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We draw inspiration from the world around us and we want to share our knowledge with you. Tap into our latest thinking on the issues that matter most in hospitality today and find out what trends are going to shape our industry in the future.

Ergonomics & Technology: Improving your hotel operations
13 November 2017, by Samantha Noll in Technology

Delve into this exciting piece on Ergonomics & Technology that has just been published in the Hotel Yearbook Special Edition - Technology 2018! Co-authored together with my colleague Inês de Castro Fernandes, Lead Ergonomics Specialist at Novility, we'll guide you through the importance of raising ergonomics awareness in raising hotel team health and productivity; and what's more? We'll expand on how this can best be faciliated with advanced technologies!

WORK-RELATED INJURIES IN HOSPITALITY

Hotel employees are faced with physically demanding work on a daily basis in operations: lifting luggage, pushing carts, making beds, carrying service trays… and the list goes on! It is no surprise that the hotel industry is dominated by high numbers of work-related injuries. Moreover, this industry experiences one of the highest growth rates in injury occurrence over the previous years, according to data from the EU Labour Force Survey.

Accounting for roughly a quarter of the hospitality workforce are housekeepers, who are also known to be most affected by injuries in hotels. Studies indicate they have the highest annual injury rate of 7.9% compared to the overall injury rate for hotel workers of 3.2%. CKI Risk Solutions shares that nearly 62% of all hotel housekeeping injuries are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), affecting the muscles, tendons and nerves; tension neck syndrome and low back pain are common examples. The cause of MSDs is a mix of excessive force, awkward postures and repetitive motions, combined with the duration of long shifts. If muscles don’t get enough time to recover, they cannot produce the same amount of force, resulting in fatigue, and injuries are more prone to occur.

In the case of housekeeping, employees deal with heavy lifting during bed-making as well as awkward postures of trunk and extremities when cleaning high/low surface areas, repetitively each day. Speaking from first-hand experience here! Pain levels are high, which greatly influences their ability to effectively carry out their tasks and can even increase absenteeism or result in turnover; this largely affects work performance and causes a significant loss in productivity. So how can we best tackle high injury rates in hospitality?

INTRODUCING ERGONOMICS AND ITS BENEFITS

Essentially, ergonomics is a people-first discipline, taking into account one’s capabilities and limitations. It aims to ensure that there is a “fit” between each person and their work, aligning the tasks, tools, information and environment to be suitable. In scientific terms, it is concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system.

The benefits of integrating proper ergonomic practices within your workplace are to promote the well-being of your team, allowing them to work more efficiently with fewer injuries and perform at a higher quality. Productivity will increase and so will your employees’ morale!

Three stages for ergonomics to help prevent injuries at work are as follows:

  1. Provide a well-designed job and workplace with proper tools to ensure that the worker is able to accomplish what is required in a safe and healthy manner
  2. Deliver employee training for effective use of their body and of these tools to fit their tasks and needs
  3. Promote open communication and support, reducing injury risk by raising awareness

What’s more? Technology can help improve the integration of ergonomics in work operations. Let’s connect the dots!

ERGONOMICS DRIVEN BY TECHNOLOGY

Technology is developing at a fast pace with an ever-increasing number of gadgets on the market. In terms of the ergonomics process, there are three main phases where technology comes in handy:

  1. Risk assessment of the workplace and tasks
  2. Design of tools and the work area
  3. Training for effective implementation

In risk assessment and design phases, motion capture devices can be used to track one’s movements and analyse postures to help reduce injury risks. In addition, virtual and augmented reality are great technologies to help immerse in the environment to assess the risks of a certain task or workstation and evaluate if it is feasible to implement. 3D printing can allow for prototyping ergonomic tools (e.g. a tool to help clean high surface areas), and the designer/engineer can test it before manufacturing. Ford Motors is a great example using what they call virtual manufacturing to assess the proper tasks and tools in the workplace. Why not explore these avenues in hospitality as well?

We can begin to use similar technologies in the hotel industry to improve operations, starting with training people: the heart of your business. With a user-friendly motion capture tool, for instance, you can onboard teams in an interactive manner on core procedures as well as correct body movements and postures, while having all the training data recorded. Such immersive learning techniques are known to help increase user engagement and can lead to higher knowledge retention, alongside muscle memory.

Awareness is the fundamental pillar when it comes to ergonomics. If we don’t know we are injuring ourselves, we won’t change the way we do things. We must be aware of our body, our strengths and our limitations to be able to protect ourselves from injuries. The ergonomics process is evolving, and employers are now more aware of its importance for each employee in their company to keep them motivated and healthy, increasing their productivity and well-being!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can access the full edition here for more insights on other key trends and developments up ahead: Hotel Yearbook Special Edition - Technology 2018 

 

 

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