In many of our recent posts we presented the value of partnering ergonomic training along with new equipment (whether it be new chairs or sit-stand desks), whenever they are newly introduced to an organization. Here are just some of our past posts on this topic:
- One approach to manage musculoskeletal injuries
- Do sit-stand & alternative workstations make you more productive?
- A counter-intuitive way to avoid eyestrain
Ergonomics training sometimes gets the short-end of the stick. It’s not as sexy as new equipment. I get it. Sometimes ergonomics training is used as a way to ‘check the box’ for ergonomics instead of actually addressing the root cause of the situation, which many times can be considered to be pricey. With all this in mind there is still a lot of value that ergonomics training can have in your organization to enhance your entire process. If it’s done correctly, that is. And the reason that I say this is that I’m sure that we have all been a participant in an office ergonomics presentation that has just plainly missed the mark.
Like we said early, used correctly, ergonomics training can be very valuable to an organization. What about the type of ergonomics training – is there a difference between instructor-directed or self-directed learning? Not surprisingly, there is! You may have already guessed that there is much more value with instructor-directed training. Literature also supports this too as it enhances the ergonomic knowledge and habits among workers (not surprisingly, of course). Instructor-directed training gives the trainer the opportunity to address participant’s questions, and give specific tips & tricks. And that is what we are going to talk about in today’s post…
Let’s start with some positive effects of effective instructor-directed ergonomic training. These are:
- Enhanced workstation practices
- Lower musculoskeletal risks
- Reduction of complaints
- Reduced stress
- Improved well-being
Today’s post is actually based on a study that found some very specific results of ergonomic training over a one-year study period. Relatively speaking, inexpensive ergonomics training (if done right, of course!) has a positive impact on the safety and health of staff. Some of these results seem a bit counter-intuitive, but still are useful to acknowledge! Researchers found that there was no improvement of the participant’s ergonomic knowledge, yet there was significant improvements in workstation practices, specifically with the monitor, keyboard, and chair. This of course, has a direct positive relationship with reducing musculoskeletal risks and reducing complaints of discomfort. Specifically, there were significant reductions in neck and upper/lower back discomfort. Additionally, the participants’ stress level was also found to be significantly reduced, which goes a long way to enhance well-being also. Interestingly no effect on sickness leave was found within the study period (perhaps it was because this metric requires more time to see the results).
So, as this research found, office ergonomics training has beneficial effects in reducing musculoskeletal risks and stress amongst workers. But how do you implement it? We have some key strategies from this research that you can apply to your organization (or can be used to spark some other ideas too!):
Suggested training topics:
- Understanding the relationship between office ergonomics and the development of musculoskeletal discomforts
- Ergonomics improvements and adjustments of workstations
- Importance of pacing and other work behaviours
In addition to these topics, scheduling some time for the trainer to visit the attendee’s workstations to provide practical suggestions on how to improve the ergonomics set-up with their existing equipment (no requirement to purchase new equipment) is always a value-add and time savings (in the long-run) for the organization.
To assist with this strategy you could use posters/pictures, motivational and educational email, workshops/presentations, and informational booklets. The value in this would be by ‘flooding’ the market with more ergonomics knowledge there are more opportunities to attract the attention of staff, cater to their learning preferences, and eventually shift the workplace culture more towards a safety or prevention standpoint.
Mahmud, N., Kenny, D. & Zein, R. (2015). The effects of office ergonomic training on musculoskeletal complaints, sickness absence, and psychological well-being: a cluster randomized control trial. Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health. 27(2), NP1652-1668.