Our stories: Home office assessments for corporate employers

How is this sector unique?

We’ve done office assessments in corporate offices for years, and they tend to be fairly straightforward once some purchasing standards have been set up. However, in most home offices, workers have already purchased or repurposed furniture, and space and lighting constraints are common. Home office assessments require us to evaluate equipment and determine what we can use, and what needs to be replaced.

What approaches have worked best for you?

If it’s not broken, we don’t fix it! During the pandemic, workers purchased a wide variety of chairs and sit/stand desks. Some of these would never live up to ergonomics standards! However, even a poorly designed chair fits someone well, so we don’t need to replace equipment if, by chance, it’s working just fine for the employee.

Callum adds that home assessments also give us an opportunity to try out some ‘duct tape style’ quick fixes that aren’t always an option in a corporate office building. A wider variety of temporary footrest, lumbar support and monitor stand options can be found in a home that are not available in an office building.

What are the biggest ergo challenges in this sector?

We do feel badly when we have to tell an employee that the desk or chair that was personally purchased is contributing to discomfort. Identifying appropriate next steps can be tricky. Most of our home-office clients have clear guidelines around who purchases what, and they’ve set up good relationships with vendors that provide durable, appropriate equipment. When an employee will be responsible for home office purchases, we do our best to offer the most cost-effective solutions.

To be fair, employers don’t have much control over how people are working in their homes. A manager probably can’t tell that Jeff is sitting on his sofa all day, or that Jasmine is slouched on her bed with a pillow under her laptop. Virtual meeting backgrounds make it impossible for employers to appreciate the working conditions of their employees. If you have not provided guidance and financial support to encourage employees to set up ergonomic work environments, there’s a very good chance that they are working in positions that would shock you.

What advice would you give to someone who is responsible for MSD prevention in this sector?

Don’t make people wait until they have unbearable pain before you provide support. Provide access to self-assessment tools, and make sure that everyone has a decent chair, a keyboard, mouse, and external screen. Working on the kitchen table was OK in the early weeks of the pandemic, but by now home office workers should have their feet supported and their keyboard and mouse adjusted to elbow height. We are dismayed by the conditions that many home office workers are tolerating, and we are not surprised that they suffer injuries. Sometimes, it’s a wonder that they can accomplish anything at all!

Other relevant points:

Even a good “ergo” chair won’t accommodate every body size, and a chair is only one piece of an ergonomic workstation. If workers report that they are not comfortable in their home office, get them some help. We can do in-person and virtual home office assessments, and we provide virtual office ergo training so workers can learn to adjust their own workstations.

People can work efficiently and effectively when they are comfortable. They’ll be friendlier to their co-workers and your customers if they are not distracted by back or neck pain. And they’ll be more likely to continue working for you for years, if they know you care about their wellbeing.

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