Blog - Using technology to assess how to use technology!

Desk and chair set up with laptop on a laptop riser surrounded by various paperwork and noticeboardsI was recently asked to do a workstation assessment for some who is based in another city and who works from two different locations, one of which is a home office. Travelling from Christchurch to Wellington to assess this one person would have made the process ridiculously expensive, however having had recent experience with low back pain (which she thought might be related to her work set up), she was keen to get professional advice and liking what she saw on my website, got in touch to organise an online assessment.

A helpful alternative when an onsite visit is impractical, online assessments are particularly handy for people working in a home office. Able to be organised at a time which works for the person being assessed, as long as there’s reliable internet, you can be assessed wherever you are in New Zealand or indeed, anywhere else in the world.

Observing from a distance

Along with gathering information about a person’s specific work tasks and habits, observing how someone works in their particular set-up is obviously an important part of any workstation assessment, online or onsite, so it’s helpful to have someone else on hand to film proceedings  – in this case, it was the client’s teenage son (there’s nothing like subliminal learning for younger people who are usually high tech users, so a bit of a bonus there both for the client and for me from a professional satisfaction perspective!) Otherwise, as long as it is set far enough back to capture your sitting position you can use your phone or tablet on a stand. It may need adjusting during the assessment to allow for different angles, so having a camera person can make the process just that little bit easier.

Also, this particular client worked in an office area with some privacy, which was an advantage for filming. However, rest assured, if you work in a shared area, we will let others know why and what we’re filming, and that the footage is for our workstation assessment purposes only.

Home-based office assessments

While home offices can seem to be a great place to be creative in design, and I love an inspiring and energising place to work as much as anybody, when it comes down to it, even with the nicest surroundings, we are still working behind a computer screen, often for long periods of time. With fewer interruptions than we might have working in a shared workplace, this often means sitting for longer periods than you might in a shared space with more distractions, and so creating a safe workstation set up is critical. Believe me, having worked from a home based office for the past 14 years, I have personal experience of what it’s like getting absorbed in the task at hand and sitting at your desk for ages when not out seeing clients!

Office desk and chair set up in a home conservatory, surrounded by large windows on three sidesAs well as your workstation set up, the light level is an important, though often under rated aspect in your workplace. Lower light affects posture as well as eyesight, potentially creating eye strain as we peer to overcompensate, and neck/upper back issues as we lean towards the screen. Glare can also cause eyestrain and headaches, so having your home based office in the conservatory (which I have seen happen), is not such a good idea. So during an online assessment we also look at the overall flow of light in the work area and whether the light is looking sufficient over the computer screen and desk area.

Local recommendations from afar

Given her back issues, this client also was particularly interested in whether she had made the right choice with her seating. Just as I would if I were onsite, I was able to observe how she was sitting look at the style of chair she was using, and then talk her through how to adjust the chair to work best for her. I also gave some tips and recommendations on how to maintain better posture, and how to apply these tips and suggestions in her other workplace.

I also gave her some information on what to look for in a chair when buying a new one, and recommended a chair with good lumbar support (becoming harder and harder to find) that could work well for her.

When working with people onsite, we are able to provide chairs for people to try out, and while this is not an option in an online assessment, we can direct people to a stockist in a nearby city for town that allows them to go and try out some of the recommended models. Walking into those showrooms can be pretty daunting when you are faced with 20 or so different brands and styles. And when you are replacing an old chair, anything is likely to feel better than what you currently have, but that’s not necessarily going to mean that just because a chair feels immediately more comfortable, it is the right chair for you to sit on for any length of time.

Similarly, with more information on the client’s work tasks, chances to move, and any contra indications such as hip, knee, feet and circulation problems, we can give advice remotely on purchasing a suitable adjustable desk to allow standing as well as sitting.

General strategies on developing more healthy work practices are also easy to impart via Skype and can be followed up with online information.

While online assessments are the exception rather than the norm, they are a great alternative for you if it’s impractical for us to do an onsite visit. As with this particular happy client, who was able to go and modify both of her workstations to improve her comfort levels and put some more activity into place during her day to help reduce her back pain issues, you can book an online assessment to make sure you’re looking after yourself as best you can during the work day, wherever you work. Technology has made this an easy cost effective process for all concerned.

Check your own workstation set-up

In the meantime, here’s a handy video that takes you through how to check your own workstation set-up until can give you some professional help.

If you’d like to organise a time for your online assessment, please contact us. We are ready and happy to help make sure you are well set-up, whatever you do, wherever you are.