Ergonomic pens: a small tool that can make a big impact

Ergonomic pens: a small tool that can make a big impact

The ultimate goal of any accommodation is to give people back their sense of autonomy, to remove obstacles and help them reach their full potential. As we frequently discuss, this goal often can be achieved through accommodations.

Sometimes, these accommodations are straightforward and small; sometimes they are larger in scale and include assistive equipment — such as dictation software or new desk configurations. Regardless of the recommended accommodation, the goal of each accommodation is to ensure it’s tailored for each individual employee to help him or her be more productive and work with less pain.

Recently, we found a simple approach that could help employees with a range of health conditions — from Parkinson’s disease to multiple sclerosis, diabetic neuropathy to carpal tunnel — that was not only inexpensive but incredibly effective: an ergonomic pen.

Reducing pain and discomfort
Unlike traditional pens — which must be firmly grasped between the index finger and the thumb, and often place stress on joints and muscles that can create carpal issues — ergonomic pens reduce these stressors. That’s because these pens limit the amount of pinching and contact stress a user has to apply, and reduces the amount of work exerted by wrist and hand muscles.

There are a number of conditions that can be helped by using an ergonomic pen. In addition to what I mentioned above, ergonomic pens can help employees with strokes, fractured fingers, rheumatoid arthritis, hand injuries and even neurological disorders.

A simple accommodation that made all the difference
I recently met an employee who struggled with neurological deficits and partial hand paralysis, and was unable to write. We provided him with an ergonomic pen and heard the very next day that the employee was able to write by himself for the first time in years. The ergonomic pen steadied his hand and reduced the tremors that conventional pens had exacerbated. This simple tool gave him back some of his independence that had been lost — a significant achievement.

We’ve used this simple accommodation for many employees over the years and have heard other great success stories. After handing out sample pens to teachers at a conference last year, a few of these teachers passed the pens along to some of their students who had issues holding writing utensils. We heard back that a few of them were able to write for the very first time – all because of the pen!

These stories are why we do what we do as Workplace Possibilities consultants. It also reminds us to always consider every possible option, and not just the newest and shiniest of technologies. It’s amazing the positive impact that can come out of such a simple tool.

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