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Headset to change phone habits

18 January 2012

A new study reveals that office-based workers have seen significant reductions in back and shoulder pain by wearing a headset for calls.

In four weeks, half of the participants who suffered neck ache and headaches at the start of the study (54% and 44% respectively) reported that they no longer experienced any pain. The study, conducted by Plantronics and the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic, also showed a reduction in shoulder and upper back pain, with a decrease in the number of days during which they experienced the pain and their pain level.

The demands of modern office working environments and practices can lead to increases in health problems at work, in particular back pain and musculoskeletal problems (including neck and shoulder pain) – which are commonly identified as being among the top three causes of long term sickness absence of European workers – and costing approximately 2.5% of GDP (£13billion in the UK) each year in benefits, treatments and lost production.

Dr. Brian Hammond, CEO at National UK charity BackCare, said: “We see many office workers with acute neck and back problems which could have been prevented by taking simple measures at work - such as using a headset for calls and having ergonomic chairs and desks. This is a serious and preventable matter, by giving employees the right tools to support their daily tasks, everyone will benefit.”

“It’s clear from this study that small changes to the workplace, such as equipping all staff with a headset, creates a healthier working environment thereby reducing problems of sickness and absence.” Norma Pearce, EMEA HR Director at Plantronics, commented: “The call this New Year is to employers to embrace new technologies and products that will support their staff and business in the long-term.”

Plantronics has found that the amount of time spent on audio conference calls is increasing, resulting in today’s office-based professional spending more hours on the phone than ever before. Coupled with increases in work intensity over the last two decades across Europe, many businesses are facing problems of absenteeism as employees are taking time off work due to work-related stress and ill-health.

“Our study shows that workers wearing headsets reported a reduction in head, neck and shoulder symptoms - often caused by using a handset and cradling it between the neck and shoulder whilst multi-tasking on calls,” said Sharon Docherty, PhD, Researcher at the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic. “These observations support the use of headsets in an office environment where workers are routinely multi-tasking while speaking on the phone. For work routines that allow the user to get up and walk around in the office, this means increased health benefits from changing positions and being able to move the upper and lower body more freely – all whilst the user is still able to concentrate on the phone conversation.”

There is a measureable risk for anyone using the phone for as little as two hours a day and by using a headset, according to the study, phone-related problems can be reduced and even eradicated. Additionally, a wireless headset allows for fluid communications and actions and gives users a greater freedom of movement, meaning strenuous movement and unnatural postures, such as cradling the handset between neck and shoulder, and having to stretch to reach for things are eliminated. Participants are able to multi-task more effectively and in the study almost 60% admitted to finding the headset useful or very useful.

The health needs of the new over-50 work generation must also be considered in terms of ergonomic and acoustic requirements. The recent increase in the proportion of people over 55 planning to work beyond state pension age - from 40% to 71% - means changes in the workplace need to be made to cope effectively with an aging workforce.

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