There’s something funny that happens at small businesses around the country: employee job titles never seem big enough to encompass every single role each person plays throughout a day. That’s because most employees wear multiple hats, doing the accounting one minute and greeting customers at the front desk the next. This is just what small business employees do — work hard, and fill in where they’re needed.
It’s for this very reason that ergonomics is so important to the small business: when every employee is a linchpin, their health and well-being equates directly to the health and well-being of the company. But for small businesses in which the budget is on the smaller side, it is especially important not only to implement ergonomics programs but also to foster a much wider and more engrained culture of ergonomics to ensure that the investment pays off and then some. After all, there’s no use investing in fancy (and expensive) ergonomic adjustable desks if your employees keep it at a less than ideal height and continues to hunch all day.
So, how can you foster a culture of ergonomics? Let’s take a look.
1. Start With Your Employees
Sure, you may have done all of your research on the economics of ergonomics, but your employees most likely have not, and no one takes kindly to top-down directives from the corner office that aren’t well explained. What’s more, even if your employees are feeling of the pain of RSIs (Repetitive Strain Injuries), musculoskeletal disorders, and computer vision syndrome (CVS), they may not know where it’s coming from or otherwise feel very eager about changing behavior that’s been getting the job done for so many years.
To get your employees on board with an ergonomics program, they have to feel that the idea is coming from within their ranks. To do so, begin with a meeting on the topic of pain in the workplace, and have employees speak up about what’s hurting and why they think that is. If they don’t know about carpal tunnel syndrome, tell them.
Then let your employees know that you’re looking into ways to make working at the office more pleasant, and ask them for any thoughts on what they think could help. After they’ve had the chance to advocate for themselves, offer your own solutions, like buying split keyboards, exploring alternative ways to sit throughout the day, and even paying for gym memberships to encourage employees to challenge their muscles in new ways. Have employees vote on their favorite ideas before you make your executive decisions.
In this way, employees will feel included in every step of the process, and therefore will be more likely to participate.
2. Make It a Team Effort
Ergonomic equipment can save your employees from a lot of pain and lost productivity, but it will require some retraining to use, especially if employees have been working in less than ideal ways for some time now. If you have the budget for an ergonomist to come in regularly and check up on each employee and offer tips as they retrain, fantastic! If not (and even if so), it’s also a great idea to have employees team up for regular checks — weekly at first, then less frequently as employees master their new ways of working — to offer tips and support.
It also is well worth setting a few office-wide initiatives. You might, for instance, encourage employees to hold more walking meetings. You could also have set stretch or even yoga times, so the whole office is getting out of their seats as one.
3. Get the Company Leaders on Board
While the idea for an ergonomics program needs to feel bottom-up, that doesn’t mean company leaders have a free pass to slouch. In fact, the more devoted company leaders seem to making ergonomics a key part of their own working habits, the more likely employees will be to jump on board, too. After all, it’s a lot easier to accept the minor inconvenience of retraining your muscles when you know your bosses are doing so too. What’s more, it shows that you believe in the power of ergonomics, and are committed through and through.
4. Make It Fun
Who said ergonomics had to be a drag? Take the concept out of the nitty gritty by hosting a 30-day challenge — a great way to get your initiative launched or to inject a little more fun into the process. Host a party to celebrate your success, and give out prizes for the most inventive ergonomic solutions or hacks. The more fun and engaging your ergonomics initiative is, the more likely it will be to stick.
5. Incorporate It Into a Wellness Program
If you have a wellness program — and if you don’t, you really should — make sure it’s clear to your employees that your ergonomics initiatives fall under this umbrella, so they’ll know it’s definitely sticking around. Wellness programs are all about making your employee feel nurtured and valued. Combining that mentality with an ergonomics program will only strengthen that feeling, which in turn will keep your employee retention high and your retraining rates low.
Culture Of Ergonomics In Short
Ergonomics is a savvy investment for your small business. And so, too, is the time and energy it takes to creating a strong culture around it. Where will you begin? Let us know in the blog comments.