Ergonomics News – Are You Using Science Or Hunch For Employee Performance Evaluation?

By Rick Wertheimer, ErgoSquad President

People or workforce analytics involves using digital tools and data to measure, report, and understand employee performance. Previous efforts to make decisions about an employee base have been steeped in the idea of a “gut feeling.” It is easier to make better decisions with the advent of data analytics.

The need to improve the quality of talent is being driven, in part, by a tight labor market. What companies have learned by employing better customer experience is now being used to drive better employee experience. Afterall, employees are really the first customers of a company.

The word, ergonomics, is derived from two Greek words: ergon, meaning work, and nomoi, meaning natural laws. Combined together, they create a word that means the science of work and a person’s relationship to that work. More specifically, ergonomics is the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job.

Adapting tasks, tools, and equipment to better fit the worker can help reduce physical stress on a worker’s body and eliminate many potentially serious, disabling work related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) which will lead to greater productive and reduce the cost of health and worker’s comp claims. An ergonomic assessment fosters the identification of the environmental factors creating a performance gap and the potential for MSDs and the correctable conditions required to reduce or eliminate the gap and health risk.

People analytics involves the collection of data from many different worker disciplines. The simple premise of ergonomics makes it a natural discipline to include in the analysis of worker performance. Including the data collected through ergonomic assessments and identified corrective measures in workforce analytics will result in a richer dataset, better decision making and ultimately worker experience and productivity.

Are you using Ergonomic in your workplace? Do you think Ergonomics analysis will help you make better decisions?

Rick Wertheimer is President of ErgoSquad. Find out more about Rick here

2018-09-17T14:39:34-07:00Ergonomic Benefits|

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 – Ergonomics, Productivity And Performance

A lot of attention has been given to engaging the best talent to achieve this however, without a program to optimize the performance of all human resources, an organization cannot expect to realize the desired return on those investments.

While it would not be unreasonable to assume an average office worker performance gap in excess of 25%, even a 5% productivity improvement would represent several billion dollars in cost savings annually for employers. For example: An organization has 1,000 office workers and an employee attrition rate of only 9% annually. Even at a very conservative annual cost of $80,000 per employee, the employer would save $7,200,000 per year if they did not replace the 90 employees lost through attrition the first year.

First the premise must be accepted that there are correctable conditions in every organization which contribute to the performance gap. Secondly the factors creating the performance gap and the extent to which they are contributing to the gap must be considered. The three primary contributing factors to a “performance gap” are:

Ergonomics: The gap caused by work environment conditions preventing workers from performing their duties to the best of their abilities.

Proficiency: The gap between current worker capabilities and potential.

Technology: The gap between currently employed technologies (hardware and software) and available technologies which could improve performance.

Can Ergonomic services really help with proficiency? Of course. When employees are comfortable, there are many benefits, not the least which is productivity. Listen to the Ergonomics Podcast on this issue.

2018-09-12T14:17:25-07:00Ergonomic Benefits|

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?

Listen to an Ergonomics Podcast

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.

Ergonomics News – Can Sit Stand Desk Reduce Obesity In Offices?

Ergonomics News

Welcome to the Victoria trial in Australia

The evaluation looked at the Stand Up Victoria trial – funded by VicHealth and the NHMRC, and led by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute – which supported 231 desk-based workers to stand up, sit less and move more via multiple strategies, including organisational support, health coaching, and sit-stand desks.

Twelve months after the intervention was introduced, participating workers achieved an average one hour per day reduction in their sitting time.

Would 1 hour make that much of a difference?

Lead author Dr Lan Gao, an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Deakin Health Economics, said too much sitting time was a critical health concern greatly exacerbated for those in desk-bound occupations – 45 per cent of Australian workers.

“Workplace sitting is the largest contributor to daily sitting time among office workers, and excessive sitting is associated with serious health issues like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and shorter life expectancy,” Dr Gao said.

“This means it’s imperative we work towards both effective and cost-effective ways to decrease sitting time in the workplace.

“Sit-stand workstations – which allow the user to position the desk at a level convenient for sitting or standing – have been put forward as one possible solution to this issue, however up until now a barrier to their widespread introduction has been the perceived prohibitive cost.

“So far there has not been any published evidence of the cost-effectiveness of such workstations, particularly when coupled with the associated education and support that is needed to help ensure their uptake and sustained use, so ours is the first Australian study to show these interventions are good value for money.”

Deakin’s economic evaluation, published today in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, estimated that if the intervention was scaled up to reach 20 per cent of Australia’s office workers, it would cost $185.2 million, but would save 7492 “health adjusted life years” by preventing a range of obesity-related diseases.

Dr Gao said this equated to a cost of $28,703 per year saved, well below the often quoted threshold of $50,000 that society was typically willing to pay for these health savings.

Now that number may not seem like a lot, but remember the sample size!

She said the cost would also be partially offset by the $84.2 million saved in healthcare costs over the lifetime of these workers.

