March 2022: Of Frogs, Improving Behaviors and Mitigating Static Postures

We begin our intrepid sojourn this month with an apologue relating to the preparation of Frog Leg Soup which, for over 1,000 years, has been a part of the national diet in France and several other countries.  Legal Obligatories: (1) No amphibians were harmed in the production of this article and (2)  yes, all this relates to Ergonomics and Risk Mitigation.

Gourmet chefs know that if you place a living frog in boiling water it will immediately jump out.  Wouldn’t you jump out?  If, however, you place the frog in room-temperature water and slowly add heat then it will remain there until, well, the inevitable outcome.  Classic psychology, indeed, observes that the frog is emblematic of human behavior.

In the world of people doing their work on computers, they’re spending at least one-third of their lives predominantly in static postures while enduring the irrefutable micro-trauma, inflammation, discomfort and then pain, treating it with high unnecessary healthcare consumption, fatiguing at unnecessarily high rates and quietly evolving to a full-blown injury case or planning to find a new employer who mitigates risk differently.  We weaponized the word unnecessary because the problem was preventable.

Here in March 2022, employers across the globe have embraced the Hybrid work model for most or all of their employees who perform their work using their computers.  Regardless of work location and in addition to web conferencing time, most computer work is performed asynchronously.  Unfortunately, both web conferencing and asynchronous work involve remaining in some position for substantial periods of time for most people.  

One thing that doctors, surgeons and ergonomists around the globe will agree upon is that replacing sitting with standing is not the answer since in multiple ways it adds further problems.  The lowest risk objective is to have people naturally changing postures during their work day to prevent static postures.  In order to arrive at viable sustainable solutions, we must first define the problem and understand static postures.  

Static Posture (remaining in one position for extended periods of time) is purely a matter of behavior; irrespective of your furniture, equipment, location or having taken a training course or self-assessment. 

Just before the pandemic, the insidious effects of Static Postures (sedentary behavior) had strongly been called-out and red-flagged by the AMA, WHO, HSE and NIH who’ve each identified sedentary behaviors as a major risk factor for significant negative health outcomes.  Evidence-based peer-reviewed studies have further clarified the significant negative health outcomes to be both immediate and long-term depending on the person.

Best Practices: Continuous Improvement

While a number of our newest clients have had training and assessment programs already in place, some have shared how they’ve decided on leveraging ErgoSuite to convert knowledge into sustainable behavior improvement.  These forward looking organizations embrace Continuous Improvement as a Best Practice, enabling them to adapt to a continuously evolving Riskscape.  

In the case of people working on computers in offices and home-based offices, Best Practice desirable behaviors include (1) working in neutral postures and (2) providing brief recovery time during work coupled with movement and gentle stretching to break up static postures.

Imagine if you had a virtual extension of yourself who will personally visit with each and every employee at their office and home-based office today, teach them key actionable best practices of computer ergonomics, help them assess and tune-up their at-home work area and thereafter personally coach them to learn to automatically move about and stretch periodically while they work, without having to think about it. 

Many people are familiar with the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words“.  Well, here’s “a picture worth 404,266,869 keystrokes and mousing seconds”. This is an actual ErgoSuite data chart analyzing a year’s usage of ErgoSuite’s Employee Tools by a large population of knowledge workers.

What Does The Chart Depict?

Reduce Discomfort, Fatigue and Eventual Injuries Due To Poor Ergonomic Behaviors

During this highly-effective behavioral training, ErgoSuite provides unique operant conditioning through positive reinforcement effectively helping employees learn to adopt neutral postures and pace themselves – learning microbreaks – eventually realized as new automatic behaviors. ErgoSuite’s unique behavioral training is automatically tuned to each employee individually in real-time working in concert with their ever-changing patterns of duration, repetition and recovery time at any moment in time.

It all happens steadily and gradually over time which precisely tracks well-known models of human behavior change as taught by Applied Behavioral Analysis.  This is the real world of effective sustainable long-term behavior change. The only way these new behaviors become sustainable is when the employee learns to change their behavior where they can automatically work in neutral postures, pace themselves, stretch and increase daily movement without having to focus on it. 

People’s capacity to learn new behaviors will vary from time to time based on many factors, however, the progression of objective data in the above chart is quite clear and significant representing how these employees are learning to automatically set their pace or beat while working with a computer for certain.  This includes periodically changing postures while working through your day.

The data of decades is both abundant and clear.  When employees can finally automate good ergonomic behaviors including working in neutral postures, providing brief recovery time during work with movement and gentle stretching, they’re more comfortable and produce more at a higher quality of work and lower risk profile.

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