying happy and healthy at work.

Ben Willmott, CIPD's head of public policy, said:

"Employers should be concerned if staff are regularly taking work home with them and finding it hard to switch off and re-charge. While a level of pressure is of course an essential part of working life, evidence suggests that prolonged exposure to excessive pressure - i.e. stress - is linked to conditions such as anxiety, depression and heart disease. Managers should be asking staff regularly about their workload to ensure people's health does not suffer.

"In addition, it is in employers' interests to work with staff to support their wellbeing. For example, regular exercise is proven to be one of the best ways of both preventing and managing stress. There are many low-cost and no-cost ways of encouraging employees' interest in building activity into their working day such as participation in work football/netball teams, walking groups, on-site exercise classes and subsidised gym membership."

For more information about Workout at Work Day or to access free leaflets with advice on staying fit for work, visit

The Twitter hashtag for the day is #workoutatwork.


For further media information about Workout at Work or events taking place, please contact the CSP press office on 020 7306 1111 . Out of hours call Becca Bryant, head of press and PR (job-share) on 079172 40819 or Jennie Edmondson, head of press and PR (job-share) on 07786-332197, Jon Ryan, media and PR officer on 07917 091200 or Paul Marston, media and PR officer, on 07766 994141.

Notes for Editors

  1. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has 51,000 members and is the professional, educational and trade union body for chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and support workers in the UK.

  2. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is the world's largest Chartered HR and development professional body, setting global standards for best practice in HR. With over 135,000 members across 120 countries, the CIPD is focused on supporting and developing those responsible for the management and development of people within organisations. For more information, please visit

  3. Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,010 office workers from April 27 to May 9, 2012. Average was calculated by multiplying the mid-point of each option in the scale (e.g. 1-2 hours) by the number of respondents selecting that option then dividing the total by overall base for the question. Respondents saying "less than 1 hour" were counted as 30 minutes/0.5 hours while those saying "none at all" were counted as zero.

  4. Workout at Work Day, part of the CSP's wider Move for Health campaign calls on employers and Governments across the UK to recognise the value of occupational physiotherapy in the fight against work-relevant ill-health. Our guides, 'Sickness Costs', 'Fitness Profits' and 'Fit for Work' highlight why employers should keep their staff healthy, and how they can do this. You can find out more about the campaign, and access a range of free resources and information leaflets, at

  5. To access free resources to help employers improve the health and wellbeing of their employees, visit


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