Searches for “remote work” are spiking. “Back pain,” too

What's behind the rising Google search interest in "remote work" and "back pain"?
Searches for “remote work” are spiking. “Back pain,” too
Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP (Getty Images)
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Does your back hurt right now? If so: First of all, I am sorry. And second, you’re in good company. Google data shows that worldwide searches for the term “back pain” are at an all-time high.

Search interest in back pain has climbed steadily since Google first began tracking data in 2004. But there’s been a clear spike since the pandemic began, which might lead one to speculate—as Newsweek recently did—about possible connections between the rise of remote work and aching spines around the globe.

Is working from home bad for the back?

It’s natural to wonder about the correlation. As many remote workers have discovered, kitchen-table chairs weren’t designed to offer the kind of lumbar support necessary for an eight-hour workday. On the other hand, ergonomic office chairs tend to look rather clunky—which is fine for a cubicle environment where aesthetics aren’t top priority, but less so when it comes to inviting a hulking piece of equipment into the corners of otherwise lovingly-decorated living rooms. (It’s worth noting that working while reclined in bed can be a surprisingly back-friendly, if nap-adjacent, option.)

But if you think a little back pain is enough to deter people from working from home, think again. Google searches for “remote work” are also spiking at levels not seen since the pandemic first hit in March 2020.

People are pining for the days of remote work

Early in the pandemic, it’s likely that the people Googling “remote work” were simply trying to figure out how to do it. By now, most office workers know all about virtual meetings and the importance of establishing work-life boundaries. So what’s with the recent search uptick?

Alas, Google’s search data doesn’t contain such answers. But it’s fun to wonder! Perhaps more people are searching for remote-friendly jobs as employers get serious about trying to lure—or straight-out order—workers back to the office. Perhaps workers are looking for arguments and evidence they might use to convince their bosses to let them stay remote. Or perhaps people are simply Googling “remote work” sadly while they’re stuck at the office, the same way some people mindlessly search for photos of baby hippos when they’re feeling blue.

Whatever the reason, these Google search trends are reminders that remote work isn’t going anywhere—and that working from home is no excuse to give up on maintaining good posture.

Looking for a flexible job with better work-life balance? Our rankings are in. Discover the best places to work remotely on Quartz’s 2022 Best Companies for Remote Workers list.