In my first post on working with back pain, I talked about ways to help assess the employee’s situation and better understand his or her limitations. But once you have a grasp on how the back pain affects the employee’s ability to do work, how do you make accommodations to the employee’s work environment or job duties? There are no “one-size-fits-all” answers, but asking questions and regularly following up with the employee can lead to a more successful job accommodation.
What do you do when an employee comes to you requesting accommodations because of back pain? Then, what do you do if the employee’s doctor does not give you the information you need to identify suitable, job-relevant accommodations? What are some common effective accommodations? These are some of the questions I hear regularly when working with employees and employers to accommodate back pain. In this post, I will explore ways to address these questions and begin to consider accommodations for employees.
I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m an ergo-nerd. I spend a lot of time thinking about products and devices that help people do everyday tasks more easily at home or at the office. In fact, I even have a short list of favorite tools for an injury or chronic pain.
If you use a laptop on a regular basis like a lot of people, I have two questions for you. Where are you when you use your laptop (on the couch, in a hotel room, at a coffee house, in bed, on an airplane)? What is the most common position you’re in (sitting up, lounging back, sitting cross-legged on the floor)?
Now think about what those positions and locations can do to your body.
Ergonomics. It’s almost become a buzzword in our industry. As a vocational case manager I’m trained to understand not only what it is but how to implement changes to prevent workplace injuries. In my experience, I’ve found some of the most common workplace injuries result from repetitive stress.
As a disability resources consultant I’m often asked why ergonomic programs fail. The biggest reason: Companies forget to take into account employee behavior.
When a company starts an ergonomic evaluation it traditionally looks to identify and reduce basic ergonomic risk factors — things like poorly placed monitors or ill-fitting chairs. Some companies even take it a step further by inviting employees to be active participants in identifying and eliminating those risk factors.
It’s what happens (or not) after the evaluation that determines the program’s success.