With a few simple retrofits, the lessons learned from COVID-19 in the American frontline workforce can help us collectively tackle the pandemic of workplace injuries through continued innovation and technology.
COVID-19 has upended the global economy in uneven and devastating ways. The grocery supply chain, for instance, has faced crushing shortages of essential goods amid unprecedented demand, and our country’s healthcare system was stretched to the brink of collapse. Restaurants and movie theaters have struggled since state and local shelter orders closed or implemented new safety measures, including reduced occupancy levels.
But one thing is absolutely certain: American companies have adapted with breathtaking speed and ingenuity to attack head-on the many disruptions caused by the pandemic. In the process, they have completely reinvented the way frontline workers operate.
The healthcare industry--the doctors and nurses, the custodial staff who have saved countless lives while risking their own--responded heroically to these demands by adapting to the onslaught of patients with compassion and integrity. Restaurants have redesigned menus to feature dishes that are more delivery friendly. Independent movie theaters have developed nascent streaming services. New York City has even changed traffic patterns as bars have built entire yurt cities in the streets.
The fact that businesses are hiring again and the economy is nosing toward growth is a clear testament to our success. However, these aforementioned operational shifts have bigger picture solutions. A reflective question remains: What has been the physical toll on the individual worker due to the increased demands they have faced in the last year?
Research has shown a clear correlation between increased workloads in pressurized environments and musculoskeletal injuries (MSKs) and the demands of the last year have clearly created a uniquely pressurized environment. Thus, it’s reasonable to conclude that the pandemic has created an ideal environment for not only viral spread but also for a corresponding potential increase in workplace injuries.
We’ve dealt with viral spread. In fact, we’ve done it with astonishing efficiency. All of the safeguards that have been implemented to protect workers and employees from the specific threat of the virus, such as plexiglass dividers, social distancing, PPE and testing and diagnostics, are impressive and effective. Prior to last year, though, many of these measures weren’t even part of our lives. Now, they are not only literally everywhere, they are also things we would never dream of going without.
There will be a day when COVID-19 will not be so omnipresent in our lives, but workplace injuries are different; they have always been a problem for frontline workers and safety professionals. This inspires a simple and exciting conclusion: If we can successfully protect workers from an infectious disease in a kinetic workspace, we ought to be able to protect them against common soft-tissue injuries just as effectively.
2020 taught us that we can make incredibly tight turns and completely reinvent the way we do business in a matter of weeks. With all of our ingenuity, awareness, and spur-of-the-moment creativity deployed so decisively against the virus, we have cultivated an environment that allows us to apply lessons learned from COVID-19 to build a safety culture that also protects against MSKs. If we do that, we all win.
But how? The answer is already in your pocket.
The smartphone is an established technology that we can leverage to instantly streamline the way we reach our employees. Many companies are already making the shift by adopting mobile solutions for a newly disparate workforce. Take FedEx, for example: As a part of their mobile strategy, they gave tablets to all their mechanics and pilots with the goal of improving efficiency, safety, and overall communication. This has resulted in improved collaboration and even higher job satisfaction. If used correctly, technology can help us further develop ways to improve workplace safety and attend to the physical well-being of each frontline worker.
After years in the business of strength and condition and injury prevention, we have learned the human body, when moving safely, assumes only a handful of shapes, shapes that are very easy to teach frontline workers. Moreover, teaching these movement techniques as a real-time treatment for the epidemic of workplace injury can be done safely at scale without abandoning critical COVID19 protocols by employing mobile technology.
Here are three measurable advantages of mobile adaptations.
Yes, the ways that we have been kept socially distant from one another are terribly frustrating. Still, this distance has also shown us that we can leverage technology to help bridge the socially distanced divide and remain productive. Since large, in-person, conference-style gatherings are all but impossible, mobile technology has offered us a way to take the inherent value of a traditional educational seminar and concentrate its content into mobile-based microlearning lessons. The result is a program that accomplishes three critical things at once:
These platforms also boast a series of learning tools that encourage users to learn how to move in the strongest possible ways with great consistency in a classroom that is anywhere and everywhere.
As much as technology has evolved, our understanding of physical wellness and best methods of teaching it has as well. Digital technology allows us to seamlessly add updated information and tailor it in real time to fit across a diverse workforce. This plug-and-play model lets a company offer a truly customized safety program with the most up to date information that perfectly fits the needs of their workers. This way, implementing company wide safety standards becomes sustainable and organic as information changes or becomes obsolete. And achieving company-wide compliance is far simpler than coordinating in person sessions. The app-based nature of these platforms removes paper reporting. Managers and safety directors receive data and analytics in real-time to track compliance, saving time and money. And, with many companies embracing digital technology in response to the challenges of the last 12-plus months, the opportunity to seamlessly introduce new teaching platforms is easier than ever.
As we continue to embrace these digital solutions, mobile technology will not just grow into a critical tool for American frontline workforces’ safety culture; it can also become a perk of the job. This mindset can enhance recruitment strategies and provide a great way to help companies reach their workforce and improve engagement. The apps that workers use on the job will eventually be seen less as requirements and more as companions designed to enhance an employee’s life on a holistic level, offering workers a real sense of equitability. As these platforms evolve, it will be possible for an individual worker to tailor their experience to accommodate variables like age, physical history, and body type as well.
The bottom-line is maintaining the safety and well-being of frontline workers is imperative. American businesses have proven beyond capable of rising to meet this extraordinary moment in our collective effort to stifle the spread of the novel coronavirus while keeping the gears of the global economy turning.
But it is incumbent on us to go further, pushing at the edges of the adaptations we’ve made and encourage the evolution of an even safer, more equitable workplace that seeks to offer employees long, pain-free careers. With the advent of innovative mobile-based technologies that boast simplicity, those evolutions are in reach. They will create a new kind of sustainable safety culture that focuses on the individual employee’s physical needs. We rebuilt the workplace, now let’s rebuild the individual.
Safety has never been more important—give your team the tools they need to move safer, smarter, and happier. Request a demo below to learn more about the Worklete platform.