Ergonomic principles can help your employees not only work safely and productively, but it also encourages health in their lives as well. The goal of ergonomics is to optimize how we work by designing a workspace that is conducive to better productivity and employee well-being. At the 2022 WCR Conference, two experts discussed ergonomic risk management around remote work. Speakers included:
- Lisa Orr – Senior Human Factors Consultant, Sedgwick
- Dawn Watkins – Director, Integrated Disability Management, Los Angeles Unified School District
The Importance of Ergonomics
There are many benefits of emphasizing ergonomics in the workplace, including:
- Increasing comfort at work.
- Showing employees they are valued and increasing morale.
- Demonstrating respect for the diversity of individual physical, mental, cultural and emotional differences.
- Leading to fewer injuries and less absenteeism.
The Impact of Work from Home
Office ergonomics are not easily translated into work-from-home environments, especially with most employees having limited space to devote to a home office. They may share workspaces with family and have difficulty duplicating accommodations that exist in the office.
During the pandemic, some employers had significantly fewer claims from their remote workers. Claims that did involve work-from-home incidents were often more severe and typically focused on repetitive trauma caused by a very poor home office workspace.
Common Ergonomics Mistakes in Work-from-Home Environments
Common ergonomics mistakes made when working from home include sitting on the couch or floor, working on a kitchen island or even lying in a bed. The reason these workspaces are not ideal involves:
- The lean/perch. Employees may have an improperly fitted chair, leading to too much distance from the keyboard and inability to reach the floor with their feet. This causes the worker to lean into their computer, adding strain to their neck, shoulders and back.
- Too high of a work surface. Most kitchen tables are higher than a standard office desk, so employees using this space may rest their wrists on the table surface or bend their elbows improperly.
- The bent/twisted neck. An employee’s monitor may not be in front of them or is too low, so they are looking down or sideways all day.
- The foot dangle. If a worker’s chair is too high, or their feet are not supported, it can add excessive stress on the lower back.
Preventative Strategies for Employers
Employers should remain focused on ergonomic training, providing:
- Information during employee orientation.
- Regular self-assessment tools.
- Software that reminds employees to change positions over time.
- Individual ergonomic assessments.