Personal Tablet Use for Work – A Pain in the Neck?

This article is aimed at managers in ergonomics, health & safety, occupational health, HR or facilities roles and those who have a general interest in health, wellbeing and productivity.

If you are a tablet computer user, please help our research by completing our survey.

tablet-user-workTablet computers are everywhere. Although overall sales are currently in decline, the worldwide market for the second quarter of 2015 exceeded 44 million units. Interestingly, the majority of these sales are still to individuals rather than employers.

If this is the case, and your organisation does not provide tablets for employees, surely you have nothing to worry about? There is plenty of evidence that prolonged tablet use brings about musculo-skeletal conditions but if, as an organisation, you do not issue them, is there a problem?

I believe this should be a major concern to employers and, potentially, an enormous cause of lost productivity.

Evidence suggests that many people are using their personal tablets for work. Early results from our Tablet Use Survey indicate that nearly 80% of tablets are privately owned but 85% of tablet users are doing at least some work on them. Whether you see it as a duty of care or productivity issue – or both – employers need to be aware of the high levels of tablet use by their personnel. Whether or not you have a BYOD (Bring your own devices) policy, such use is hard to manage or control.

tablet-userSignificantly, nearly half (47%) of the respondents have experienced musculo-skeletal pain which they attribute to tablet use. As more young people enter the workplace with a history of tablet and smartphone use in unmonitored environments, it seems likely that this proportion can only increase.

Nearly 85% of survey respondents so far have indicated that they use either a computer or a tablet for certain activities, depending on the circumstances. Anecdotally, we also see the length of time spent on work-related tablet activity increasing as users find more apps and become more familiar with their tablet. I have said many times that the ergonomics issues relating to tablet use today are similar to the situation we faced with laptops twenty years ago. For example, only about 10% of respondents ever use a separate keyboard.

My purpose here has been to give an early idea of the key indicators and food for thought about the potential issues. When we publish the full results, I shall be providing further comment as well as more ideas about what I think we need to do about the explosive growth in tablet use.

In the meantime, the survey is open until the end of November 2015 so please help our research by taking part yourself or encouraging friends and colleagues to do so. You could also copy and past the purple text below into your social media channels. Many thanks!

If you’re a tablet computer user, please take part in our user survey to win a TabletRiser & Bluetooth Keyboard http://svy.mk/1EQGs8I 

2 Responses to Personal Tablet Use for Work – A Pain in the Neck?

  1. le0011 says:

    What are the sorts of risks people run into when using tablets for long periods of time, such as reading lecture notes or course readings? What are some tips? The increasing use of tablets as replacements for books makes information like this even more important in today’s generation. HTL

    • Guy Osmond says:

      Sorry that it has taken so long to get back to you. We have been working on some guidance for handheld device users for a while. This applies as much to students as it does in the workplace. Our original Posture Guidance for computer users was quite simple to design because you can make some basic assumptions about the existence of a computer, a desk and a chair. With smartphones and tablets, you can make no such assumptions. Indeed, you have to assume the user may be sitting, standing or lying down. The final guidance can be found (with several other downloadable resources) at http://www.ergonomics.co.uk/downloads.html

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