At-work accommodations have become an increasingly important issue as more employers focus on employee health, safety, and productivity in the workplace to comply with accessibility legislation requirements. Employers are expected to proceed with a diligent evaluation when an employee has a medical condition or disability that is impacting them during their role, to determine if they could benefit from a workplace accommodation. Accommodation solutions come in many forms, such as ergonomic assessments to remove workstation equipment barriers, identify assistive technology, and implement workplace strategies (absences or medical breaks). With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many employees to work from home, employers have been forced to rethink ergonomic accommodations. Many employers scrambled to enable remote work and had to revamp their approach to assist employees with setting up their workstations at home. Even the smallest ergonomic modification, such as adjusting an employee’s chair or providing a footrest or monitor riser, can be enough to improve an employee’s comfort and safety at work. So, what has changed?
How did ReedGroup handle at-work ergonomic accommodations work prior to COVID-19?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, at-work ergonomic assessments were frequently completed in person at the worksite. After receiving a detailed accommodation request form, our team of specialists would visit the worksite, assess the employee’s workstation set up, provide education to the employee on proper ergonomic set up, and make recommendations to the employer on any potential equipment needs. Where our recommendations included the purchase of additional equipment, employers were more flexible, as the equipment was going to remain in their office and could be easily re-deployed should an employee no longer require it.
How have employers changed their approach to ergonomic accommodations for employees working at home?
Many employers have provided varying levels of equipment or a stipend to their employees working from home to ensure employees have access to set their workstation up properly from an ergonomic perspective. However, the types of workstation equipment employees are purchasing for use at home varies significantly. Different types of set-ups can require continuous adjustments and creative solutions, making it harder for employers to provide support. Employers are also less willing to purchase expensive ergonomic equipment, unless medically necessary, as it is unknown how long employees will be working from home and significant investment in home office spaces, in addition to physical office locations, can be extremely costly for employers.
What has ReedGroup done to adapt?
The pandemic has limited physical access to people; thus, all ReedGroup’s assessments are now completed telephonically and/or through video chat. Employees are asked to submit pictures of their home workspace for our virtual assessments. With ergonomic equipment being limited in many situations, our team has become creative with different ways to accommodate employees who are working from home. Through the utilization of everyday household items and customized tips and tricks, we have been able to complete ergonomic assessments and often improve employee workstations without the purchase of additional equipment. For example, we can guide employees who are working from home on how to measure and use household items as a footrest or a riser for their monitor or laptop. Where they have a laptop and need to rotate between sitting and standing to manage low back symptoms, we can educate them on how use a kitchen counter or dining room buffet with different laptop risers for bouts of standing.
Utilizing the tools available to ensure that your employees are comfortable and safe in their workspace increases efficiency and decreases absence and injury costs. Although employers have been left to navigate employee requests for accommodations within their own home, accommodations remain as important for employees working remotely as they were in office spaces.
Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.