Ergonomics: You And Your Staff Deserve To Work Pain Free

Have your employees complained that they are uncomfortable in their physical work environment? Do they complain of back, neck, or wrist pain or other physical discomforts?

Both answers give you important and valuable information. If you answered “Yes,” what  are you currently doing to address this issue? If you answered “No,” how do you know this is true? There are many reasons employees might not complain. Are they afraid of speaking up for fear of being scene as difficult or disgruntled? Or are they afraid to speak up for another reason?

HR folks often allow employees to pick and choose a “product solution” for their discomfort. This does not address the “HOW.” How do you use this new product using neutral posture principles AND is this product solution the “REAL” solution to the underlying issue? Let’s say someone has wrist pain, they get a new mouse but don’t know how to use it properly and their wrist problem does not get better but gets worse. Maybe the mouse was not the issue to begin with – it could have been caused by a non-neutral position, i.e.: reaching too far out to the mouse or maybe the person’s mousing height was incorrect and that was the cause of the issue. Ergonomics deal with root causes and takes the guessing out of the equation.

This is where an ergonomic professional comes in. They can help your employees who have physical discomforts feel better, have more energy and be more productive by teaching and training them in neutral posture (ergonomics). But even more important they can help you keep healthy people to STAY healthy. Ergonomics is a preventative tool. Kind of like brushing your teeth. We don’t wait to get a cavity; we brush them regularly to PREVENT cavities from occurring in the first place. Simple steps can make a BIG difference.

Here are examples which show that working from home without workplace assessments or appropriate equipment has increased musculoskeletal discomforts.

A study showed more than one-third reported more aches, pain, and discomforts in the neck (37%) and back (35%) than usual. An increased level of fatigue was seen at 42%. ~ from: Wellbeing under lockdown, Occupational Health at Work

With two in five workers reporting new pain or increased pain in their shoulders, back, or wrists, its time to make home workstations more ergonomically sound. ~

Ergo Pandemic Study: Chubb

Here is an example from an ergonomic point of view when walking into a meeting or video conferencing in with employees: a five foot tall woman was sitting in a room with three identical desks and chairs. In that room was the five foot tall woman, a man over six feet tall, and a person of “average” height. All working at three identical desks, with their keyboard, and monitors at the same height. Do you think this solution was working for any of them? The answer is No! All three people had obvious different physical characteristics, yet they were working at identical work areas. Of course, aches and pain will follow, it is just a matter of time. Obtaining adjustable equipment or having the existing equipment adjusted for individual physiques, should be standard. You and your staff deserve to work pain free all of the time.

It is important for employers to remember that standard height desks and standard height monitors can never fit all the different kinds of physiques employees have.

How ergonomics can benefit your organization:

  • Workers’ compensation – Invest money in your employee’s health and wellbeing to save you money in the long run
  • Happier employees lead to higher productivity
  • Probably the most overlooked aspect is having your employees feel cared for. As one person stated “I feel different about my employer knowing they care about my physical wellbeing. I have never had that feeling before in working for a company. It makes me feel important and that what I do and how I do it is valuable.”
  • Employee retention
  • Reduced missed days at work due to discomforts
  • Help employees feel good and have more energy

How you can use ergonomic services for you and your employees:

Individual work-site assessments identify potential sources/causes of discomfort, pain, and fatigue. These assessments focus on:

  • Improved work practices and techniques
  • Adjustments to the work environment
  • Selection of equipment or furniture as needed

Virtual ergonomic classes cover principles including:

  • Ergonomics in general
  • Adjusting the chair for comfort and positioning
  • Adjusting the keying/mousing height and positioning
  • Adjusting monitor height and distance

Interested in learning more? Please feel free to connect with Serafine Lilien, MS at She has 20 years of experience and has completed over 15,000 ergonomic evaluations. Reach out to her for classes, training information, and individual ergonomic evaluations for you and your staff. You can visit her website at: She also has an ergo tip newsletter and you can email her to get on her list.

Hiring Is A Big Deal – Use The Right Tools

According to a 2020 Harris Poll, 70% of employers check out applicants’ profiles as part of their screening process, and 54% have rejected applicants because of what they found. Social media sites like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram offer a free, easily accessed portrait of what a candidate is may be like, potentially yielding a clearer idea of whether that person will succeed on the job—however, one should be asking if what is seen has anything to do with the job?

Very little of what you find is predictive of performance. What information is discovered is ethically discouraged or, in some cases, legally prohibited from being taken into account when used to evaluate candidates or make your hiring decisions. So extreme caution should be used when accessing this information.

There were three studies conducted offering employers’ insight into recruiting concerns and flaws. In the first of the three studies, the researchers examined the Facebook pages of 266 U.S. job seekers to see what they revealed. Some of the information that job seekers had posted (education, work experience, and extra­curricular activities) covered areas that organizations routinely and legitimately assess during the hiring process. But a significant number of the profiles contained details that organizations will be legally prohibited from considering, including gender, race, and ethnicity (evident in 100% of profiles), disabilities (7%), pregnancy status (3%), sexual orientation (59%), political views (21%), and religious affiliation (41%). Many of the job seekers’ profiles also included information of potential concern to prospective employers: 51% of them contained profanity, 11% gave indications of gambling, 26% showed or referenced alcohol consumption, and 7% referenced drug use.

