Over the past couple weeks, I’ve shared with you a couple lessons learned from implementing an office ergonomics initiative (from my AIHce 2014 presentation, “The Evolution of an Office Ergonomics Program”). Here is the final lesson:
Lesson #3: Management Buy-In
In order for an office ergonomics initiative to be effective, employees have to be involved in the program. You can give your employees the best office equipment, such as ergonomic task chairs and height-adjustable work surfaces, but they will do no good unless your employees know how to adjust them correctly and set up their individual workstations to fit them. In order to get high levels of employee participation in your program, it is important that management from across your company buy in to your ergonomics initiative. For example, if you are deploying an online ergonomics self-assessment for employees, you will have the highest levels of participation if your managers complete their own self-assessments, and encourage their reports to do the same. Here are some ways to sell an office ergonomics self-assessment program to management:
Simple Safety Goal – Many companies (especially companies with an ergonomics program) place a high value on safety. Some even have it as a core value, and some require employees to set yearly goals related to safety. However, office workers, not working in a traditional high-risk environment such as a factory or warehouse, may struggle to come up with appropriate safety goals. “Completing my office ergonomics self-assessment” is a great goal for an office employee’s annual plan, and management can encourage or require employees to set this as a goal for the year.
Easy Metrics – If you can provide easy-to-understand metrics with a clear path to improving a team’s performance, management is more likely to take action to increase participation in the program. For example, if you provide management with a percentage of people in their department who have completed the online ergonomics assessment, and a list of individuals in the department who have not completed the assessment, managers will know which employees they need to follow up with in order to increase their department’s conformance with the program requirements.
Competition – Even within a company, there can be friendly internal competitions, such as between departments, floors, buildings, or sites. Take advantage of this and share information about all groups, as an incentive to increase participation in the program. For example, if 85% of people on the 2nd floor have completed their ergonomics assessment, and 95% of people on the 3rd floor have completed it, managers on the 2nd floor may encourage more of their employees to complete their assessments, so they can “catch up” to the other floor.
In general, if a manager doesn’t value your ergonomics program, the employees who report to him or her are less likely to participate in the program. However, if employees know that their manager places high value on office ergonomics, they are much more likely to complete their assessment. That will lead to more employees with their desks set up appropriately for them, increasing overall productivity and reducing the risk for musculoskeletal disorders.