Stop Procrastinating!

I remember a time, not so long ago, I got in my car, and it crossed my mind that I hadn’t checked the oil in a while.  It was an old car, and it was something I had to do fairly often, but I was in a hurry, and I figured I’d be ok to check it when I had more time. Halfway to my destination, the oil light came on.  I was in the middle of nowhere and had no spare oil on me so all I could do was keep going, knowing that I was most likely causing damage to the engine and that it could cause it to cease at any moment.  Thankfully on that occasion, I got away with it – a petrol station came into sight, and I was able to pull over and buy some oil, however, my garage mechanic will be able to tell you that I wouldn’t have been the first person whose car engine had died because of simple neglect like this.

Our bodies are the same.  They need looking after!  Poor posture, small, repetitive movements, constricted movement for long periods of time, a fast pace of work, it all adds up.  Then there are the strains and stresses we put it through at home.  Even sitting on the sofa for hours has a price to it.  The fact is the list of strains we put on our bodies goes on and on!

Statistics taken by the HSE in 2020/21 indicate that of all the work-related ill health at the time, 28% of it was due to muscular-skeletal disorders:  back pain (39%), neck, shoulder and wrist/hand pain (45%), lower limbs pain (16%).  And all of these could have been caused by a combination of activities.

Despite all this, we’re not so good about adjusting our practices, or seeking help until the pain is too much and we can no longer manage it. 

“I can’t be bothered with all of that”, “I am ok, I don’t have any pain”, “I’ve worked like this for years and it’s never caused me any problems”, “I know how I should be sitting, and I don’t need the help”!  I think I’ve heard every excuse under the sun.

So why are we so often so reluctant to follow advice and adjust our practices?

I think one of the biggest issues is that people don’t always appreciate how much of an impact a muscular disorder can have on their life.  They’re not life-threatening and therefore people can assume that because they’re young, or they’re fit and healthy that they will be ok. 

The trouble is that the stress we cause to our bodies is accumulative, which means that the damage builds up slowly and we often don’t realise what damage has been done until it’s too late!  What starts off as a niggle can quickly develop into a major injury if ignored, at which point that injury requires medical intervention and painkillers.

For me, it was sudden.  One morning I went to get out of bed and found that I couldn’t put my foot down, the pain was so intense.  Years of thinking I was ok lifting heavy things, doing DIY (not very well!), playing squash (and not doing any other exercise, if I’m honest) plus a whole bunch of other things, all added up and my back had had enough.  It eventually meant the end of a career, which whilst an extreme consequence, is not unheard of in some cases.  The trouble is, I’d ignored the niggles and assumed I could keep going as I was, thinking that the pain would pass. It didn’t!

So, what should you do when you start experiencing these niggles.  Well, in the first instance, engaging in a review of working practices and home life can be enough for many people but, even if medical intervention is required, a full desk assessment will be invaluable in supporting any treatment and helping you to set yourself up in such a way as to prevent further injury.  Your workplace may offer this support inhouse, or you may prefer to contact me to discuss how I can help.

Are you sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin?

It was around three weeks into the first lockdown that people started to get concerned about the niggles they were starting to experience.  Initially able to ignore or manage them, people carried on working assuming that lockdown would not be for that long after which they’d return to the office as normal, and all would be well.  And so, they put off seeking any help.  The trouble is, more often than not, any pain is a warning sign of something going wrong and ignoring it only means it will develop.

Before the end of that first lockdown, the effect of sitting on the sofa or bed, huddled over a laptop started to be felt.  As nice as working in bed may sound, our bodies are not designed for it.  Hunching over a small laptop, staring at a small screen, and having no arm support and a keyboard at the wrong height for typing doesn’t do anyone any good.

Couple this with the fact that a recent survey has shown that 46% of people admitted to being less active than normal.  Whether a commute is walked or driven, the fact is in the office we’re more likely to get up to make a drink, go to see someone for a meeting or a chat or have some other reason to move, that we don’t have at home.

At the end of April 2020, the Institute of Employment Studies carried out research for home workers during the first lockdown to track employee wellbeing patterns.  They found that of all those surveyed 58% complained of newly developed neck pain and 55% of back pain.

More recent surveys have shown other key factors affecting healthy working have also deteriorated.  According to the Royal Society for Public Health there was a 30% increase in disturbed sleep and 67% of people felt less connected to colleagues. 

The trouble is it’s often accumulative and the aches and pains of today can reflect the bad practices of the past. Not that it’s ever too late to act. Sometimes the smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

So, what should you do?  Well, there are two main actions that you need to take:  firstly get off that sofa and go and sit at the dining room table, raise your laptop onto a laptop stand, or better still purchase a monitor, get hold of a separate keyboard and mouse and a proper office chair, and you will be sitting in a much better position.  If that doesn’t sound feasible, since the start of lockdown there have been a number of solutions that have popped up on the market in recognition of the space issue people have struggled with and you could consider some of these.

