As we continue to deal with the new norm of working from home, employees are experiencing declines in their overall physical and mental health. Workers are reporting increased neck and back pain, as well as hip flexor stiffness or weakness. This also includes...
The New Normal – How Office Telematics Benefits the Remote Workforce
Forbes states, “ 74% of professionals expect remote work or a hybrid model to become the new normal”1; therefore, the demand for proper office setups has become essential for employees. According to the Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post, remote workers are reporting an increase in musculoskeletal disorders due to ill-conceived work setups. Despite the abundance of online material dedicated to offering ergonomic advice to employees, employees are still opting to use laptops at dining room tables, living room floors and couches, kitchen counters, and, the worst place of all, their beds. The frustrations of not having a dedicated office to work comfortably and quietly ─ away from distractions ─ supersedes the overall impact this will have on the health of the worker.
What Does The Long Term Affects Look Like?
Since the workforce direction doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon, it is important for employers to understand the impact the remote and hybrid work model will have on their employees. With poor ergonomic conditions comes poor habits such as increased sedentarism and, in some cases increased work hours. These habits can eventually cause pain due to poor posture, slouching, and sitting too long in one position. With companies adapting these work models due to the pandemic, it is becoming much more apparent that companies are setting themselves up for a different epidemic entirely.
Unfortunately, as the increase of discomfort rises, reporting these issues tends to decrease as fear rises. Many workers would rather ignore their pain instead of reaching out to a clinician or employer due to fear of job loss or jeopardizing the flexibility they now have working remotely. Regardless of what the reasoning is, musculoskeletal disorders don’t abruptly go away if ignored─; they get worse without treatment which eventually leads to a higher increase of worker’s compensation cases.
How To Combat Musculoskeletal Disorders?
While it is true workers can make changes in their work habits, like standing and stretch breaks, going for a walk during their lunch, changing positions throughout their workday, just to name a few, employers have taken their own approaches. Several companies have invested in ergonomic equipment for their remote and hybrid workers to improve their employee’s home offices. It has been shown that ergonomic interventions such as, external monitors with arms and keyboards for laptops and laptop holders, supportive seating and height adjustable desks reduce the number of work compensation claims, decrease overall value of those claims, and improve productivity. It’s important to note that while these interventions are helpful, they won’t succeed without proper training and actual usage.
How Do We Know Your Money Hasn’t Been Wasted?
Oftentimes, companies don’t want to foot the bill for these interventions due to the inability to track their workforce’s usage, especially now that majority of the workforce is primarily remote or hybrid. So how can employers track if interventions are being properly utilized? Through a concept known as office telematics. For years, vehicle manufacturers have used telematics by integrating driving features into dashboard screens such as GPS, computers, and on-board assistance at the touch of a button to streamline the best experience possible for their consumers. Another example is when car insurance companies offer something called a “safe driver discount”, but it can only be applied if you drive around with a device plugged into a console of your car that monitors if you are breaking too hard and more. It records that data then sends it back to the insurer and based on the number of times it beeped decides if you’re deemed a safe driver in their eyes or not.
Office telematics systems are just like this. With the implementation of these systems, employers now have a visual representation of how their employees are utilizing certain equipment, like sit-stand workstations. With this data, employers can deduce if the employee is switching positions from standing to sitting, how often they are changing their postures, and even when they’re away. Being able to look at this insight can allow employers to see not only if the investment was worth it, but if the need for further intervention is necessary assuming the data isn’t showing proper use. With these apps, they showcase the metrics by providing feedback and education to the end-user in order to provide guidance so they can maximize their desk effectively.
How Is StanData Helping Businesses Transform Company Ergonomics?
One app in particular that has been advocating for workers both remote and hybrid is StanData Technologies. In their pilot program, which was conducted prior to the pandemic, StanData was integrated into sit-stand desks and with this integration. Here are some of the results that were discovered:
- 90 percent of users were using their desks at the appropriate height for their stature.
- The remaining 10 percent weren’t and of that percentage, all reported increase discomfort and musculoskeletal issues.
- 25 percent were transitioning at the correct frequency.
By retaining this information, StanData was able to provide intervention in order to facilitate an increase in transitions and reduce that percentage that reported discomfort and musculoskeletal issues once offices returned back in person.
Since remote and hybrid work models appear to be here to stay, this same concept can be applied to home offices as location bears no issue. The use of gamification can motivate employees with goal setting and achievements while encouraging positive behavior. With this simulation, this can stimulate a connection with your team, despite working remotely. Hybrid workers can even take it a step further by adding office rewards after achieving a goal from home. Being able to integrate positive feedback from employer to employee builds morale and overall satisfaction, increasing productivity.
However, it’s important to note that not every company is implementing the remote and hybrid work models, in fact some have returned to full office operation. With telematic sensors, data can be used to monitor the occupancy rates of desks within the workplace, offering the information necessary to create re-opening protocols. For example, knowing which desk is occupied can streamline a maintenance crew’s workflow as they work to clean and disinfect the workplace prior to next-day’s operation. With occupancy data, companies can even utilize the information collected for contact tracing should an employee test positive for Covid-19.
By using office telematics, businesses will be driven by the data collected within the workplace to persuade major business decisions, just like the purchasing of sit-stand workstations for all employees. When you allow office telematics into your workforce, you’re paving the way for positive growth both productively and emotionally.
- Prossack, A. (2021, December 10). 5 statistics employers need to know about the remote workforce. Forbes. Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashiraprossack1/2021/02/10/5-statistics-employers-need-to-know-about-the-remote-workforce/?sh=329a20d4655d