Flexible working arrangements are often the centrepiece of an organisation’s employee attraction and retention strategy. The opportunity to work flexible hours or from a remote location can excite the employee but it can also present the employer with an entirely new set of ergonomic risks that need to be managed in accordance with WHS legislation.
A 2013 survey on flexibility in the workplace conducted by WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association that focuses on workplace effectiveness, found that 52% of organisations surveyed offered employees the opportunity to work from home on a weekly basis.
Advances in technology and the ease of information access from outside the corporate office environment has meant that flexible working arrangements have gained in popularity and expanded rapidly. Despite this trend, many employers have not established a system to adequately address potential ergonomic risks or are struggling to come up with a cost effective method to address ergonomics in a remote or home office environment.
Organisations can be proactive in working to address the ergonomic risks of a home based worker or workers in a flexi-desk arrangement. An on-site ergonomic assessment conducted by an appropriately qualified consultant is regarded as the most effective way of identifying and mitigating ergonomic risk but this method is often cost prohibitive, particularly for organisations with widely dispersed workforce in remote locations.
The use of an online ergonomic assessment as part of an ergonomic program has become more popular for proactive organisations. The online assessment is most effective if it is accompanied by remedial action or recommendations, training or guidance on mitigating ergonomic risk.
In addition to online systems some organisations provide remote phone based assistance or support to help workers. The increasing use of webcams and/or digital pictures through smartphone technology provide the advantage of allowing an evaluator to view equipment being used by the home based worker and observe how the worker interacts with this equipment. It can also allow the evaluator to demonstrate appropriate posture or workstation set-up. Home office safety checklists have been traditionally used as a quick and easy method of evaluating risk but one with obvious downfalls. Pre-arranged ergonomic equipment suppliers and supplies have also been used as an effective component of a broader ergonomic program.
Research indicates that the most effective remote ergonomic programs provide the greatest return on investment if they use a combination of an online self-evaluation with phone support when needed.1
Konekt will soon launch an ergonomic product offering to provide customers with an online self-evaluation ergonomic risk assessment which will provide employees with immediate feedback through a report, and combine training and advice to help ensure workers operate from a safe working environment.
The online system will allow for the upload of pictures and questions will align with appropriate Australian standards and be structured to prevent employees from incorrectly reporting their work behaviours or discomfort, providing an accurate ergonomic risk profile.
The ergonomic risk profile will allow an appropriately qualified Konekt evaluator to prioritise a secondary assessment via phone which provides for direct interaction with the worker and enables the evaluator to gain better insight into the workers risk profile through the asking of open ended questions around the discomfort and ergonomic risk rating recorded through the online assessment. Immediate remedial actions are taken where possible and recommendations are made to optimise the workstation set-up.
Where the risk is determined to be high, an on-site ergonomic assessment will be offered to the organisation as part of the overall service offering.
Konekt look forward to providing you with further updates and confirming a launch date in the near future. If you have questions about this service in the interim please contact your local Konekt contact.
1 Ergonomics for Telecommuters and Other Remote Workers, Jessica Ellison, 2012.