“The Evolution of an Office Ergonomics Program” was the title of my presentation at this year’s American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Exposition (AIHce) in San Antonio, TX. Incorporating an online ergonomics self-assessment and training program into an established corporate office ergonomics program is becoming the norm and can improve the way office ergonomics is managed. However, with change comes opportunity for improvement. Based on my experience managing office ergonomics, here is the first of three key learnings I shared.
Lesson #1: Maintain a Strong Communication Plan
Most people are resistant to change, especially those of us employed at large corporations. At one site I managed, we replaced traditional face-to-face office ergonomic evaluations with online self-assessments. (Face-to-face evaluations were still available to address risk and discomfort, if needed.) At first, employees resisted completing the online assessment because they were accustomed to receiving a face-to-face evaluation. To transition to a new way of managing office ergonomics, a strong communication plan was put into place with the following elements:
Before an employee was activated in the online system, he or she attended a training class. Employees were more willing to complete their online assessments if they understood why the program changed, were taught how to use the software, and knew what was required of them. Understanding the new initiative not only cleared up misconceptions, but it got them engaged.
The on-site ergonomist took every opportunity to change the company culture to focus on the new program. The ergonomist participated in campus-wide health and benefits fairs, placed posters in lobbies and elevators, and wrote articles for the campus newsletter. The goal was for employees to view the online assessment and training as the key component of the office ergonomics program.
A consistent message should be delivered throughout the organization. Everyone should answer questions about the initiative in the same way. If a process, policy, or requirement changes, it should change for everyone. If employees know that there is no way to get around a new policy, they are more likely to follow the requirements.
After two years of maintaining consistent communication messages, most employees willingly complete their online ergonomics requirements.
Be sure to visit our blog next week for Lesson #2.