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Five Steps to Find the Right Ergonomic Accommodation for an Employee

Whether it’s to help alleviate back pain or decrease neck and shoulder stress, many employers think that a certain piece of equipment, such as a sit-stand desk, is a cure-all ergonomic solution for every employee’s medical condition. While a sit-stand desk can alleviate many health conditions, it may not be the best solution to help every employee.

Comprehensive disability programs, like the Workplace PossibilitiesSM program, take a holistic approach when determining what stay-at-work accommodations can best support an employee with an illness or injury. These five steps may help ensure your employees are receiving tailored accommodations to fit their individual medical needs and keep them productive in the workplace.

Identify an Employee in Need

You and your managers play an instrumental role in step one: identifying when an employee may need an accommodation. In some instances, an employee may proactively approach you or a manager about his or her health condition. In other instances, the employee may not say anything. This type of situation may require you to reach out to the employee and see if they need assistance to help them at work.

During these initial conversations, let your employee know there are resources available that can provide an evaluation and make recommendations based on his or her medical needs. Remember, though, to be mindful of the questions you ask. If the employee would like to learn more about the resources available, then it’s time to connect your employee with the appropriate resources.

Call Your Disability Carrier

Once you’ve identified and confirmed an employee would like assistance, it’s time to begin the stay-at-work process. To set the process in motion, the Workplace Possibilities coordinator will ask you to complete a stay-at-work referral form.

This background information helps the Workplace Possibilities coordinator determine what kind of stay-at-work assistance may be needed. For example, if it’s a mental health condition or a physical condition, the Workplace Possibilities consultant will choose a disability consultant who specializes in that particular discipline. Another part of the stay-at-work process is providing the employee with the necessary forms he or she needs to have completed by their medical provider. Once the paperwork is filed and a Workplace Possibilities consultant has been assigned to the case, the assessment process can begin.

Conduct an Ergonomic Assessment

To begin the assessment, the Workplace Possibilities consultant will work with you and the employee to schedule an on-site ergonomic evaluation. During this time, the Workplace Possibilities consultant will observe the employee at work, and ask questions regarding the tasks the employee performs, especially tasks that may exacerbate their symptoms. This helps the Workplace Possibilities consultant understand how the employee does things, such as sitting at his or her desk and performing daily tasks, and what types of equipment the employee uses to work. These are all factors that can affect an employee’s work productivity.

Communicate and Agree on Recommendations

After the ergonomic assessment, the Workplace Possibilities consultant helps collaborate with you and the employee to ensure all parties agree on recommended accommodations needed to resume a normal, productive work life. A sit-stand desk might just be one of many recommendations, but other accommodations could be as simple as a new keyboard, different chair or modified work schedule.

Follow Up and Assess Progress

After the employee receives his or her workplace accommodations, it doesn’t mean the case is closed. The Workplace Possibilities consultant will check in with the employee after the employee has had time to adjust to the new accommodations to assess the employee’s progress and determine if other adjustments should be made. The consultant and coordinator will follow up with you prior to closure of the case to communicate the results of the accommodation.

When it comes to stay-at-work accommodations, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Understanding how to help an employee through this assessment process is crucial. Ultimately, you know your employees best, so the sooner you’re able to identify an employee in need, the sooner he or she can receive the stay-at-work accommodations to help keep them healthy and productive at work.


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