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.