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Western Union, Englewood, Colo.
CATEGORY: Renovations & Retrofits
Summary: Our challenge with the ergonomics program project was to find a way to assess the needs of individuals that needed assistance in increasing their level of comfort at their workstation. A problem was presented by the fact that half of our approximately 1,400-person campus is using new furniture, and the other half is using older furniture; we did not want to wait to implement this project until the entire campus underwent remodeling due to the pressing nature of these issues and their potential to lead to serious injury. We used a combination of research, on-site demonstration, product trials, professional expertise, and on-site classes and evaluations. Our final solution was to make furniture choices based on solid ergonomic concepts, that was able to be implemented for any individual that requested it, and at every workstation, regardless of its location on campus.
The concept first came into focus in 2014, when a number of ergonomic complaints surfaced. Our standard response to date had been to perform an individual evaluation. However, the number of evaluations requested started to grow, and so the project grew into a search for a total solution. Given the nature of the variance in furniture between old and new, managers and non-managers, etc. on campus, a number of solutions were considered. During that time, Mary Jo Lockbaum, Global Manager of Environmental Health and Safety, attained a certification in office ergonomics in order to better evaluate the furniture choices. What she found was that a large number of the ever-increasing ergonomic furniture on the market were significantly lacking in proper design and did not solve many of the common ergonomic office-worker complaints.
Ultimately, based on hours of testing and research, we implemented a standing desk solution, a keyboard tray, and ergonomically designed mice and keyboards. Each choice of item necessitated a careful review of its ability to fit in old and new space, as well as its ability to be used correctly and accepted by a wide variety of users. The Facilities team even re-designed brackets to hold the top choice in keyboard trays securely, as the ones provided by the manufacturer would not fit into some office configurations. Mary Jo’s supervisor, Tom Balagna, is the Global Director of Facilities, and was heavily involved with these choices as well as with selling the ergonomic program throughout the organization.
Mary Jo designed a 90-minute ergonomic training session in order to facilitate small groups of employees learning about ergonomics and receiving personal attention with regard to their ergonomic needs, in lieu of providing individual evaluations. Tom supported a policy of “class first, equipment second,” in order to ensure that employees ultimately were provided with a well-rounded understanding of ergonomics, and did not just implement ergo equipment (which could later be abandoned or cause additional problems if not used correctly). We used the Facilities work order system, asking employees to enter their class request, added an “ergonomics” category, then configured the system to route all ergo requests to Mary Jo, who scheduled the class and delivered the content. After class, attendee requests for desks, trays, etc. were entered into the work order system, and fulfilled by the Facilities team. The classes filled up quickly, with word-of-mouth from previous attendees who loved the class and found it very useful providing a “snowball effect” on the number of people interested in future classes. Tom removed a key barrier to project implementation by allowing the Facilities Department to pay for the ergonomic furniture requested by each employee. Because Tom and Mary Jo are both globally focused at Western Union, this project also kicked off another project (not yet complete) to develop and implement a furniture standard for our locations outside of the US (which includes several thousand employees), based on solid ergonomic design principles.
Based on a survey we ran in August 2015, over 97% of respondents reported a moderate to significant level of improvement in their comfort level after having received ergonomic assistance and being able to implement changes to their equipment and/or posture. A majority of respondents (60%) reported that their productivity had increased as a result. The project was very well received — more than 47 persons added positive comments, ranging from “The attention to detail and real life analogies helped me understand the importance of ergonomic principles. ” to “My neck doesn't get stiff anymore and my back doesn't hurt; happy to know that Western Union cares about its employees and has ergonomic assistance available. ” In addition to cost savings based on the increase in productivity reported, we conservatively estimate savings well over $250,000 based on the long-term nature of these changes and the high cost of ergonomic injuries.
Tom Balagna, Global Director of Facilities
Mary Jo Lockbaum, Global Manager of Environmental Health and Safety