The demanding world of work often requires a lot of time sat at a desk, hunched over a computer day in, day out (not to mention all that catching up with last-minute project work at weekends, on the sofa with your laptop!)

It sounds like a cushy number at first, doesn’t it? At least you’re not outside repairing guttering in the rain, you might think as you take another sip of fresh coffee. Yet the impact of not ensuring your workspace is correctly set up for your body’s unique framework can be vastly detrimental.

Four shoulder surgeries later and a qualified Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Assessor, I feel particularly well-placed to advise on the importance of desk assessments!

If working with screens on a regular basis, it’s vital to ensure that each and every employee within a company has the opportunity to have a DSE assessment, or at the very least be equipped with the ability to carry out a self-assessment. This can be easily done following a brief training session or handy e-learning tool.

Since qualifying as a DSE Assessor, I’ve not only vastly improved my own working environment, but I’ve also assessed over 250 people in person and reviewed countless self-assessment forms, helping many more people understand the importance of ensuring the right set-up for them.

Simple changes matter

You may be surprised when I explain that very often, simple changes can have the greatest impact. For example, I often advise people to start by getting to know their chair – how does it raise and lower, can they move the seat pan or lumbar support?

It amazes me how many people don’t realise that their chair can be manoeuvred into a much more comfortable position to suit them – and most office chairs are very easily manoeuvred. The average price seems to be around £300-400 and with that spend, you’ll get a chair with multiple functions – so make sure you’re using them!

A short assessment can transform working lives

My most memorable work-related experience came when I was told I’d “changed the life” of one employee I assessed. As a research analyst, he spent very long periods of time at his desk, often from 7:30am to 8pm, five days a week, engrossed in close screen work with very little time away for lunch or meetings.

It was great that the firm recognised the importance of Health & Safety generally. The first improvement I implemented was to raise his chair by no more than 2cm; he had unknowingly been sitting too low, overreaching for his mouse and keyboard, and this simple yet transformative change genuinely worked wonders.

Other recommended adjustments included standing up for 30 seconds or so, every 30-60 minutes – even if all he did when he stood up was to look into the distance for a moment and then sit back down again! This is a fantastic alternative to try if you can’t get away from your desk for a ‘proper’ break – and let’s face it, we all find it difficult to take breaks as often as we should.

Reduce time taken off work in just a few minutes

By now, I hope I’m starting to convince you that a few minutes spent assessing your workspace can pay dividends. Through my tailored assessments, I’ve been able to halt the symptoms of conditions including RSI (repetitive strain injury, though you may know this condition as upper-limb disorder these days – if you’ve been paying attention, that is!).

Failing to spot and correct symptoms such as these could eventually lead to complicated surgery, with the clear implications being that you’ll need time off work, not to mention feeling pretty uncomfortable in the process.

Over to you…

It’s so easy to conduct these vital assessments, particularly in the age of the internet. There are plenty of free guides available to download from the HSE website, together with a self-assessment checklist and a “how-to” guide to getting your desk in order (found here), making sure you make it work for you!

My final tip would be to ensure that you’re working with your most relaxed, natural and neutral body state when assessing your workspace. This is often tricky to achieve in a formal office environment, which is why it’s something my own assessments take full account of, with an informal style that people find genuinely insightful.

I’ll leave you now with a simple instruction – “Blink!” – and if you want to know why this is something I always tell people to do in my training sessions…well, why not book in with Black & White for a personalised DSE assessment!