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How Can I Help My Staff Prevent Work-Related Injuries?

HR Question:

With more of my employees working from home, how can I help my remote staff prevent work-related injuries?

HR Answer:

As many organizations have adjusted to a drastic increase in the number of employees working from home, many leaders and professionals are now having to address new challenges as it relates to work-related soreness and injuries. Many employers are finding that they are suddenly challenged with potential work-related injuries from hazards that are not under their direct control. So how can leaders help their remote staff prevent these new unique work-related injuries? Fortunately for both employees and employers, there are several solutions to consider for supporting employees working remotely.

Individual Virtual Ergonomic Evaluations:

Usually best for small workgroups under fifty employees, individual ergonomic evaluations (done virtually) can allow employers to evaluate employees’ workstations and to coach team members on the best work practices to stay safe and prevent injury. Plus, this provides an opportunity to review wellness topics for remote work.

That being said, this assessment can be more expensive for employers, depending on the number of employees. The model typically works for the occasional need, but may not be able to support a large demand for services. Recommendations for equipment may also be expensive, as well.

Scalable Process to Support Larger Workforces:

A scalable process can provide a more comprehensive strategy, allowing for fluid access for larger teams – up to thousands of people. It also should include an ergonomic expert at your fingertips and support for your entire team to individually address their issues. Any partners you have in the process should assist in equipment recommendations and modifications that can be preselected options for your team. And, due to the large number of individuals to cater to, the per-screen cost can be lowered with volume.

This process isn’t for everyone, however, as this model may be more than what is needed for smaller employers due to the front-loaded start-up time.

Ergonomics in an at-home environment can be challenging, as there is no standardization of the working environment as there is in an office setting. To accomplish a Zero Injury goal, employers need to recognize this fact and be careful to select the best partner to support their teams. Be certain to choose a partner who has a vetted process in virtual assessments, experience providing ergonomics with injury prevention, and who has a secure platform to complete the needed assessments and reporting for your team.

To assist employees with computer workstation safety, employers can also access a valuable and inclusive Computer Workstation eTool Checklist, created by OSHA, that can serve as an office or home office assessment. The resource also includes “work station components,” “work processes,” and “work station environments.”

Employer support can extend beyond ergonomic support as well. This is also an opportunity for employers to encourage physical therapy and other movements to compensate for the lack of access to normal workout locations. Many employees may see stress and anxiety levels escalate due to COVID-19’s impact on their daily life, and as a result, will carry that stress and anxiety in their muscles without an opportunity to release it. Direct access to physical therapy is a great resource for employers and employees alike, as it can help to lower your healthcare cost and support your employees to stay active and healthy. Employers can look for local physical therapy partnerships that provide free screenings in person or virtually, via Telehealth, and other support options.

As an additional measure, employers may provide no-cost information resources to their teams such as PopSugar.  PopSugar is an online, app-driven website that provides hundreds of videos for workouts such as yoga, Pilates, and other classes that enable stress reduction, prevent burnout, and reduce bodily injury. The site also includes nutrition, wellness, healthy living fitness, and more. PopSugar is just one of many similar sites available with a quick google search.

While employers have been faced with new and ever-evolving challenges in 2020, there are some great options to help conquer these obstacles and turn them into opportunities for their at-home staff. Employers need to make the choice to address these issues proactively and seek out partners that can help them succeed in preventing new and debilitating injuries.

Special thanks to Tom Ernst from Oxford At Work for contributing to this edition of our HR Question of the Week! Oxford at Work is a mobile workforce available in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Partnered with Fit For Work, Oxford at Work is able to assist clients locally and at a national level. 

During these uncertain times, be sure to check out our COVID-19 Employer Resources for webinars, resource guides, our Return to Work Guide, and more to help you navigate your business through the challenges you are facing.