For some, the workplace today looks very different from that of a year ago. A variety of work and work-from-home models have brought new challenges for managing staff, including new ergonomics and health and safety hurdles that organizations must overcome so their workforce continues on the job safely.
One solution is virtual assessment and training services. As corporations adjusted to new employment strategies, so too did the consulting sector, converting many of its in-house services to online and/or virtual platforms. This transition has allowed consultants and employers to start the process of re-evaluating how we engage, train and provide various services to our in-house, at-home and mobile staff, ensuring the ergonomic needs of employees are being met wherever they may be.
Those who have not yet experienced a virtual ergonomic training or assessment may have some questions that can be easily answered.
What kinds of ergonomic assessment services can be done virtually?
Those services specific to the employee experience, workstation set-up, training and job coaching, and cognitive demands assessments are fair game.
Our most common virtual assessment is the office ergonomic assessment. Whether in office, at home or on the road, the virtual office assessment can ensure workers are set up in accordance with ergonomic guidelines. To ensure a full and comprehensive assessment, staff are asked to complete a detailed questionnaire prior to the assessment, giving the ergonomist key data (e. g. pictures, measurements) that will allow them to assist in achieving an ergonomic set-up.
The recommendations that result from this assessment (if applicable) can span a broad spectrum. For staff working from home short-term it may include immediate workstation adjustments, implementation of household items (e. g. towel, books) to improve set-up or involve more specialized equipment from the office to be used until they return. All this is achieved through a video-conference call.
Another ergonomic assessment that aligns well with a virtual model is a cognitive demands assessment. A cognitive demands assessment is a document that will assist with claims made under work-related mental stress, for the early and safe return-to-work. This is similar to how a physical demands assessment aids in physical injury claims.
As this assessment is primarily interview-based, it has been easily transitioned to a virtual service, and this is an excellent opportunity to ensure that workplaces experiencing mental health claims have the documentation required so an employee is able to return to work safely and within their cognitive abilities.
What training strategies can be used for workers?
At-home workers now spend considerably more time at their computers than when they were working in-house. With conference calls, online meetings, emails and reports anchoring them to their computer workstations, ensuring that staff are properly set-up becomes not only a socially responsible decision, but a legislative due diligence and can make an impact on overall claim costs.
Thus, home office ergonomic training initiatives should be considered for all organizations that have staff working from home or on the road.
Although the past year has focused on at-home office training services, with today’s technology, training initiatives have opened up opportunities for cross-country engagement and networking among employees and even various industry sectors. For example, public ergonomic training sessions for supervisors allows supervisors from many different organizations to come together to discuss their biggest challenges and how they have solved them.
Such is an opportunity never offered to this level of administration before. And online breakout sessions for group work, polls and video analysis exercises can be fun. Supervisors are able to achieve many of the same learning experiences as an in-person session, but with greater networking ability to uphold the corporate health and safety objectives.
What services are not recommended virtually?
Not all services are well-suited to the virtual world. Services that require taking objective measurements and include information that ergonomists should be able to validate through their own measurements and observations, such as physical demands assessments and ergonomic risk assessments, are still best completed onsite.
Jobs with multiple tasks or high mobility, such as field workers, sanitation crews and maintenance, are also unfit for a virtual model. Too many details can be overlooked without seeing and understanding the full scope of the job.
To ensure efficiency, save money and receive quality and valid data, it is important to realize when to take advantage of virtual services and when to do it old school.
Whether your staff are working from home, in-house or traveling, exploring the array of virtual services available can help organizations provide innovative, necessary assessments and training to all employees—allowing their ergonomics and health and safety programs to flourish.
Alexandra Stinson R.Kin., CCPE is a Certified Professional Ergonomist and Co-Owner of PROergonomics. With over 20 years’ experience across North America, she excels in solving diverse ergonomic challenges, lowering injury claims and developing sustainable ergonomics programs, policies and training programs. PROergonomics prides itself on a professional experience that is focused on a proactive, preventative ergonomics model that helps organizations move past a reactive claims-driven approach.