Skip navigation
Skip navigation
You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser.

Constant Communication is a Health Risk for the UK’s Multi-tasking office workers

April 9, 2003 - Constant communication by email and telephone is making the UK’s office population increasingly deskbound and giving rise to a string of health complaints, as well as having a negative impact upon efficiency in the office. These are the findings of new research, commissioned by GN Netcom, a leader in cordless communications.

The research, conducted in January 2003, questioned 252 office-based workers in a variety of administration, finance, helpdesk, sales & marketing and management roles. It discovered that:

· Email now takes up almost as much time as telephone calls for the majority of the UK’s office workers. The huge majority, 61% spend more than an hour per day on emails with 37% devoting one to three hours to the task. This compares with 75% who spend more than one hour per day on the phone and 43% who spend one to three hours on the phone

· Multi-tasking while on the ‘phone has become a way of life for 82% of office workers, so it is no surprise that 39% experience neck and shoulder ache

· One in three workers is deskbound for more than seven hours per day

· Two thirds of office workers report health problems as a result of their deskbound roles, with 47% suffering from stress, 39% experiencing neck and shoulder ache and 28% suffering back ache

· Helpdesk staff are most deskbound and most likely to complain of stress (53%), neck and shoulder ache (49%) and backache (44%). One in five helpdesk staff said the ability to take calls while moving around the desk would improve their performance.

· Sales and marketing professionals are most likely to wear a headset (32%) and least likely to complain of neck and shoulder ache (29%)

· Incoming phone calls top the list of office gripes with 29% of office workers saying fewer interruptions from phone calls would have the greatest impact on their performance at work, ahead of getting the last gadgets (29%) and having a personal assistant (20%)

· 37% said that having to hot-desk and share a phone or computer would upset them, although this figure rose to 50% for sales and marketing staff and 46% amongst management

Commenting on the research, Ann Brooks, principal consultant at Ergonomics in Practice, said: “Many people now multi-task while on the telephone, which usually means wedging the phone between ear and shoulder while they type or write. This posture is extremely bad for the neck and shoulder, especially if held for long periods, and can result in discomfort in these areas, sometimes leading to longer-term injury. Headsets can reduce the musculoskeletal risks to office workers by allowing them to adopt safe postures while using the telephone and multi-tasking. Cordless headsets combine these benefits with the potential to stand up and move around during the day – a considerable advantage given that prolonged sitting is one of the greatest health risks to deskbound staff.”

Administration or office management

Those in administrative roles were amongst the most intensive phone users, with 19% spending between 4-6 hours on the phone per day. In this group of workers 35% said fewer interruptions from the phone would improve their efficiency.

Credit Control & Finance

These dedicated employees are more likely than most to be deskbound, with 41% spending 7 hours or more sitting at their desk. This is reflected in the fact that one in four said their biggest gripe was sitting in the worst location in the office. Those working in credit control or finance also spend much more time on the phone than on email. The majority (53%) of credit control and finance workers spend less than an hour checking their emails. Yet, they are least likely to wear a telephone headset.

Helpdesk/Customer Service

Not surprisingly, helpdesk and customer service staff spend most time ‘chained to their desks’, with 20% spending 7 hours or more on the ‘phone and 5% spending 7 hours or more on email. More surprisingly, only 30% of helpdesk employees wear a headset, which may explain why almost half (49%) suffer from neck and shoulder ache and 44% from backache.


Managers have most freedom to roam around in the office, with a relatively small proportion (31%) spending more than seven hours sitting at their desk. As a consequence they suffer less from aches and pains, although 51% claimed they suffered from stress. A personal assistant would have the single most positive impact on their performance, with 35% of managers choosing this option, ahead of fewer interruptions from phone calls (27%) and being able to move around while on the phone (18%). One in ten managers now wears a headset at work!

Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing professionals, work the longest hours at their desks, resulting in high stress levels, running at 51%. They are also the biggest gadget lovers, with 36% saying the latest gadgets and equipment would have the greatest positive impact on their performance at work. Not surprisingly, they are more likely than any other group to wear a headset with 32% saying they have adopted this communications gadget. Maybe this explains why a staggering 96% have the ability to multi-task while on the telephone!

A truly cordless headset for today’s office professionals

In conjunction with the research, GN Netcom is launching the GN 9120, a truly cordless headset designed especially for the demanding needs of today’s office professionals.

Designed for on the move office professionals, the GN 9120 gives up to a 100-metre range of mobility, and delivers up to eight hours of talk time. The headset is completely free of cords, and call answer and termination as well as volume controls are located on the headset and can be operated within its range.

Unique to the GN 9120 is the conferencing feature that enables up to four headsets to join together on one call. This offers a crystal clear alternative to speakerphones, allows conference calls to take place outside the confines of a meeting room and also cuts down on expenses as conference calls can be held over only one telephone line connection.

More information can be found at

Notes to Editors

GN Netcom is a world leader in hands-free communications technologies and specialises in the design and manufacture of high-quality headsets. GN Netcom has production facilities in Europe, the United States and Asia with distributors in more than 75 countries around the world. GN Netcom is part of the GN Great Nordic Group, a 130-year old holding company headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. GN Netcom also provides OEM products to familiar brand name companies.

Ann Brooks is principal consultant at Ergonomics in Practice and regularly advises companies on how to reduce the health risks to their staff working in office environments. She co-authored a report for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on the health and safety aspects of portable computer use and has been involved in the development of HSE guidance on both upper limb disorders and Display Screen Equipment. She is a Registered Member of the Ergonomics Society and sits on its Council.

For further press information please contact:

Debby Penton, Wildfire PR

Tel: 01932 785 467


This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Wildfire in the following categories: Consumer Technology, Personal Finance, Business & Finance, Computing & Telecoms, for more information visit