August 2020 Newsletter:

Staffing Challenges: How Does Ergonomics Help?

Perhaps it seems odd to be discussing staffing challenges when so many folks are out of work and looking for jobs; it should be easy to fill your positions, right?? If it was only that simple.

COVID-19 has impacted so many aspects of our lives and those impacts bleed over to highlight already difficult staffing issues found in many workplaces such as high turnover rates.

Regular turnover of employees is time consuming and expensive. Training of new employees takes time and resources; that includes recruitment, training and the inevitable reduced productivity as staff learn their new role. It could take as much as 1-2 years until a staff member is “fully productive” (Training Industry Quarterly) – that’s a long time to not be operating at full efficiency!

We recognize that ergonomics is not the “magic bullet” to solve all hiring issues, but if training of new hires is expensive, then it stands to reason that staff retention is key to reducing this expense and ergonomics can have a positive impact on that.

Workplaces with strong ergonomic programs (read: workplaces that are actively working to improve work practices) can positively impact employee performance, overall wellness and workplace culture, all of which have been proven to positively impact retention. Workplaces that do not focus on ergonomics typically create a work environment where employees experience fatigue, frustration and pain/discomfort - not a recipe for retention.

Employers that are focused on helping promote a positive health and safety culture through ergonomic interventions are often seen as supportive, forward-thinking and a more attractive option for employees, and may mean staff stick around longer, reducing hiring and training demands.

Always true but never more so than during a time of economic uncertainty, workplaces are watching where their dollars are spent. When some workplaces hear the word “Ergonomics” they see dollar signs, expensive new devices, tools, and equipment and shy away from engaging in an MSD (musculoskeletal disorder) prevention program … but not all ergonomic interventions come with a significant price tag!

Start with education. This is often a “low-hanging fruit” ergonomic intervention. Look for ways to empower staff to take charge of their posture through workstation layout changes, working heights and more. By teaching them about ergonomic principles and discussing ways they can achieve improved posture through changes to their work area, they are able to better protect their body, helping to prevent injury.

These tips apply to new hires AND current staff being reintegrated to the workplace. As you go through new hire or refresher safety training consider incorporating a good ‘front line worker’ ergonomics education session that is grounded in the principles of empowering staff to help themselves work smarter, not harder.

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