Tech Neck – How Heavy is Your Head & What You Can Do to Lighten the Load

Do you frequently find yourself suffering from a sore back and neck?

The causes are a very common occurrence in today’s society – a cell phone, tablet, laptop. Poor posture caused by the incorrect handling of our tech gadgets is creating the perfect environment and conditions for us to start growing hunch backs long before we’re meant to.

“Tech neck” is what happens when you crane your neck to view the screen of a device that’s below eye-level. Holding your device too low (below chest level) forces your head to crane outwards. The average human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds when at rest in neutral position. With a 15-degree tilt, your head now exerts close to 27 pounds onto your cervical spine. At 30 degrees, it’s closer to 40 pounds. With a 60-degree bend, your head now puts almost 60 pounds of force onto your cervical spine – that’s a lot of additional weight.

What can you do to prevent forward head carriage?

  • Keep your screen at a level relative to your natural gaze when seated
  • Hold your phone or tablet at or slightly below eye level
  • Take short breaks; it’s recommended to take a 5-minute break for every 20 to 30 minutes of sitting and looking at a screen
  • Yoga – stretch out those muscles!
  • Practice keeping your head in neutral position with your ears aligned over your shoulders

If left for long periods of time without treatment, tech neck or Forward Head Carriage, can disrupt many areas of your life from the associated pain. Symptoms often include headaches and migraines, numbness in hands and fingers, tension in your shoulders and general aches in your upper body. Spending extended periods of time with this improper posture can lead to rounded shoulders, shortened chest muscles and elongated back muscles which can make it very difficult to reverse the effects of tech neck. As with anything, preventative treatment is key.


Chronic workplace stress

Chronic Workplace Mental Stress Injuries

Ontario OHS Legislation Update – Chronic Workplace Mental Stress Injuries

On January 1, 2018, new Ontario OHS legislation extended employee workplace injury benefit coverage.  The new legislation, Bill 127, increases employees’ Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) benefit coverage to include claims for chronic workplace mental stress injuries. 

“Workplace stress” is the harmful physical and emotional response that an employee experiences at work when a job has a lot of demands and the worker does not have much control over the situation.  Excessive exposure to workplace stress can lead to chronic mental stress injuries. 

To submit a chronic workplace mental stress injury claim, the worker must show that:

  • the stressor(s) were work related,
  • the work related stressor(s) were substantial, 
  • the work related stressor(s) were the predominant cause of the mental stress injury, and 
  • the mental stress injury has been appropriately diagnosed. 

Workers will not get benefits for chronic stress caused by decisions or actions by the employer related to the worker’s employment, including a decision to change the work being performed or the working conditions, to discipline the worker or to terminate the employment.

Under the Bill 177 transitional rules, employers may also be faced with claims for mental stress injuries experienced between April 29, 2014 and January 1, 2018.

Employers with stressful workplaces should review their workplace’s stressors and take steps to reduce and assist workers to manage workplace stress.  Similar to other workplace hazards, employers must eliminate or control excessive workplace stressors to prevent worker injury.

Review links below, to learn more information about workplace stressors and chronic workplace mental stress.

Workplace Stress Facts

Chronic Mental Stress 


micro skills and workplace health

Improving Micro Skills and Workplace Health

If you plan to spend time reading over the holidays, I recommend a series of articles about how to improve personal and professional micro skills and workplace health. 

The Globe & Mail’s series of articles about employee micro skills and workplace health has many individual and business improvement ideas. These articles would interest both employees and employers reflecting on personal and professional happiness and health. 

The concept of “micro skills” originates from the field of counselling.  Individuals with strong micros skills are self-aware and good communicators.  Employers value these skills in employees and leaders.  Employees with these personal and interpersonal skills have more workplace success.  It has been demonstrated that employee micro skills and workplace health are related. 

The short articles in this series includes ideas about:

  • being kind to others
  • managing stressful relationships
  • rewriting your life story if you are not happy
  • getting more grit
  • learning to think positively
  • calming an anxious brain
  • being a workaholic
  • stopping bullies at work
  • increasing emotional intelligence
  • creating happiness at work  

Relaxation and reflection are micro skills.  The holidays are a perfect time to practice these skills.   Practice by enjoying the holiday season, taking some quiet time for yourself to read and reflect and when New Year’s Eve arrives, consider setting a goal to improve your micro skills and workplace health.

OHS quality leading indicators

OHS Quality Leading Indicators

Organisations that want to improve workplace health and safety should pay attention to data about OHS quality leading indicators. 

