As our office environment becomes more sedentary, we’re discovering the need for office ergonomics programs. Employees may spend long hours sitting in an uncomfortable chair, or at a desk that’s not quite the right height. This puts them at risk of poor posture that could lead to a musculoskeletal-related workers’ compensation claim down the road. The challenge that many employers face, is administering a consistent program to several offices across the country, or to employees that work remotely. But modern technology has made it easier and more cost effective for employers to incorporate ergonomics principles in the office and make adjustments that promote employee well-being.
Job accommodations can be made for those who have disabilities, cope with a non-occupational injury, or experience pain as a result of their current work environment. They may not require treatment for these symptoms, but there’s great potential for them to be alleviated with the help of an office ergonomics program. It’s not always practical for an ergonomist to travel around the country to evaluate each and every office within a company. So, much like the concept of telemedicine that enables healthcare professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients using telecommunications, ergonomists can use technology to provide similar types of consultations.
Office ergonomics programs can help:
- Maintain the safety of employees
- Prevent costly injuries
- Increase job satisfaction
- Boost productivity
- Reduce employee turnover
When evaluations are done remotely, the list of benefits significantly increases. Because remote ergonomics consultations don’t require extra time and travel, we can reach areas that may not otherwise have access to an ergonomist and schedule and conduct evaluations in a more timely manner.
So, how can an ergonomics program be conducted remotely? The process starts with a survey to gather pertinent employee information such as symptoms, workstation measurements and more. When details are submitted, we ask the employee to share photographs of their workstation while seated and working. This helps us get a better understanding of how their environment might impact their efficiency. Once we review this information, we schedule a 30-60 minute phone call to discuss possible solutions. To keep the employee informed, a shared report emphasizes effective work habits to follow and provides any additional recommendations.
Consider an employee who only uses a laptop, without any additional external devices (such as a keyboard, mouse or monitor). By frequently leaning forward in their chair and because the keyboard portion of their laptop is much higher than their natural elbow height, neck posture will be bent. To prevent a work-related injury and reduce potential future healthcare costs, we can set the employee up with equipment that will allow them to adjust the different computer components individually to fit them more appropriately. For example, adjustments can be made to an employee’s backrest for more support, or a phone headset can be installed to prevent posture that results from holding the telephone receiver between the shoulder and the ear for extended periods of time.
Office ergonomics programs are not designed to be one-size-fits-all. Every office is different and has unique challenges. If an office has in-house resources already, we can use customization tools to enhance a program. And if a company has several offices across the country, or employs remote workers, a remote office ergonomics program can be implemented to support them. For more information, listen to our podcast.