Program Showcase: Remote Ergonomics

Tasha Patterson@Work

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Remote Ergonomics Assessments: Process and Benefits

By Mike Milidonis, CEAS

National Manager, Ergonomics and Employer
Services, Genex Services

At the beginning of 2020, many employers had only a handful of remote employees. With the COVID-19 pandemic and associated shutdowns, many companies transitioned office staff to working remotely.

An October Gallup poll found a substantial portion of Americans who started working from home in April and May had since returned to their workplaces; 33% were “always” working remotely in October, down from 51% in April,1 which was the height of business restrictions to that point. The third surge of COVID-19 in November and December may totally reverse that. States are responding to hospitalizations and fatalities that are as high or higher than the first surge in spring 2020. Along with reductions in the percent-of-capacity allowed in stores, churches, and other public buildings, employers are again reducing the number of employees on worksites to reduce infection risks.

Research has shown that remote work can bring many benefits to employees, such as an improved work-life balance, enhanced job performance, and heightened productivity. However, it also comes with risks, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration still holds employers responsible for employee safety even when working from home.

Office staff could potentially sustain musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or even back pain, if they don’t have appropriate office equipment at home, including adjustable chairs and desks that help achieve healthful neutral postures.

To address these issues, employers may provide ergonomics assessments to remote employees to ensure they have at-home workstations that meet basic ergonomics best practices. These assessments are quite economical, especially when weighed against the duration with which employees may be working from home due to COVID-19 and the savings that could be achieved through injury prevention.

Our organization has been providing remote ergonomic assessments since 2010. If a remote ergonomics assessment does not result in reduction of discomfort, an on-site assessment can be provided. This has only occurred twice in the past five years, demonstrating the effectiveness of the remote ergonomic assessment process. The pandemic has increased work-from-home arrangements and, with it, the need for remote assessments. Based on feedback, employers find the service useful and supervisors believe the assessments reduce discomfort, increase productivity, and help work-from-home employees to stay engaged.

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