There was a 50 per cent rise in physiotherapy appointments at the start of 2022, according to Unum, indicating that working from home may be creating ongoing problems for employees.
The income protection provider said it had seen a sharp rise in digital physiotherapy appointment made through its app — with two out of five of these appointments for back, neck and shoulder problems.
Unum says this surge in cases happened between the end of 2021 and the start of 2022, before the lifting of the government work-from-home advice.
The figure is the highest it has been since October. Unum says these cases are potentially linked to bone, muscle, tendon, ligament and soft tissues pain related to working from home — whether that is through poor posture, lack of regular exercise, a poor home working ergonomic setup or another change in habits.
The data from Unum also indicated a continual mental toll on workers from the pandemic, with mental health appointments increasing by 27 per cent between December 2021 and January 2022.
Unum pointed out that it was now seeing more men seeking mental health support, and the 26-35 age group were most proactive at this.
The insurer says that digital delivery is helping to ensure more policyholders access the help they need. It said that in the six months to January 2022, 97 per cent of individuals who booked a physiotherapy appointment via their Help@hand app agreed that their physiotherapist dealt with their concerns on that day — a high satisfaction rating for a service some may consider a struggle to deliver digitally.
In total Unum said there was a 33 per cent increase in downloads of its app from December ’21 to January ’22 — with more than 3,000 downloads made via the App Store in January.
It says this growth was partly down to the fact this service is now available to 1.4m employees — as well as their families — across Unum’s group life, income protection and critical illness customers. Previously this was only available to employees covered by a Unum GIP policy, or a group life or group critical illness policy with fewer than 250 insured employees.
Unum UK chief distribution officer Glenn Thompson says: “Musculoskeletal concerns are costly for employers, accounting for 15 per cent of all sickness absences in the UK— more than absences caused by Covid-19.
“Working from home during the pandemic may have exacerbated these issues for workers without the ergonomic setups they’d have in the office and furniture or equipment ill-matched to their needs.
“Even those with good setups may find working from home leads to fewer breaks or less exercise they’d normally do on the daily commute, which itself can trigger musculoskeletal pain.”
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