Secondly, get up and get moving.  The usual recommendation is that you change position every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, during which time you take your eyes off your screen to give them a break.  If that doesn’t sound possible, get creative – can you get up and walk when you’re on the phone? Could you move your laptop to a kitchen worktop for a few minutes rather than sitting still?  There are usually ways around this.

Whether you decide to go all out with your desk set up or to just make minimal changes, given that home working seems to be here to stay, it’s time to invest in yourself and that way you’ll be able to enjoy many more comfortable years working at your desk.

Reflections on lockdown home working

Let’s go back to 23 March 2020 and Boris announced that the country would take the unprecedented step of going into lockdown to combat Covid 19.  Two days later this came into effect, and we all started working from home.

For many, this was all very new, and they weren’t set up for it, and so they got creative!

Some people moved house to something big enough to hold an office, others recommissioned spare bedrooms, corners of living rooms, children’s bedrooms – you name it, they did it!  One gentleman I spoke to was sitting in the utility room working by the back door.  It was the only place that he could get a good wifi signal that wasn’t in the way of his family, another individual was perched on a barstool, working at a kitchen surface whilst his family had use of the rest of the house.

People sat in bed or on sofa’s, often propped up by pillows, they wedged themselves in at children’s desks.  For those who didn’t want to have their laptop on their lap, they worked from coffee tables, dressing tables, dining tables and even little picnic tables.  The most uncomfortable seat that I came across was someone who was sitting on their child’s high chair (they were petite, so that’s probably why they got away with it, but still it was cramped!).

People adapted anyway they could, and everyday objects took on a whole new purpose as they became tools for working at home!

Perhaps the most creative and, indeed, ingenious solution was the ironing board!  With the ability to raise it up to its highest settings it proved to be a good alternative to sitting at a desk all day and was also very handy for video conferencing.  It is amazing how many people have found this to be a useful solution to some of their issues.

As a Workplace and Ergonomics Consultant working during lockdown, we’ve not always been able to recommend the equipment we usually would, and instead, we’ve had to be creative in recommending solutions.  We’ve seen the creation of cardboard desks (both sitting and standing versions) and ergonomic cushions being just two possible options. 

Of course, a desk, monitor, keyboard, mouse and office chair will always be the best set up for any office worker, and I would recommend anyone looking to work at home permanently to find a way to fit these in, however, this season has shown that there are alternatives.

GDPR – 93 days to go!

As I prepare to go on the radio tomorrow, to discuss GDPR with a panel of other ‘experts’, I have been considering my experience so far.

Views on it seem to vary widely from a complete ignorance about it to the attitude that it’s just another Y2K, to complete panic.  Whilst no one really knows what’s going to happen when, on 25 May, the ICO starts to regulate and penalise companies who are in breach of the rules, it does seem dangerous to do nothing.

My previous blog covers the advantages to you, the individual, and this alone could mean the ICO will experience a number of whistleblowing situations from individuals who feel they’ve had their rights breached.  Having recently recruited a further 200 people, the ICO will almost certainly be ready to investigate these situations.

On Monday I posted an article published by www.smallbusiness.co.uk (https://www.linkedin.com/company/simplyoperations/) suggesting that a high percentage of people are likely to exercise their right to be forgotten as they’re concerned about the safety of their personal data. 

Another thing that struck me is how people seem to be stuck on getting ‘consent’ to hold data as if it’s the only ‘lawful’ reason for holding it.  Of course, for most people that will be the best reason to hold it, and is certainly preferential if practical.  But, it shouldn’t be forgotten that there are a total of six reasons for holding data so, before you get into a huge campaign to obtain consent, consider whether it is necessary.

For most companies, they already have measures in place to be compliant with the original Data Protection Act and their main aim will be to tighten the practices they already use.  For others, it might take a bit more thought.  Either way, getting someone, like me, to go through everything with you, will make everything clear, get it recorded in a policy and help you to be compliant before the May deadline.

What is this ‘GDPR’ people keep talking about?

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As I’ve been networking over the past couple of weeks I’ve had numerous conversations with people asking me about GDPR.  People have heard a number of rumours about it and over the next few blogs I intend to unpack some of the confusion.

So what is it?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation.  A regulation is a number of specific requirements or enforcements, and, in this case, they are set out to protect an individuals data.  Whilst is it an EU regulation, it is something that the UK will be adopting regardless of Brexit and so, for the purpose of this blog, any reference to EU citizens include the UK.  The regulation comes in on 25 May 2018 by which point all companies need to be compliant.

Who does it affect?

The short answer is all companies, worldwide, that process personal data of any EU citizen.

