Hybrid Work Models Are Here to Stay. Thanks to Tech Advances, Ergonomic Solutions Are Out There, Whether at Home or at the Office

The transition back to the office has been challenging enough. Making sure employees are set up to avoid injury need not add to the complexity.
By: | October 13, 2021

Mask mandates and vaccination requirements in many sectors have made plans to return to offices this fall complex.

In addition, thousands of workers have adjusted to working remotely to better juggle work and caregiving responsibilities, so having the continued option to work from home appears to be the only way forward for some.

It’s safe to say hybrid work models and work environments are here to stay. Which means employers will need to take a closer look at their ergonomics programs to make sure they are accurately assessing the exposures that come with a mobile workforce.

But this process need not be complicated, according to Timothy Lohrmann, practice leader of Office Ergonomics for Chubb Global Risk Advisors.

“Ergonomic programs do not need to be overly complicated or tremendously expensive,” Lohrmann said.

Lohrmann shared his thoughts with Risk & Insurance® on what he loves about the ergonomics industry and how ergonomic solutions have become available to fit just about every market’s needs and budget.

“Ergonomics allows the opportunity to improve any human/environment interaction,” said Lohrmann.

“The ergonomics industry is constantly evolving in approach, application, analytics, and equipment, said Lohrmann. “I enjoy the cycle of continual improvement.”

Lohrmann has seen much of the innovation in ergonomics stemming from developments in technology and a “strong desire to help as many people as possible.”

Timothy Lohrmann, practice leader, Office Ergonomics, Chubb Global Risk Advisors

With everything from wearable devices to AI-driven software making it safer and more comfortable for workers to do their jobs in today’s economy, it’s safe to say that technology is now inseparable from ergonomics.

“The development and enhancement of [ergonomics] programs to be more flexible and cost-effective has been led by technological advancements,” said Lohrmann, pointing to “software, artificial intelligence, movement recognition and analysis.”

In the realm of case management, for example, Lohrmann has seen software really shine.

“Remote work orders have caused us to take a closer look at Software as a Solution (SaaS) and data collection, and what they can do for our clients’ evolving needs,” said Lohrmann.

This includes “the use of AI in the collection, storage, analysis and sharing of data.”

As someone who found his passion for ergonomics “looking for more efficient and injury-resistant motions” as a pitcher on the baseball field, Lohrmann has had his eyes on pose estimation and analysis software that has become more readily available.

“Once used primarily for sports performance analysis, these applications are now able to analyze workstations remotely through smartphone video.”

Smartphones and other mobile devices are also making it easier to automate many of the processes involved in performing ergonomic assessments.

“Mobile devices are the standard now,” said Lohrmann.

“Given access to internet and their power, including the power of web-enabled applications,” Lohrmann has found that “tracking, reporting, and assessing data used in ergonomic assessment” can all be automated efficiently through mobile devices.

Lohrmann sees himself as a bit of “gear geek” who loves solving unique problems through research and application.

“Wearable devices – tracking such things as heart rate, temperature, posture and frequency, and location,” are also among the tech gear Lohrmann enjoys integrating into ergonomic solutions.

As a “natural problem solver,” Lohrmann has had plenty of opportunities to put his problem-solving skills to use since the onset of the pandemic.

When the stay-at-home orders went into effect, Lohrmann’s team supported a client to swiftly build a comprehensive ergonomics program that helped more than 10,000 employees safely adapt to working from home.

With no clear picture of when the client would be able to welcome employees back to the office, the key was to ensure that the program’s core elements were flexible.

“Companies which maintained a hybrid work environment prior to the implementation of broader work-from-home orders were largely the most successful with the transition to remote work programs,” said Lohrmann.

“That said, a corporation’s culture, dedication of resources toward ergonomic programs and commitment to its employees are an indicator of a program’s overall success.”

With just about every industry having to adapt and transform previous ways of doing business, Lohrmann has found ergonomic programs serving a broad range of markets.

“The fastest growing markets are often keenly aware of the need for a comprehensive ergonomics solution in order to attract, retain and get the best performance from their workforce,“ said Lohrmann.

“There are examples of companies with exceptional ergonomics programs in every market we serve.”

Strong ergonomic programs can be found across industries from automotive to aerospace, but Lohrmann has found three sectors standing out from the crowd.

“We have seen particularly good success in software, health care, and biotechnology (pharma/medical device manufacturing) companies where there may be office and industrial ergonomic considerations.”

A colleague of Lohrmann’s, Michael Carey, assistant vice president of Ergonomics with Chubb Global Risk Advisors, will provide a roadmap to crafting solid ergonomics programs for organizational budgets of all sizes during the upcoming “Yes, Flexible, Scalable Ergonomic Solutions Are Possible…for Every Workplace,” session at National Comp in Las Vegas.

As Lohrmann pointed out, “careful application of technology, paired with a robust program (policies and processes) can be a value-add for any company in terms of injury and cost reduction, as well as employee satisfaction, productivity and retention.” &

National Comp — the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference — is back! We’re planning an in-person show for October, 20-22, 2021 and we’re excited to see everyone while still adhering to all safety protocols set forth by local and national health authorities at the time of the event.  Register today!

This year, we’ll feature seven tracks — from core content on medical and pharmaceutical management, claims and return-to-work, plus new and expanded avenues to explore like risk finance and injury prevention. All of our educational sessions are chosen for their ability to deliver sound takeaways and ideas that attendees can use right now.

In the meantime, National Comp will continue bringing you free virtual, educational content through our digital sessions series and our CompTalks program. Register today to make sure you don’t miss a digital session and check out our on-demand CompTalks library.  Missed a session? Watch it here on-demand.

Raquel Moreno is a staff writer with Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected].

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