Call Center ErgonomicsSo far this month, we’ve taken a good look at how accountants can increase the ergonomics of their workspaces — and their productivity along with it. This week, we turn to one of the highest risk office-based workspaces on the planet: the call center.

Call center workers face a number of challenging issues. Many work long hours just to meet their quotas, and often spend that time craning over phones, entering data, and absorbing the stress of those who call them, all while remaining surprisingly chipper. Complicating matters, in some call centers, workers often rotate workspaces, making it difficult to create customized ergonomic solutions at dedicated desks. Altogether, this can lead to a host of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), including lower back and neck pain, as well as muscle soreness, eye strain and Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) like carpal tunnel syndrome. Not only are these injuries tough on employees, but they can also make a big dent to the employer’s bottom line in terms of increased insurance premiums, workers compensation claims and time off.

But don’t worry. There are a number of things employers can do to increase the ergonomic health of their workspaces.

1. Do a Site Assessment

You can’t very well fix a problem unless you know exactly what it is. Through analysis and employee interviews, a simple site assessment conducted by an occupational healthcare organization will help you pinpoint just where your hazards lie. Making a budget for this assessment is a savvy investment that will pay off in the long term. However, smaller call centers may do just fine running themselves through an ergonomics checklist and acting accordingly to fill in any gaps.

2. Make Workstations Adjustable

Having employees move workstations frequently doesn’t have to be a huge ergonomic headache. Just make those workstations adjustable, so that all workers can find the positions that best suit their bodies and behaviors. Adjustable desks and chairs can do just that, as can desktop peripherals. A good ergonomic keyboard, for example, will pull apart in the middle and tent vertically, allowing call center workers to find the perfect fit for them. If your company uses laptops rather than desktops, a tablet and laptop stand is an excellent companions for an ergonomic keyboard, as it will allow each employee to adjust the height of their screens until they find a position that keeps their necks neutral, rather than straining up or down. This will also help workers move the screen so that it’s an arm’s length away, helping to prevent eye strain.

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And of course, it’s really a given that employees should have hands-free headsets rather than relying on traditional phones (but you probably already know this). Doing so will drastically cut down on neck pain, as well as many other associated musculoskeletal disorders.

3. Vary Postureemployees walking out of meeting together

Even if employees do have a dedicated spot, building adjustability into your call center workspaces is key, as it will allow workers to change their positions throughout the day, sparking increased blood flow and forcing muscles to move in new and beneficial ways. Varied posture can begin simply by asking employees to switch between a more reclined position and an upright posture as they type throughout the day, or even alternating between sitting and standing.

Even better, encourage employees to move around when they take their breaks. This could mean anything from a power walk to the water cooler to stretching in their seats, doing group yoga in the break room, or holding a walking  staff meeting. The more movement is just a regular part of a day in the call center, the more natural it will become, the greater the reduction in muscle strain, mental fatigue and metabolic disorders.

4. Make it a Management Priority

If management doesn’t care, then workers won’t either (or they will care, but they won’t know what to do about it). When management makes ergonomics a priority, employees are much more likely to adhere to any ergonomic protocols just to please the boss. This is all the more so when management arranges for support groups or a buddy system, so that employees can regularly check in with one another exchange problems and tips. Managers also make for great role models, showing the team that they’re in on this too and aren’t just passing down arbitrary rules from up on high.

5. Check In With workers Frequently

Both before you make any big ergonomic overhauls to your call center, during the changes and after, it’s important to keep the lines of communication widely open with employees. They are, after all, the ones on the front lines of pain, and they have the greatest insight into where remedies are needed. They also are the best judges of whether or not any given intervention is working. The more call center workers feel included in these big changes, the more likely they are to actually change their behavior and contribute to the cause.

The Takeaway

In ergonomics, it’s best to shoot for prevention before treatment. That’s incredibly important to task-heavy call centers, where repetitive motions rules the day. What first steps will you take to ensure your call center adheres to the best ergonomic standards? Let us know in the blog comments.

Did you enjoy this article? Check back next week for ergonomic tips that are just right for your engineers.