OHS quality leading indicators represent data about the interventions and outcomes of health and safety programs. Observing data about leading indicators helps determine if injury prevention plans are effective.  For example, is employee training making a difference and a leading indicator of decreased workplace injury and illness?

For organizations seeking to improve their health and safety programs, the Alberta government’s user’s guide discussing OHS quality leading and lagging indicators for workplace health and safety is worth reading.  Lagging quality indicators measure negative OHS outcomes that have occurred such as workplace illness and injuries. Alternatively, leading quality indicators consider the performance of OHS interventions used to prevent injury or illness at work such as employee training or near miss reporting. Leading indicators “measure the presence of safety instead of the absence of injury” or lagging indicators.

The OHS quality leading indicators that an organization chooses to track depends on the state of the organization’s safety program. A business must gather data about its actual OHS program practices.  Leading indicators to watch may include basic compliance to legislated safety requirements.  Or, in more mature and highly developed workplace safety programs, the indicator may focus on more advanced themes such as strategies for excellence and safety innovation.

Monitoring both lagging and leading quality indicators allow an organization to evaluate the relationship between safety interventions and outcomes.  By examining the data and trends over several years, it is possible to identify if the initiatives and OHS program’s quality leading indicators are truly resulting in decreased occupational injury and disease for employees.

Read more about Leading Indicators for Workplace Health and Safety: a user guide.

Workplace safety blitzes

Workplace Inspection Blitzes Raise Safety Awareness

The Ontario Ministry of Labour conducts workplace inspection blitzes.

MOL inspectors regularly enter business facilities to do  workplace inspection blitzes to monitor safety practices. An inspector could show up at your workplace at any time and request evidence that your organization has safety procedures in place to protect employees from safety hazards in your work setting. Is your workplace compliant with the requirements of the Ontario Occupational Health & Safety Act and the related regulations?

Though you will not get a warning about if or when an inspector will come to your workplace, the MOL does release a schedule and list of safety topics that ourlines the current focus for inspectors. Advertising the areas of focus for workplace inspection blitzes is a public service that helps educate business owners and managers, making them aware of safety risks in certain work settings.

Workplace inspection blitzes are meant to raise awareness about safety hazards in workplaces. The resulting penalties and fines also increase compliance with the OHSA and its regulations. Hopefully by focusing inspections blitzes on high risk safety hazards, there will be a decreased incidence of worker injuries. The ministry regularly reports its findings from workplace inspections and associated penalties and fines that specific businesses received.

The 2017 / 2018 workplace inspections blitzes focus on the following topics: new and young worker safety, supervisor health and safety awareness, falls, machine guarding, electrical hazards, PPE and workplace violence. Though it is expected that a business’ health and safety program consider all safety risks, employers should review the areas of focus on this year’s workplace inspections blitz schedule when doing annual health & safety program reviews.

Learn more about schedules for workplace inspection blitzes in Ontario.

Healthy workplace

Healthy Workplace Thoughts

October is Healthy Workplace month, an initiative that is close to my heart.

My experience as a nurse and a business manager has given me the opportunity to reflect on the value of a healthy workplace.   When individuals are healthy, they are more energetic and capable of achieving great things. Businesses behave similarly. Healthy workplaces are more productive. This benefits the organization and its people.

Healthy workplace means different things to different people. Physical safety and psychosocial support are a component of workplace health. Things that make employees stressed or vulnerable at work are unhealthy and make it harder to get work done.

Every organization and workforce is unique. Sometimes physical safety at a worksite is the biggest concern.   Other workplaces demand a supportive environment where employees feel cared for so they can collaborate and learn. Certain work teams prefer less social support but crave innovation so they are challenged and can work towards professional excellence which translates into organizational success.

Managers must figure out what their workers need to be healthy and productive. Anyone – executives, managers or workers – can suggest ideas which may improve workplace health.  An employee survey is also a great tool to help identify workplace health problems.  Management must then support healthy initiatives and provides leadership to make changes.

Managers who choose to support healthy initiatives understand that a healthy employee is happier and more productive.  Just like when people recover from illness, when a work team supports a workplace wellness idea, amazing things happen.  Excitement develops as individuals work together on a common, positive goal. The workforce becomes more connected, effective and stronger as the team’s capacities improve.

This October’s Healthy Workplace month is a great reason to plan 1or 2 initiatives to improve life at work. Talk to, observe or survey your employees.  Improving workplace health will benefit your organization and employees and create a work environment fit for success.

To learn more, read Excellence Canada’s Healthy Workplace Standard.