Change Management for a Healthier You – Incorporating Ergonomics in the Workplace

I have a wonderful employee — Renée. Renée is bright, talented, driven and very aware of ergonomic design, given her recent surgery to address joint problems.  A few months ago, after completing an ergonomic evaluation, Renée installed a piece of software that alerts her when it is time to take a break. This helps her reduce the chance of work injuries due to joint fatigue. Unfortunately, I have been with her and have watched her click “Ignore” on her break alert over and over again. Even when I encourage us to stop talking, so she can follow the guidelines from her ergonomic evaluation, she continues to plow on through.

What’s the point of the break alert tool if you don’t ever use it?

My curiosity got the best of me, so I asked her about it one day. “Renée, you clearly went through the effort of installing this after your ergonomic assessment — what’s holding you back?” She paused, reflective, and then finally said: “It’s a lot easier to want to do something than to actually follow through. I want to see myself as someone who practices good ergonomic work habits — but then whatever project I am doing takes over and I lose that goal.”

I admired her self-awareness. “That’s a great insight! You have kept the software, even though you almost always click ignore when it pops up. If you’re not using it, wouldn’t it be easier to uninstall it?” She smiled and said, “yes, but I feel guilty every time I click ignore. I know myself, and eventually the guilt will get the best of me and I’ll actually make the change. I just need to give myself time.”

I smiled, and we moved on to other topics. A few weeks later, I noticed seeing Renée in the hallways more often — getting a drink, chatting with a colleague, walking a loop around our corridor. I passed her one day and she gave me a big thumbs up — “I only clicked ignore once this week! I just needed time to find the new habit.”

What a great lesson in personal change management for those who want to embrace changes that support an ergonomic workspace and office. Renée knew what steps she needed to take, but also knew she needed to grow into that change rather than forcing it on herself when she wasn’t quite ready.

Knowing and honoring our own habits and eccentricities, while also pushing ourselves to realize the change we know we want to make — what a wonderful way to take care of ourselves in this new year of opportunity.

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  • Linda Baxter says:

    Thank you Sheryl McAtee for writing that article. It applies to so much that we all go through every day at work and in our personal life; giving us the realization that so many goals are difficult to achieve. Thank you for making that insight available to us.