Recently I had a question from a reader asking about behavioural change in the office. Specifically, it was about a co-worker who was using an awkward posture for a long duration. They wanted to know the best approach to both highlight the ergonomic risk in a non-confrontational way and make it into lasting change. What a good question! I’m sure many of our readers have had similar experiences; I know that I certainly have in the past. There are many approaches to this particular question and I’m only going to share with you what has worked best with me and the organizations that I have worked with. If there was to be one ‘silver bullet’ to what brings about the most effective ergonomic change, it would have to be the organization’s culture; proactive organizational behaviours in general also tend to get better results when it comes to proactive ergonomic initiatives. So, take a look at our 4 ways to improve the ergonomics of your staff or colleagues below!
4 Ways To Improve The Ergonomics Of Your Staff
1. Ergonomic Assessments or Consultations
What’s the value of having an ergonomic assessment completed for staff? Sure, it might cost you a bit of cash to have it done (unless you already have an in-house ergonomics program), but its outcome can be a big time savings. With this approach, the outcomes include informing staff of the risks related to their set-up and then offering solutions that they can fix themselves or finding no-cost or low cost equipment alternatives. In short it can prevent injuries. Interested in an in-house ergonomics program? You can check out this post here to learn more. I might be a little biased, but there is certainly a LOT of value in having the actual ergonomic risk assessed. This is because many of us are unaware of the risks that we are exposed to in a typical day that a fresh perspective can highlight quickly and efficiently. There are two separate approaches with this: you can either use a high-level approach to target a large number of employees or get down into the dirt with a thorough analysis of a smaller group. It all depends on resources. In my experience, using a very high-level ergonomics assessment that targets a large amount of employees in a short amount of time can be a big value-add. With this approach combined with an ergonomics assessor with a lot of experience, you can target those who would require a more in-depth ergonomic review or at a minimum identify where the biggest ergonomic risk is. Staff would then have the opportunity to improve/change their set-up to reduce their exposure to those particular risks. This is compared to a more thorough ergonomic assessment or consultation that uses an in-depth analysis to document both the location and severity of ergonomic risk ideally before it becomes a concern. This approach also offers thoughtful solutions on how to mitigate that risk.
2. Ergonomics Training
Another approach to gaining an ergonomics foothold in your organization is via ergonomics training. This can be very valuable to an organization, if done correctly! Training allows you to share valuable information and insights about the ergonomic risks that many are unaware of as well as (here’s the kicker) how to make simple changes to reduce those risks. To get more bang for your buck, have the presenter/trainer visit each attendee’s workstation to give practical suggestions on how to improve their set-up with an emphasis on adjustments rather than purchasing new equipment. Research has found that ergonomics training can lower musculoskeletal risks, reduce complaints and stress as well as improve worker well-being. That’s why so many organizations go this route. It can be a big time and money savings, but the key thing is that ergonomics training as a ‘stand alone’ product will likely fizzle out quickly as the ‘flavour of the month’. I’m sure many of our readers have witnessed this time and time again. If you can tie the ergonomics program/presentation in with other office or ergonomic initiatives then there is much more of a likelihood for success. Our next section talks about email campaigns as a way to reinforce this. One last thing, just like with ergonomic assessments or consultations, you can either go with an outside consultant to lead a training session or go with an internal resource.
3. Email Campaigns
Email campaigns have traditionally come straight from a marketing world, but I believe that this is an unharnessed opportunity to incorporate improved ergonomics awareness into organizations. Hear me out here. With a typical in-house ergonomics program you promote the benefits of ergonomics to prevent injuries mostly at select periods of time throughout the year including new hire presentations, National Ergonomics Month (which is in October), or during ergonomic assessments. This leaves a lot of time when a typical employee would not hear anything about ergonomics. Email campaigns are a perfect cost-effective strategy to fill this gap. Traditionally, email campaigns have been used to sell a product or build a relationship (with the goal of selling a product later on) with an audience; in this case the product that you are trying to sell is ‘working safely’ to prevent injury. There is no reason that this approach wouldn’t work in an organization. After all, information IS information. With these campaigns, you can share ‘tips of the day’, friendly reminders, information about injury signs and symptoms, printable infographics, ergonomic reminders, and even tips on how to make simple adjustments to their workstations. The amount of applications almost seems limitless. This approach gently shifts the organization towards a more proactive and preventative standpoint to ergonomics. One of my favourite quotes is that it an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that is exactly the framework behind an ergonomic email marketing campaigns.
4. After Discomfort or Injury Reported
Getting to ergonomic concerns before they develop into discomfort or injuries should be your top priority. However, unfortunately some people may fall through the cracks and develop pain or discomfort as a result of their workstation set-up. Once they have identified they are experiencing some discomfort ideally a thorough one-on-one ergonomic assessment would be done, complete with the appropriate follow-ups to ensure that the root cause of the discomfort has been located. Alternatively, the employee may be coming back to work after a non-occupational injury (happens outside of work). This would also require a thorough one-on-one evaluation so that their workstation can be modified in a manner that is conducive to them to be working pain-free. I have done this many times before, specifically for someone with a broken leg or arm so that they can be returned to work quicker and safer than before.