This may give you a peek into why recruiters love social media—it allows them to discover all the information and details they aren’t allowed to ask about during an interview. Remember, our interviews need to focus on behaviors within the work context.

In a second study, the researchers explored whether such information affects recruiters’ evaluations. They asked 39 recruiters to review the Face­book profiles of 140 job seekers (obtained from a previous larger study) and rate each candidate’s hireability. The researchers then mapped the recruiters’ ratings against the content in each profile. Although the recruiters clearly took heed of legitimate criteria, they were also swayed by factors that are supposedly off-limits, such as relationship status (married and engaged candidates got higher marks, on average, than their single counterparts), age (older individuals were rated more highly), gender (women had an advantage), and religion (candidates who indicated their beliefs got lower ratings). Factors such as profanity, alcohol or drug use, violence, and sexual behavior lowered ratings; extracurricular activities had no effect on scores.

In the final study, the overall outcome: neither group’s assessments of the candidates accurately predicted job performance or turnover intentions, indicating that hiring representatives stand to gain little from probing applicants’ online activity. Details on the third study can be found with the information below.

There are better options! Steps and actions within your control and job preview. Please consider your candidate experience from beginning to end. Think of the questions you are asking: focus on questions that provide insight to the applicant’s emotional intelligence, to their soft skills that make them successful in the job, situational and behavioral questions focusing on their behaviors of the past, as well as cultural questions to confirm the applicant is in alignment with the values and mission of the organization. Ask about work related pet peeves, what motivates them, best work environments, greatest accomplishments, etc. Think about what they are bringing to the table today and what they bring that will benefit the organization in the future so that you are hiring for today and for tomorrow. Ask them what they want to learn. Seriously, you want to develop your employees over time. What do they want to learn? How do they want to learn it? How do they think they learn best? What can they teach others? Wrap this up with your onboarding process and training. Please do not forget or rush this step. This time sets the stage for the employment relationship which equals retention.

Side Note: participants in the studies willingly granted the researchers permission to view their Facebook pages—but as we know in many cases hiring managers don’t need to ask, because profiles are often public. What’s more, previous research found that a third of U.S. recruiters request access to candidates’ Facebook pages, and the vast majority of job seekers comply. As we know, that is changing. More than 20 U.S. states now prohibit employers from asking applicants to pull up their social media pages during an interview or to share their usernames and passwords. EU regulators go a step further, forbidding hiring managers from viewing a candidate’s social media unless that person explicitly consents.

About the research: “What’s on Job Seekers’ Social Media Sites? A Content Analysis and Effects of Structure on Recruiter Judgments and Predictive Validity,” by Liwen Zhang et al. (Journal of Applied Psychology, 2020)

Time for Open Enrollment Planning

Your 2023 benefits open enrollment period is approaching and new needs will pop up as we continue with our hybrid workplaces. You will have to decide whether conducting your meeting in person, virtual, or a mix is going to be best for your employees. You need to ask yourself: 

Are you able to have all-staff meetings, or do you need employees to meet in smaller groups to avoid disruptions in production or safety considerations?

Are there some employees who will be best served by meeting in-person, while others will need to go through open enrollment virtually?

Whatever option you pick, your communication planning is paramount. Your messaging is important and the medium you use (well-crafted emails, brochures, and reminders) live, in-person, or virtual meetings vs. pre-recorded can also be productive and offer the opportunity as an on-demand feature. Your considerations may be number of employees, locations, employee tenure, your benefit offerings, the changes that need communicating, etc. 

We are sharing some checklist items from Celeste DaVault from USI and Deena Harvanek from Mercer along with some of ours as the backdrop to suggestions and planning steps for your consideration:

Make a plan and develop a strategy

  • Review your notes from what worked and what did not work from last year.
  • Set goals and measures for outreach, use of digital resources, and enrollment.
  • Conduct employee surveys or conduct employee listening sessions (when, how, who).
  • Determine your media plan, develop key messages, and identify all audiences, making content personal, simple, and direct.
  • Consider that most employees base their enrollment decisions on; answers to four basic questions: What is it? What’s in it for me? How does it work? How do I sign up?

 Get the word out

  • Let employees know it is coming…and your deadlines.
  • Think generational – what works best with each of your populations to hit your targets.
  • Distribute a pre-enrollment flier (printed and online).
  • Hold a virtual benefits fair
  • Who will attend – all of your providers/partners? Any incentives offered? Single event or multiple sessions/days?
  • Distribute an enrollment packet, again with a reminder of due dates (printed and online).

 Ready, set, go!

  • Launch enrollment through a benefits portal, for a period of about three weeks.
  • Take this opportunity to rethink your approach to open enrollment – create opportunities for “open door office hours” if people need to talk one-on-one.

 Measure success

  • Consider your stakeholders. What is it they want and need to know?
  • Developing year-round communications,
  • Research and update your offerings and support services
  • Track the results of your efforts. If possible, gather data related to:
  • Health plan and retirement plan elections
  • Increased contributions
  • Video views and material downloads
  • Email open rates and click throughs

An additional observation for your consideration: Often times employees do not know what they had….what was offered until they “need” it or until they leave. So, take this concept and work backwards with “how do I convey the messages I want or need the employees to hear and understand?”