Employers can support ergonomics by maintaining a proper workstation, providing education and offering proper paramedical coverage, says Dr. Crystal Draper, senior manager of professional practice at the Canadian Chiropractic Association.
“[Ergonomic support] is important so employers can help to maintain overall health and wellness of their workforce. We know chronic pain — and any type of pain, really — can inhibit someone’s overall comfort and can impact people’s mental health as well. So when we look at how that can impact productivity and livelihood, it’s an important piece of the puzzle for employers to consider.”
The CCA focuses on the three ‘I’s — investigate, implement and improve, says Draper, encouraging employers to consider these as well. “The first investigation phase means taking a look at the setup from an ergonomics perspective. A lot of workplace setups now are hybrid, so we might have a great setup in the office, but when we work from home a few days a week, we’re sitting at a kitchen table.”
Some considerations while investigating, she notes, include whether the employee is using a desktop computer or laptop, what type of desk their using — both in the office and at home — and deciding what’s needed to provide the best support.
The implementation stage involves actually using the equipment. “During implementation, we want to look at each specific worker and try to set them up individually for success,” says Draper. “There are some great resources employers can utilize to reinforce the right setup. This could be infographics on what a proper setup looks like or an ergonomic assessment to ensure they have a good workstation, meaning they’re set up for optimal posture.”
Depending on what resources are available, some makeshift options are also available, she adds, noting it can be costly to find what’s right for each person. One example is rolling up a towel to put behind a person’s lower back for lumbar support or putting books under their feet if they aren’t touching the ground.
The implementation stage also includes employers providing proper education, including “making employees aware of what tools and resources are available to them, having lunch and learns and even setting up walking meetings, because movement is key.
“We talk about perfect posture, but no posture is perfect for prolonged periods of time. And if those implementation strategies aren’t effective for certain employees, ensure they know what [paramedical] benefits are available to them.”
When it comes to chronic pain, early intervention is vital to improving, says Draper, adding if these strategies aren’t working for someone, the next step is to use some form of professional support like a chiropractor.
“Early intervention will help with productivity and decrease pain and some other comorbidities that can coincide with the pain. But these three ‘I’s are flexible because it’s dependent on the person. If they’re finding these things aren’t working, they can then go back to investigate, implement new strategies and [hopefully] see those improvements.”