Physical Demands Analyses (PDAs) – Are They Worth it for Remote Jobs?
Posted on March 24, 2022 | in Ergonomics
It’s no secret that the way we work has changed over the past couple of years. With companies focusing on things like improved productivity, better work-life balance and cost-savings, it’s safe to say that this change is here to stay; many employees remain either fully remote or have returned to the office with some form of hybrid model.
As companies adapt to new work models, what happens if the majority of your workforce is working from home and no longer using company-issued chairs, monitors, or keyboards?
How can you ensure that remote workstations are safe and ergonomically sound?
Although the positives of remote work outweigh the negatives in many instances, the answer could still mean an increased risk of workplace injuries and overall cost for employers. Some statistics to consider:
- Almost half of full-time employees in the US worked either partly or fully remotely at the end of 2021. And 9 out of 10 of those workers want to maintain their remote work to some degree.
- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) make up at least one third of all workplace injuries that result in lost workdays.
- Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), a type of MSD, affect almost 2 million workers per year, costing upwards of $20 billion – (a single carpal tunnel case, as an example, could cost up to $29,000 in medical expenses and $100,000 in lost productivity.)
- 60% of computer office workers in the US suffer from wrist pain (a type of RSI) while using their computer.
Now that we got the “doom and gloom” part over with, here’s the good news: there are many ways to reduce injury risks and keep your remote workforce healthy.
Enter: Physical Demands Analysis (PDA)
A physical demands analysis (PDA) is a general term, referring to documentation that describes the physical and environmental demands that are required for employees to complete their job tasks. PDAs are usually controlled by your HR department, can come in many different forms, and even have different names. Some of their primary uses include pre-employment screening to ensure an employee is placed into a job where they are physically capable of completing the assigned work, as well as return-to-work placement to help a previously injured employee return to a job safely.
Now, for those of you who are familiar with PDAs, you’re probably thinking, “Do you really need one for a desk job? These are typically done for jobs that involve much bigger and heavier manual tasks.”
You’d be right, to a certain extent. Historically, PDAs have been used for jobs that require manual tasks such as lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying. But think about it: if a person’s job requires sitting and performing extremely repetitive tasks like typing and mousing for at least 50-60% of their day, and we know there’s a high probability they’ll develop pain from those tasks if left alone, wouldn’t you want to do whatever you could to prevent that from happening?
The point is that when it comes to employees’ health and safety, a proactive and preventative approach is always best. PDAs offer an objective and organized way for all parties involved (employer, employee, HR) to understand the job requirements. Then they can put measures in place that ensure health and safety in the workplace—even when that workplace is someone’s home. There are many different routes you could go with this proactive/preventative ergonomics approach, some requiring more of an initial investment than others. Whether you decide to use software and/or in-person services, there are many options that can cost a bit up front. Ultimately, though, your efforts will give you a healthier, happier workforce and save you a lot more money in the long run.