October 2022: Hybrid and Remote Employees Can Replace High Risk Ergonomic Behaviors With Healthy Ones

We’ve all heard the saying “Human beings are creatures of habit“.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “habit” as “a way of acting or doing that has become fixed by being repeated often” and, within the science of Psychology, habits are well-understood as “repeated patterns of behavior“.   Within the science of Ergonomics, both good (low-risk) and poor (high-risk) habits are well-understood.  Further, high-risk habits are the major ingredient in Musculoskeletal Disorders for people performing their work on computers.

These foundations prepare us for exploring the 2022 Info Sheet published by EU-OSHA providing evidence-based and expertly simplified guidance for employers and employees on how to protect against what is already a major growing problem – Musculoskeletal Disorders in Remote Employees.  

In fact, the EU-OSHA information, position and guidance is 100% relevant and applicable to employers on every continent since human anatomy, physiology and MSDs are ignorant of country borders. Further, it’s important not only for hybrid and remote workers but also, of course, for people working on computers in their employer’s offices.

Regarding employees using computers, health and safety professionals clearly understand the vital importance of the “Best Practice Good Behaviors” of working in neutral postures and providing metabolic recovery time while working (microbreaks) and breaking up static postures. 

The 2022 Info Sheet for employers, published by EU-OSHA “Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders When Teleworking”, begins with the following: 

Imagine yourself as a senior professional expert at EU-OSHA and you had an opportunity to help employers and employees – but only within four pages.  How would you approach this?  You would obviously present the most important actionable points to maximize the reader’s benefit.

The resulting Info Sheet is an easy read for Health & Safety Professionals, Managers, Executives and employees.  While reading the four page Info Sheet is highly recommended, some of the key points made in the sheet include:

For all of the important reasons, we all want our employees to have a comfortable, positive, productive and safe experience while working on their computer whether it be in the employer’s offices or home-office.

Mitigating ergonomic risks can be surprisingly straightforward using evidence-based science and methods, however, desired outcomes aren’t achieved unless the prescriptive guidance is forged into enduring improved behaviors.  It’s also clear from reading the articles that the doctors caution that duration is also a serious threat here where the duration they’re referring to is the time that the unhealthful behaviors or static postures are permitted to continue.

Framing The Issues

At many times throughout our lives, each of us encounter situations where we’ll greatly benefit from improving our behaviors.  Specifically regarding employees working on computers, we understand, guided by more than 40 years of evidence-based science, that to work comfortably, safely and most productively we need to conduct our behaviors in known healthful ways including:

Changing how people do something can appear simple on the surface.  So, why don’t we all simply, abruptly and forever change our behaviors after simply taking a course and being told to do something?  As you would expect, there are reasons.

In order to better frame the problem before attempting to finally solve it, one must become aware that practicing good ergonomic behaviors such as working in neutral postures, moving about periodically and providing recovery time while working are secondary behaviors which are far different than the primary behaviors of simply operating a computer.

Back to the realm of office ergonomics, how can you improve this secondary safety behavior of integrating neutral postures, moving about periodically, and pacing without a point-of-use operant conditioning positive reinforcement tool being used? 

Yet another significant challenge is that most employees using computers have had years of repetition to reinforce their unhealthful behaviors so we need to crowd-out the unhealthful behaviors with healthy behaviors.

search for anything in our site:

Reach out so we can exceed your expectations too