A good ergonomics program has a dramatic effect on a company’s bottom line, increasing efficiency and productivity rates and reducing the rate of absenteeism. But even a well-planned ergonomics program is only as good as its implementation. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the most common mistakes companies make in creating and implementing an ergonomic program, and just what you can do to avoid falling into such traps. Traps that could cause you to make one of these common company ergonomics fails.
Company Ergonomics: Most Common Ergonomic Intervention Fails
1. Not consulting employees about their needs
Even if they don’t have the technical jargon to describe them, employees have a unique level of insight into the ergonomic issues they encounter in the workplace everyday. After all, they’re the ones who find themselves rubbing their wrists after a day of typing, or struggling to pick up their kids and once again pulled their back out when lifting boxes full of supplies. And yet many companies implement their ergonomic programs in an entirely top down manner and determine on their own where the greatest payoffs will be. This may lead you down the wrong path when approaching company ergonomics.
It’s not that top down decisions are all bad. In fact, as we’ll see below, employees may know what physical pain they’re encountering, but the causes of that pain can be a little more difficult to pin down. Still, self-reports are important pieces of information. And even more than that, employee buy-in matters. They have to change their behavior to make these ergonomic solutions work. So you’ll need them to feel like their opinions have been considered.
In company ergonomics, this will not only make your ergonomic solutions more likely to succeed, but it will also make your employees feel listened to and cared for. And that is a recipe for success.
2. Not providing training
Another common failure of ergonomic interventions occurs when they are simply handed over to employees without further training and support. Many ergonomic solutions require a rewiring of the employee’s muscle patterns. As they switch from a less than ideal approach to one that is more ideal, but not their usual manner of operating.
With in-depth, upfront and regular training, employees will be much more likely not only to use their new ergonomic equipment correctly, but also to stick with it.
3. Not considering the psychosocial aspect
Even motivated employees who implement ergonomic solutions will find themselves much more so when they have a supportive coach, mentor, or colleague to check in with on a regular basis. It is essential to make employees feel like they are supported in every way. Especially when they are asked to substantially alter their usual mode of operation. When implemented, company ergonomics can be extremely beneficial for the psychology of the employee.
The psychosocial aspects of ergonomics begin even earlier in the diagnosis phase. Employees may know they have some type of pain. But they may not know that this pain is actually stemming from something deeper. For example from conflict with a manager or from a dissatisfaction with the job at hand. The pain may be real and it may even be somewhat addressed with the help of a good ergonomic intervention, but it will be even more effective when solutions are also implemented to address these other issues as well.
4. Not measuring the impact
Like any new big initiative, an ergonomic intervention program should have clear evaluative methods built into it. This helps companies determine their ROI. Measure reductions in your absenteeism rates, as well as the rates at which workers compensation claims are filed. While it’s not hard data, it can also be useful to interview employees before, during, and after an intervention. See how their aches and pains change and (hopefully) reduce.
5. Not considering the intangibles
There is much about ergonomics that is intangible. While it’s certainly important to measure the hard data, it’s just as important not to get too caught up in it. You might, for example, see an uptick in the amount and speed of product shipped. Possibly even an increase in creative ideas coming out of your company. However, it is difficult both to measure these things, and to draw a direct causal line between your ergonomic interventions and these improvements, as strong as these underlying connections may be.
In short to simply summarize the “Top 10 Ways Companies Get Ergonomics Wrong:
Ergonomics can have a big impact on a company’s productivity and bottom line, but it’s not a magic wand. It needs to be implemented with thought and care. With a little bit of attention paid, the results can be breathtaking.