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Sitting targets? Help desk staff exposed to health risk

Four out of five helpdesk and customer service staff experience health problems as a result of their work and almost half are at risk of developing a neck or back injury, according to new research commissioned by GN Netcom, a leader in cordless communications.

The survey questioned 252 office-based workers in a variety of desk-bound roles, including administration, credit control, sales & marketing and management. The results showed that helpdesk staff experienced higher levels of stress (53%), neck and shoulder ache (49%) and back pain (44%) than any other group.

The main reason for the health complaints seems to be long hours ‘chained to the desk’ combined with extensive periods on the ‘phone. Around 20% of help desk staff spend over seven hours a day on the ‘phone and a further 5% spend the same amount of time dealing with emails.

Yet even though a staggering 92% of helpdesk and customer service staff multi-task while on the phone, just 30% are provided with a telephone headset. Ann Brooks, principal ergonomist at Ergonomics in Practice says that multi-tasking without a headset significantly increases the risk of injury:

“Multi-tasking while on the telephone 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 muculoskeletal risks by allowing wearers to adopt safe postures while multi-tasking on the ‘phone.”

GN Netcom has recently launched a cordless headset, the GN 9120, which 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.

With 21% of help desk employees saying that the ability to move around while on the ‘phone and take calls away from their desk would have a positive impact on their job, cordless headsets could boost the health and performance of helpdesk staff. Ann Brooks concludes:

“Cordless headsets combine the benefits of improved posture 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”.

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Notes to Editors

This research was commissioned by GN Netcom and conducted in Great Britain via a telephone omnibus survey by Taylor Nelson Sofres plc. 252 office-based workers were interviewed in January 2003. The sample was weighted to represent the adult population of Great Britain aged 16+.

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: 020 8255 6603

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