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Options Online Newsletter, January 2013

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope the start of 2013 is treating you well. Although we are not typically participants in making resolutions for a new year, we do find that the start of a new year is a good time to reflect and make sure that what we are doing is effective, efficient and economical. We have done this with respect to our services and have some ideas on how we can help you work smarter not harder, and achieve a positive return on your investment. The remainder of this e-newsletter focuses on sharing these ideas, as well as some of the science behind them.

As always, please contact us to discuss how we could customize or assemble any of our services to help you work smarter not harder in 2013 and take your ergonomics program to a higher level.

Understanding the Impact of Micro and Macro Ergonomics Programs within the Office Environment

In the office workplace, ergonomic equipment and accessories, such as adjustable chairs, workstations, mice, keyboards and monitors have become commonplace. Ergonomic equipment has often been implemented with the goal of reducing repetitive strain injuries and discomfort among office employees. This type of intervention falls under the umbrella of ‘Micro-Ergonomics’. Micro-Ergonomics has been in place since the late 80’s and early 90’s, when computers became a necessary tool of the office trade, but the introduction of ‘Macro-Ergonomics’ has only been in the research spotlight in recent years. ‘Macro-Ergonomics’ focuses on the entire work system, taking into account the company organization and work policies which are all part of the “corporate culture”. Many researchers have shifted their focus from evaluating the impact of ergonomic equipment and tools (Micro), and are now studying the effectiveness of ergonomic training interventions and programs (Macro).

In the early 2000’s, the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety (LMRIS), specifically the Center for Behavioural Sciences (CBS), began to investigate if there are any benefits to the implementation of both micro and macro-ergonomics in an office workplace. More than 600 intensive computer users (defined as using a computer greater than 4 hours/day) were involved in several field and laboratory studies that implemented both a micro-ergonomics program (new tools and equipment) and a macro-ergonomics program (intensive ergonomic training, ergonomic tips and reminders and management staff involvement).

The LMRIS field studies separated employees at accounting, public and private businesses into three distinct categories:

  • Micro-Ergonomics group: employees that received an improved ergonomic workspace or ergonomic tool (such as an adjustable chair);
  • Macro-Ergonomics group: employees that received the ergonomic workspace or tool in combination with ergonomics training; &
  • Control group: employees that did not receive tools or training.

Pre and Post intervention workspace assessments were conducted for all three categories in the three business streams, along with Web-based surveys interested in worker opinions about health, discomfort levels, work organization and performance. The ergonomic training provided to the Macro-Ergonomics group included information aimed at improving knowledge about proper ergonomic office set-up, along with periodic emails and reminders about ergonomic principles.

Within all three business streams, the Micro-Ergonomics and Macro-Ergonomics groups showed significant decreases in whole body (musculoskeletal) discomfort over the control groups, post intervention. This suggests that receiving an ergonomic intervention (such as tools or equipment) can improve worker well-being, which has previously been shown. However, the added point of interest is that the groups that had training and were provided with tools/equipment (Macro) showed an even larger decrease in discomfort across all three business streams. The Macro-Ergonomics groups were also shown to have a significant improvement in ergonomic knowledge, were more comfortable adjusting their workstations periodically, and demonstrated improved performance outcomes. Using a macro-ergonomics approach to empower employees with the knowledge, as well as the equipment, to integrate ergonomic concepts and principles was most effective.

To confirm the field study findings, researchers from LMRIS and CBS conducted a controlled experiment in a laboratory setting. This involved 22 healthy participants who were randomly divided in half with one group receiving 1.5 hrs of ergonomic training and the other group receiving minimal training. Both groups were provided with sit-stand workstations. The trained group received mandatory instruction to stand over periods of time during days 7-12 and were sent reminders to rest or to re-adjust their furniture and posture. The outcome of the lab study strongly supported the field study findings, in that the trained group demonstrated significant increases in office ergonomic knowledge versus the minimally trained group, as well as significant decreases in musculoskeletal discomfort following the intervention.

These field and laboratory studies confirm that the introduction of adjustable office furniture or accessories as part of a micro-ergonomics program can lead to decreases in musculoskeletal discomfort among employees. The studies also confirm that the addition of a macro-ergonomics intervention (such as training and the inclusion of ergonomic standards in company policies) can improve ergonomic awareness, performance and lead to further decreases in discomfort among employees for the long term. These results can be used as justification towards expanding your current ergonomics programs from the micro to the macro level.

Expanding your Ergonomics Program from a Micro to a Macro level can be achieved through a customized application of Options Incorporated programs, services and support. Enhancing your current program will help you realize the maximum benefits for your workers as well as, a maximum return on your investment (ROI). Options Incorporated offers a number of services that we would be pleased to review with you to develop a plan for a successful and effective Macro-Ergonomics and Musculo-Skeletal Disorder prevention program.

Simple-Effective-Economical:  SEE the Difference!

Are you looking to increase knowledge and awareness of office ergonomics for your staff? Does your staff have hectic schedules which make organizing training sessions difficult? Do you want to provide a cost effective and time efficient means of training? If so, Options Inc. has developed an online office ergonomics training program to meet your needs. The program encourages workers to make ergonomic changes to their workstations independently and includes information on signs & symptoms, and pacing & stretching. A reporting and tracking feature is also included that permits follow up contact from someone within the company for additional help when needed.

An applied study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of the online program. The results of the study indicate that the online program is an effective method of sharing ergonomic knowledge and guiding workers through the process of independent workstation adjustment. Specifically, 58-84% of the participants were able to accurately assess their chair posture (58%), back support (75%), typing posture (68%), monitor height (84%) and monitor distance (75%).

Participants in the applied study also completed a User Questionnaire after completing the program. The results of the questionnaire showed that:

  • 100% of the participants understood the instructions and were able to navigate through the program without difficulties
  • 100% of participants reported the program easy to use; &
  • 78% found the instructions on making the changes easy to implement with 23% having some difficulties.

A simplified version of this online training tool, without the reporting and tracking feature is also available for the general public to use for FREE. Users worldwide have tried this tool and the feedback they provided helps support the effectiveness and ease of use of this tool. Some user comments are as follows:

This site helped me see how to set up my chair to relieve the back discomfort I was having, by adjusting the back support to the appropriate height. Very helpful!
– Campbell Company of Canada

Nice tool. Very easy to read and understand. Very helpful tips and interesting facts.
– Fielding Graduate University, USA

I suffer with Lower back pain and it may be due to sitting down at my workstation and not getting out of the seat enough during the working day.
– Pilbara Logistics, AU

I love your tool. It is one of the most accurate I have found. Thank you!
– Kayleen, AU

Implementation of the Office Ergo Online program can be completed with minimal resources as it is run off an external server and all data is managed through Options Incorporated. If you are looking to increase knowledge of your staff in an easy to access, convenient, easy to understand, and proven manner then please contact us to arrange access to a FREE demonstration.

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