Ergo Squad News

Ergonomics Tip: What Office Equipment Will Make Me the Most Productivity?

Ergonomics Tip

As employees struggle to self-diagnose and troubleshoot the discomfort they have at work, many reach out to management with a request for equipment. Without proper training and diagnosis, this can be a waste of resources or escalate the problem.

See if this sounds familiar:

An employee starts to experience constant or even occasional discomfort and will start to become preoccupied. They are unsure what they exactly need, but they know they need something. They may even start trying to find any excuse they can to step away from their desk.
It occurs to them that maybe a new piece of hardware will solve all their issues. “My desk is horrible. I need to be able to stand.” Management doesn’t seem to agree, so the employee seeks the support of a medical professional. They book an appointment and lay out their case – the only think that will make them better is this new piece of office equipment and possibly some anti-inflammatory medication.

The medical professional without ever seeing the person’s work setup or how they interact within that setup writes a doctor’s note recommending an “ergonomic sit stand desk.” The employee takes the note to management to get approval of a new desk. The employer buys the cheapest intervention they can find, which is something that sits on top of the existing desk and will allow the person to stand. This is delivered to the employee and unfortunately 3 months later not only do the symptoms still exist, they are worse.

Preoccupied employee = loss of productivity

Doctor visit = claim against insurance

Diagnosis without visuals and proper case management = inaccurate or incomplete documentation in the system

New desk hardware that doesn’t solve problems = wasted resources

Employee with unresolved high discomfort = Increased risk of injury

Is there a better way?

Many companies with a proactive ergonomics program will tell you – absolutely. Let’s look how this situation plays out different in a company with a comprehensive ergonomics program.

The employee starts to have discomfort. Instead of letting things escalate, they go into their online ergonomics portal and take a survey. This survey collects key information on how they work and where they are having discomfort. Upon completion of the survey the person gets a set of recommendations and training based upon their responses.

The employee is feeling a bit better, but still has some discomfort. The ergonomist stops by for an evaluation. The ergonomist sees that the employee’s desk is too high. Putting something on top of the desk that raises the keying height for the individual is likely to make the discomfort worse.

The ergonomist instead recommends a keyboard tray that will allow the employee to bring the keying height lower to better fit their needs and allow them to get into a neutral posture. The ergonomist goes over how to use the equipment and how to best maintain their fit to avoid discomfort.

Employee concerns are addressed efficiently = Employee feels company cares and decision making is in hands of trained professional, which unburdens employee

External doctor visit not needed = no claim on insurance

Proper diagnosis from an expert who sees the work area, talks with employee and sees how the employee interacts within area = complete and more accurate documentation

New equipment may or may not be issued = A more educated allocation of resources based on need with emphasis on training and fit

Employee complaints addressed and managed = decrease risk of injury and increased morale

What many of us have learned in this industry is – what works to solve the problem of one employee will not necessarily work for the masses AND until you know what the problem is, it is very hard to treat it correctly.

A person has a leg injury. Would you order a cast or a band-aid? Is the leg broken or is it a scrape? Proper diagnosis is key to a proper solution.

No doubt hardware can help a situation, but it can also do the opposite by making things worse. Properly evaluating the situation and making educated recommendations based on the person and environment, this translates to a more accurate diagnosis and greater probability for success in the solution.

2018-10-16T04:13:41+00:00Ergo Squad News, Tips|

Ergonomics And Productivity – Some Tips To Use Ergonomic Thought

How does ergonomics improve productivity?

The presence of ergonomic risk factors — awkward postures, excessive force, and high task repetition — makes a job more frustrating and difficult to perform. This causes a variety of problems including losses in productivity. And yes, it can be counted and quantified

The ergonomics improvement process reduces risk factors and improves the interaction between the work and the worker. Done well, this process removes barriers to productivity and makes job tasks easier and faster to accomplish.

Improve productivity by reducing awkward postures

Working in an awkward posture is not an efficient way to work. The ergonomics process encourages work to be done in the “comfort zone”, causing less fatigue and helping you work faster and more accurately.

Improve productivity by reducing high force requirements

High force requirements cause unnecessary exertion that slows work down. Using mechanical assists, counter balance systems, adjustable height lift tables and workstations, powered equipment and ergonomic tools will reduce work effort and muscle exertions.

Improve productivity by reducing highly repetitive tasks

High task repetition, especially when combined with other risks factors such high force and/or awkward postures, increases fatigue and slows the work process down. Excessive or unnecessary motions should be reduced if at all possible. In situations where this is not possible, it is important to eliminate excessive force requirements and awkward postures.

Ergonomics Article – When Do You Survey Your Employees On Ergonomics?

By Ann Hall, Staff Ergonomist

So, what are the best practices?

First, why do companies survey?

A well-executed survey collects data on how employees work and gives personalized feedback and training based on the employee responses. The information collected should help the company identify the workers who are experiencing discomfort and those showing significant risk factors for ­injury.

