From factory floors and warehouses to offices and homes across the country, the nature of work has evolved significantly in the last couple of years. Research conducted by DORN Companies indicates that employers are noticing impacts in the overall health, safety, and wellness of their workforces that coincide with an unprecedented number of workers doing their jobs offsite, including in their kitchens and living rooms. The result is a growing need for adaptable solutions for ergonomics, injury prevention, and wellness that can accommodate hybrid workforces and provide holistic employee support.
Statistics: The State of Work in 2021
In a recent survey of EHS, HR, and workforce wellness professionals, 57% of respondents said they had noticed a major increase in pain levels or a major decline in overall wellness among their workers over the last 12 months. Some 80% reported employing hybrid workforces composed of on-site, remote, and work-from-home employees, and 17% said their entire workforce was remote.
For employees, these shifts have led to new wellness issues and ergonomic challenges that can threaten their mental health, quality of life, and engagement at work. In the same survey, roughly 23% reported employees having neck, shoulder, wrist, or back pain. Even more—55%—reported commonly receiving complaints of fatigue and high-stress levels from workers; around 70% of respondents also said their employees are reporting challenges with mental health and work-life balance.
At the same time, signs are pointing to a future where hybrid work is a regular part of life for employees and their organizations. UpWork’s research suggests that 73% of departments will include remote workers by 2028, and Forbes reports that 66% of employees expect to work in a hybrid model post-pandemic.
Meanwhile, the conversation around workplace safety has expanded and evolved to include more focus on wellness-related concepts that previously were rarely considered an important facet of safety. Partly in response to the pandemic and the shifting nature of work, wellness directors are for the first time beginning to incorporate safety data into their strategies. Likewise, safety managers who usually focus on ergonomics and engineering controls are adopting principles from the wellness sphere that aim to provide a more holistic foundation of support for workers.
Three-Part Approach: Solutions for Ergonomics, Mental Health, and Wellness
It’s clear that the future of workplace safety and wellness lies in a hybrid model that includes traditional safety and ergonomics as well as support for mental health and overall wellness.
All aspects of workplace safety and wellness are interconnected, and as stress levels and fatigue increase and work environments change, injury rates often spike as a result. In late 2020, Marsh predicted a 16% jump in musculoskeletal disorders and injuries over the following 12-18 months after seeing an increase of approximately 13% over the last 12 months. In response, employers are increasingly adopting additional ergonomic solutions designed around flexible services complemented with technology support.
Case studies have shown that successful ergonomics programs usually include a customized suite composed of several or all of the following:
- On-site therapies for managing immediate pain, discomfort, and injury symptoms
- Body mechanics coaching, conditioning, and training around ergonomic best practices pertaining to each employee’s specific tasks and work environment
- Ergonomic software to provide reinforcement and real-time adjustments to posture and biomechanics
- Ergonomic assessments to evaluate workstations and departments for injury and pain risk factors, either on-site or virtually
- Technology including wearable fatigue monitors, exertion sensors, and exoskeletons to support workers’ strength
Specifically, DORN recorded a case study with a major client in aviation and freight in which the employer reported initial MSD rates of over 2.5% and an average per-claim cost greater than $40,000. Following ergonomic and wellness interventions, the client reported:
- 83% pain level reduction
- 91% stress level reduction
- 85% improvement in morale
- 57% reduction in absenteeism
- $200,000 in immediate savings within the first few months
Mental Health Solutions
With employees experiencing more stress than ever, mental health issues are quickly becoming an area of focus for effective wellness programs. As a result, providing self-care support and open communication for employees has become essential.
Employers can support their employees’ mental health with:
- Emphasis on self-care
- Telemedicine, free counseling services, and employee assistance programs
- Helplines and real-time communication tools available to workers 24/7
- Free online and mobile apps for mindfulness and meditation
- Manager training to better identify mental and behavioral health issues and risk factors
DORN’s Self-Care Plus toolkit is designed to provide a holistic set of wellness solutions with mobility and conditioning apps, desktop ergonomics software, virtual ergonomic interventions, and virtual self-massage training.
Supporting employee wellness means maintaining an active focus on the wellbeing and resilience of the workforce. An effective approach to employee wellness should include:
- Leadership focused on employee wellness
- Preventative benefits
- Virtual on-demand and live self-care programming
- Fatigue management programs
- Personalized health, meal, and fitness plans
- Access to wellness coaching
- Stress management education
- Financial wellness education
With a three-part strategy that includes specific solutions around ergonomics, mental health, and overall wellness, employers can develop holistic programs that provide key self-care support while reducing the risk of injuries and improving employees’ quality of life. Contact DORN today to learn more about creating an effective wellness plan for your hybrid workforce.