This will harmonise data privacy laws across the EU and give an individual more control over what happens to their data.

block-chain-2853054_1920What is the definition of ‘personal data’?

GDPR considers ‘personal data’ to be anything that can be used to identify an individual.  This includes genetic, mental, cultural, economic and social information.

Surely this is just another way of presenting the Data Protection Act (DPA)?

There are key differences to GDPR, not addressed by the DPA, and a key one is to note that the DPA is a UK act only, whereas GDPR is an EU directive ensuring consistency across all EU countries.

Other differences are set out below:

  • Non-compliance of DPA can result in fines up to £500k, or 1% of annual turnover however with GDPR these fines could be up to €20m or 4% of annual global turnover
  • Companies of more than 250 employees will need to assign a Data Protection Officer to ensure compliance
  • Under DPA businesses are not obliged to report data breaches. With GDPR any data breach must be reported to the Supervisory Authority within 72 hrs of the incident
  • Under GDPR an individual will have the right to have their data permanently deleted from all databases, including web records etc, where there is no requirement under DPA
  • Where DPA didn’t necessarily require an opt-in for data collection, with GDPR this will be required, along with clear privacy notices that are transparent. Consent must be able to be withdrawn at any time

Interested in knowing more?  Look out for my blog on Wednesday setting out what actions you need to take now.

Or check out the following sites:

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/450296306/10-key-facts-businesses-need-to-note-about-the-GDPR

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-reform/overview-of-the-gdpr/

http://www.eugdpr.org/

GDPR: I’m confused! 9 actions every business needs to take now!

I’m a small business, do I need to do anything?

Yes, you do!  You need to be ready by 25 May 2018 as no business is exempt.

Some of the regulation is still being agreed, however here are the actions you can take now.  Remember that the individuals’ rights under GDPR are:

  • Appoint a Data Protection Officer if you are a firm of 250 people or more.
  • Document what data you hold. Where did it come from?  What is it used for?  Where is it held?  Note, if you use cloud-based systems, you need to identify where that cloud is held.
  • Review your privacy notices. Are there any changes you need to make?  Note:  this can no longer be embedded in your terms and conditions, but needs to be somewhere more visible.
  • Identify the legal basis you are holding the data. Is it necessary?
  • Did you ask the individual for permission to hold their personal data? Review your processes for obtaining data.  Do you specify what you’d use their data for and ask them if you can use it for that purpose?  Can you prove you have permission to hold their data and use it for those purposes specified?  Is the data up to date and accurate?  If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you will need to run an exercise to obtain permission from your clients to hold their data.  Consider how you will do this going forward
  • Update your procedures to ensure they cover all individuals rights, including how you would delete personal data or share it electronically. What is your procedure for handling requests for access to data?
  • Data breaches – you need to have a procedure to act on this as all data breaches need to be reported to the Supervisory Authority within 72 hrs.
  • Do you carry out Data Protection Impact Assessments? These will be a requirement under GDPR so, if you don’t already do so, you need to bring in a policy for doing so and start acting on it.
  • Children: if you hold data for children you need to identify what age you need parental consent up to.

 

Overwhelmed?  Give me a call on 0845 869 0141 or use the ‘contact me’ form on this site.  I can help!

 

 

For more reading:

Click to access preparing-for-the-gdpr-12-steps.pdf

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1595/pia-code-of-practice.pdf

 

So how does GDPR affect me as an individual?

 What are the rights of the individual under GDPR? 

Whilst my other posts have focussed on what you, as a business owner, need to do to be ready for GDPR, I thought it would be good to remind you of the benefits of GDPR, for you as an individual:

  • You will be able to request access to your data and companies will be obliged to provide it, providing the request isn’t deemed to be manifestly unfounded or excessive, primarily meaning repetitive! The company will need to specify why they refuse if they do so.  Previously a £10 charge would have been made for any requests of this nature, however, this is no longer acceptable.  You should expect to receive that data securely, however, where a large amount of data is requested, you should expect to specify your requirements.
  • To have inaccuracies corrected. Data should be reviewed by companies on a regular basis, and updated for any inaccuracies.
  • To have information erased. Just because you signed up for a newsletter once, doesn’t mean you have to continue to receive it.  With GDPR you have the right to have your data removed from the distribution list, and deleted entirely from the companies’ systems.
  • To prevent direct marketing. We all hate it, right?!!  With GDPR you can determine what marketing you’re happy to receive and what you don’t want any more.
  • To prevent automated decision-making and profiling. So what does this mean?  The definition I found stated that it’s ‘an automated decision made following processing of personal data where no humans are involved in the decision-making processes and where the automated decision can have a significant impact on the individual (ie where the decision relates to job performance or creditworthiness  etc)
  • Data portability, ie to have the right to your own data in order to use it for your own purposes across different services.

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-reform/overview-of-the-gdpr/principles/