You may have heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Well, it turns out that’s just a myth. Lally et al (2009) found that, on average, it takes people more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic. So, what does that have to do with your office ergonomics process? A lot, especially if you’re one of many organizations who are making the shift towards sit-stand workstations.
Recent studies by Robertson et al (2013) and Callaghan et al (2015) emphasize the importance of ergonomics training, implementation, and reinforcement of behaviors in overall adoption of sit-stand workstations. It turns out that simply providing training or providing equipment isn’t good enough. At Humantech, we simplify the process into Learn–Do–Manage…a blended model of employee training, coupled with workstation adjustments, and monitoring of the process over time.
- Awareness-level training should cover not just the “what” and “how” but the “why”. Employees need to know why varying postures can be helpful in reducing discomfort and preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
- Awareness training should be meaningful and relatable to employees. If they use tablets, provide training on tablets. If they use multiple monitors, address multiple monitors.
- Training modules should be concise and on-demand; employees want to learn when they want to learn. It may be during their first week on the job, but more likely it will be when they’re starting to feel some neck discomfort, or when they move to a different workstation or get a new chair.
- Physically adjusting the workstation and equipment is key to long-term retention of ergonomics training principles.
- Practice periods are important to establishing behavioral changes (habits). It may take as long as two or three months, but creating sit-stand routines and establishing guidelines will help employees effectively use equipment.
- Callaghan et al (2015) suggest a ratio of 1:1; for a typical 8-hour workday, employees should have 4 hours of seated work and 4 hours of non-sedentary work, comprised of standing, walking, or other activities. Start with accumulating at least 2 hours of non-seated work throughout the workday. Then transition towards a total accumulation of 4 hours.
- Collect and use quantitative data to identify trends and make decisions. Avoid the temptation to purchase the latest gadget or “cool” product.
- Implementation of new equipment doesn’t just mean dropping off a box or getting things installed; it must include training, adjusting behaviors, practice, and reinforcement.
- Conduct follow-up assessments to ensure concerns have been addressed and discomfort or symptoms have been reduced or subsided.
Do you have all three of these elements in your office ergonomics process?
Callaghan, J. P., De Carvalho, D., Gallagher, K., Karakolis, T., and Nelson-Wong, E. (2015), Is Standing the Solution to Sedentary Office Work? Ergonomics in Design, 23 (3): 20–24.
Davis, K. G. and Kotowski, S. (2015), Stand Up and Move; Your Musculoskeletal Health Depends on It. Ergonomics in Design, 23 (3): 9–13.
Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998–1009.