“Not only that, but from an employer’s perspective, adopting this workplace intervention also has the potential to reduce absenteeism and improve productivity,” she said.

“Before the trial participants spent an average of six hours per day sitting at work, 12 months into the trial that was reduced to five hours.

“Our evaluation shows that the introduction of sit-stand desks, alongside associated supports, is a cost-effective and innovative way to promote the health of Australia’s workforce.”

The net cost of the intervention was estimated at $344 per person, but Dr Gao said this could be reduced by economies of scale arising from bulk orders of sit-stand workstations, sharing workstations between part-time workers, and providing support through online resources and local office champions.

“Ultimately this intervention has the potential to make a very significant and sustainable positive impact on reducing workplace sitting time, but most importantly it is also cost-effective, which we know is critical in making the case for a wider rollout of this program,” she said.

2018-10-16T04:18:57-07:00Ergonomic Benefits|

Ergonomics Article – Is It How We Sit Or The Way We Sit?

Orthopedic surgeon Nomi Kahn says:

“Most of us do not sit well, and we’ve certainly been putting a lot more stress on our spines,” says Khan, who operates on spines at Sutters Health’s Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

If we change the way we sit, Khan says, it will help to decrease back problems.

“We should sit less, and we should sit better,” he says.

Over the past century or so, many Americans have lost the art of sitting, he says. Most people in the U.S. — even children — are sitting in one particular way that’s stressing their backs. You might not realize you’re doing it. But it’s super easy to see in other people.

Here’s how: Take a look at people who are sitting down – not face-on but rather from the side, in profile, so you can see the shape of their spine.

There’s a high probability their back is curving like the letter C — or some version of C. Or it might make you think of a cashew nut, sitting in the chair. There are two telltale signs: Their shoulders curve over and their butts curve under. That posture is hurting their backs, Khan says.

“Most people tend to round out their backs when they sit,” Khan says. “Their spine is in an improper position, and they will tend to have more back problems.”

Back problems crop up because sitting like a C — or a cashew nut — can damage the little shock absorbers in the spine, called the intervertebral disks.

“You can think of a disk as a jelly doughnut,” Khan says. “Sitting like a C puts a lot more pressure on the front of the doughnut than on the back.”

And what happens when you press down on one side of a jelly doughnut but not the other side? Jelly can squirt out.

Your spinal disks aren’t much different. Sitting in a C-shape, over time, can cause disk degeneration. Or one side of a disk can start to bulge. “The disk can then push against nerves, or it can rupture,” says biomechanists who direct the Spine Research Institute at Ohio State University.

“When the disks get messed up, you’ve got real problems,” Marras says. “So everything we do in biomechanics is to try to protect the disks.”

Are there experiments you can do? Take a look at the people around. Look for the “C.” Read the full article and hear the audio here.

2018-08-17T15:59:52-07:00Ergonomic Benefits, Tips|

Ergonomics For Children – An Ergonomics Article To Help With School

By Ann Hall, Ergonomist

Kids carrying backpacks? Check out these Ergonomic Tips:

Check their backpack every once in a while. In fact, if it feels pretty heavy, put it on a scale. If the weight is too much, find things to take out. Perhaps they don’t need to bring home every book, every day or they have a lot of clutter items that are just adding weight.

If they wear a backpack, make sure it fits them. Try on backpacks and make sure you have a good fit. Children should have backpacks designed for smaller frames and young adults should have backpacks designed for them. If you know that you have body dimensions such as a short torso, keep that in mind when purchasing.

Ideally the heaviest part of the load will be tight and close to the body, not drooping way down. Strive to have the bulk of the bag between the shoulders and the hips. Avoid letting the back pack hang more than 2-4 inches below the waist. The straps should always fit snugly to keep the bag close against the body and reduce swaying.

A bag with compartments is great, not just for organization, but it helps control the shifting of items in the backpack which can make the load become unbalanced. Best practice is to use the compartments to help distribute the load within the backpack. Make sure when you do this that you try to spread things out evenly, between the left and right side, and again heaviest items towards the back of the pack (side closest to the body).

Make sure the backpack has good straps, they are adjusted to fit the child and that the kids use both straps. Straps help absorb some of the load. Wide, padded shoulder straps help reduce the stress on the body. Be sure to readjust the straps to accommodate either heavier or lighter clothing during season changes.

Bags that you sling over one shoulder increase strain on one side of the body. Use double strapped bags that place a strap over each shoulder, not just one. Better yet, look for a back pack with both waist and chest straps too. Waist straps help to distribute the weight load and can reduce pressure in the shoulders. A chest strap helps keep the shoulder straps stable and reduces shifting of the load.

Coach them on proper use. Even if you have the perfect bag for your child, it is not a guarantee that they will use it the way you intended. Give them a little coaching when you see them over-stuffing the bag or carrying the bag using only one of the straps.