Desk work can be hard on your body, and great Human Resource Managers improve productivity by improving employee health. Carpal Tunnel, Tendinitis, Rotator cuff injuries, Epicondylitis (elbow), Trigger finger, Muscle strains, and low back injuries are just a few of the Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) you can endure. Sounds fun right? Not so much.
But, these are the kinds of health-related injuries that humans can undergo in today’s working environment.
I bet you don’t want to imagine your retirement (or your team) having to wear a back brace, undergoing knee replacement, or a wrist surgery because of all of those hours sitting in a plastic chair typing, not to mention being overweight from all your sedentary activity.
Perhaps you are dreaming about a retirement centered around traveling, golf, or that beach house on the shore? It is likely you will not be able to enjoy any of those if you are constantly abusing your body now.
The average person working eight hours a day, for thirty years will have worked over 60,000 hours! To say it doesn’t matter how you sit, type, stand or whatever you do while working would simply be wrong!
It’s like saying a football player does not have to worry about heat-related injuries after playing for ten years hitting other people fifty times a game for 10 years. Conversely, it would be like saying a professional soccer player is out of shape.
Our working environment has an immediate impact on our health and well-being. It impacts our physical well-being in some way or another. Work is also what puts food on the table, a roof over our heads, and fills our highest needs of self-efficacy and purpose.
Humans cannot avoid work and thus it’s vital that it is a place where they don’t have to suffer long-term health effects. Rather they can maintain or even enhance their well-being. While all of this is true. And most people would agree, then why don’t people take care of their bodies while working?
Why does it go to the back-burner? Most of the time, it is a matter of productivity or creativity. But, if you really look at it, you will find that it isn’t hard after all to make working a less hazardous occasion. Human Resource Managers improve productivity in organizations to make them better.
There is a Solution!
Now that we understand the risks and a glimpse of how much work means to our livelihood, we can move on to solutions – MSD’s are not a casualty of the war that we have to undergo.
There is a whole area of science dedicated to helping fit people comfortably with their work environments. Now you can walk away from work being the person you were born to be (and be more productive), not somebody injured at their desk.
Ergonomics is the process of fitting the tools you use for your job to the people so that they can at the very least reduce the likelihood of these conditions and lead healthier lives.
If you agree with what’s been said so far, and you want to help implement it, read on. Ergonomics is sometimes hard to describe. It is hard to convince senior leadership to understand the benefits. Don’t let that get in the way of doing what’s necessary to make your working space an Ergo-friendly environment.
Start by doing your research on the WIIFM factor (What’s In It For Me) for Senior Leadership. Human Resource Managers improve productivity by asking this question: How will ergonomics help the business?
You can answer that question by citing this page where everyone can see the cost advantages of efficient more human-friendly processes.
Not to mention, it has been shown that Ergo-friendly working places also have less absenteeism, lower worker’s compensation claims, reduced recruitment costs, and lower turnover.
Not to mention, your team will respect you more for caring about their health.
Cultural Significance and Executive Buy-in
In order for ergonomics to be effective and profitable, it has to be a part of the culture. A culture is a shared system of values and beliefs. If everyone doesn’t support 100% in maintaining a safe and productive working environment, it simply will not last. That is why Senior Leadership buy-in is so important.
If you don’t believe me, think back to a time when your brother wanted to do something like go to the park. Because it was his idea, you probably did not want to go. But, 15 minutes later, your dad suggests and you are all in. Why? Because there is an aspect of the leadership presence which makes things happen.
Your leaders are leaders for a reason – people follow them. It would be most advantageous for someone at the top to spearhead this effort so that the rest of the team or company knows it is a top concern. Otherwise, you are going to burn yourself out like a dog chasing its tail.
Once Senior Leadership buys in, it is time to get the workers involved in designing customized and cost-friendly solutions (no, we’re not suggesting buying golden keyboards). Ask your workers some of these questions:
- Where in your work are you experiencing highly repetitious tasks?
- Where are you experiencing forceful exertions?
- Are you experiencing any sustained uncomfortable positions?
One way to collect data would be to conduct a job analysis where you dedicate someone to carefully observe a worker’s output throughout the day. Sometimes it takes a 3rd party to really see how inefficient or simply unproductive a person’s environment is for them.
After data is collected, you can bring a working group together, identify problems, and constructive solutions collectively. It would also be wise to identify what kind of budget you have for these solutions.
Examples of solutions you can implement are back-supportive chairs, standing desks, and hand-friendly mice. You can also look at redesigning processes, implementing stretching breaks, job rotation, and teaching proper body mechanics.
How did we do?
Once a solution is established, implement it and evaluate its effectiveness. Make sure as you come up with solutions, ask these questions, “How will we know this is effective?” or, “How will we know this impacts our bottom-line?”
Stray away from answers like “revenue growth”, since there are a lot of factors that go into that one. Focus on other tangible metrics like recruitment costs, turnover, absenteeism, and morale.
This type of reporting should be a part of your monthly meetings or other regular evaluations. This reporting will be a part of your culture and it should be measured and reinforced constantly. Suggest members of your team rotate as captains each quarter who will drive these Ergo-metrics (yes, I made that up).
We are only Human
In conclusion, Ergonomics is vital to the success of your company because a company does not consist of robots, but a group of human beings. In today’s landscape shifting to an office, from a plant, you may think you do not need to worry about this as much, but Human Resource Managers improve productivity by helping improve employee health.
Unfortunately, that is just not the case. Musculoskeletal Disorders are just as present in our workforce and can be potential hazards if they are not addressed.
So, what to do now? Get executive buy-in, build this into your culture, gather intake from your team, implement solutions, and measure your success. If you are a leader help your Human Resource Manager improve productivity. I guarantee you will see heightened appreciation from your team for thinking so highly of their long-term health.