Good data lets them find the people with the greatest need, the soonest and focus on getting their issues resolved. Remember, without surveys, the person at the most risk or even discomfort might not ever let the company know there is a potential problem until it is too late. Ultimately, survey data should help companies get to employees BEFORE injury occurs.

It should also cut down on non-essential ergonomic visits and small equipment purchases by helping a large percentage of employees self-correct. Maybe they don’t need that footrest after all, perhaps they just needed to know how to correctly adjust the height of their chair.

Why many large companies use survey software, over the pen and paper model, besides the streamlining of processes and compliance documentation, is the real-time auto calculation of metrics. This means administrators are able to get a high level picture of the ergonomic program metrics at any time. These metrics help establish baselines, track program success, identify trends, and prioritize and plan resources.

Obviously, there are more reasons people survey, but this is the most common and basic: identify discomfort and/or risk, training and data.

Next, how often?

When you have answered the above, you can start to decide how often you need to survey to support what you wish to get out of the process. How often does the survey process need to happen to meet the goal?

For some organizations, this is a once a year survey for all employees. For other organizations, high risk and high employee turnover areas such as a call centers may have a more frequent survey. Some organizations, choose to do surveys in batches every month or quarter, verses all at once with all employees being surveyed at least every 18 months. The thought about longer duration between surveys is that there would be a greater chance of employee survey fatigue, thus more engagement in the survey.

After your general plan of execution on why, who and how often has been outlined. Consider the following best practices that we seem to see the most to compliment your plan:

An employee should take a survey when they have had a change in workstation or equipment.
New employees should take a survey within the first month of employment. If the company is doing the survey primarily for training, then that may be the first week. If the company is doing the survey for identifying discomfort and self-correction, then perhaps that happens at week 3 or 4 when the employee has had more time to be acclimated to their workstation setup.
An employee should take a survey when they have reported discomfort or concerns about their setup.
An employee should take a survey when they have requested a change in equipment and setup.
An employee should take a survey before an ergonomic evaluation if one has not already been done.
An employee should take a survey three to four weeks after they have had an ergonomic evaluation to see if they have made improvements and potential problems have been resolved.
Survey frequency may be increased in an area if the data trends see a spike in injury, discomfort or risk. This is helpful to closely monitor resolution action plans – is our plan successful in reversing trends?

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Ergonomics Article – Is It You Or Your Desk Causing Pain?

Ergonomics Article

By Ergonomist Hank Austin

 

Are Your Shoulders and or Upper Back Sore?  It could Be Your Desk!!!

Ergonomics is the science of fitting equipment to people. Typically, we see that people are struggling to fit to their office equipment-including their desks. Most companies have their desks set at one height for all their employees. Here are two examples that might give you a feel for the situation:

  1. If Every golfer is given the same size golf clubs- Why would this be a problem?
    1. This may cause discomfort or even injury.
    2. This may also cause an adverse impact on their productivity.
  2. All shoes are made in one size.
    1. This may cause discomfort or even injury.
    2. This may also cause an adverse impact on their productivity.

Both of these examples illustrate the issues with a one size fits all approach. Very few desks are actually properly fitted and comfortable.

Your initial response could be “This is ridiculous! No one would ever do that!” The reality is that most fixed desks are set at a height of 29”-30” high and that is way too high for the vast majority of the population that works on computers. We have a population of office workers that sit with their arms up on top of the desk causing a variety of issues including shoulder/upper back discomfort, pain, and/or injury.

Our data shows that an average of 60% of all computer users are in significant discomfort – that can include pain, numbness, and injury. What is this doing to your productivity? What do you think costs more over time: a one-time cost for proper equipment or equipment adjustment or a negative productivity impact that hits every hour, day, week, month and year?

Consider this: I am 6’-2” and the proper desk height for my keyboard is 25”. Yes 25”! That height allows me to sit back in my chair and relax my shoulders when typing, which lets the blood flow through them easily. When your shoulder muscles are contracted from being pushed up, they get tired and can start to hurt. Someone else at 6’-2” will likely have a different desk height than me as they may have a different length torso, lower legs, or upper arms which all impact your correct desk height fit. Good ergonomics is all about improving organizational performance by focusing on individual needs.  A little well directed work in the right places can have big positive impact on the organization!

Desk height is also a big issue when using adjustable sit/stand desks. People do not intuitively know how to properly use this equipment, so they revert to what they’ve always had previously/experienced/known. They use a sit stand the same way they used to when they were forced into a position by a fixed desk that was at an improper height. Many who have a desk adjusted too high or too low when they stand can end up hurting their neck, back, or wrists.

We need to make sure that we are properly identifying these issues and training our people on how to avoid discomfort or injury. The “gold standard” of ergonomics is getting productivity up by making people comfortable! People tend to slow down, make more mistakes, and have difficulty focusing when they are hurting.

So, get your desk adjusted down or your chair up (and use a foot rest) so you can get into a neutral posture!

Hank Austin CSP, MS of ErgoSquad has many years of experience in developing and managing high performing ergonomics programs.