Don't let the friendly, bubbly personalities of Posturite DSE Assessors Sarah and Lucy fool you. They take their work very seriously indeed; the job of helping people work more comfortably, and finding ways to alleviate aches and pains.
A highlight of a DSE Assessor's job is to see the happiness and relief of clients hearing there's a solution to transform their comfort at work.
And the range of people experiencing Posturite's DSE Assessment service is extremely wide-ranging. Military amputees, employees undertaking cancer treatment, unusually tall managing directors, Rolls Royce engineers, Job Centre line managers, games developers, government intelligence officers, Cornish detectives, executives with vision loss and embassy diplomats all look to Posturite DSE Assessors for advice and guidance to work more comfortably.
This International Women's Day 2022, I'd like to celebrate the contributions being made by Sarah Hubbard and Lucy Fairbanks to vastly improve comfort and wellbeing at work, and I spoke to them to find out more about their work:
Sarah, is it true you've carried out over 20,000 DSE Workstation Assessments now?
"Wow yes, that would be right, as I've been in the Posturite team for 18 years now! It's a lovely thing to do to be able to help people. I cover the South West and Wales region and my mission is to try and make people more comfortable in their workstations. There's regulations that need to be adhered to. But you know, a lot of the time it is just somebody not comfortable and sitting at the desk is causing them issues. Our role is to go in and try and overcome those problems. So it's a very positive thing to do."
And Lucy, you're based in London and providing DSE Assessments to many City of London businesses?
"Yes I'll go in and see somebody either in their home or office environment in London. I was in The Gherkin the other day providing assessments to a law firm which was fun – the views are insane! It's brilliant to be out and about again now that the current Covid regulations allow.
I actually get a buzz from helping people in the not-so-nice work venues as well. Because you can tell that those employees really need the support there.
We also offer video appointments which are very effective too. We're problem-solvers and it's very satisfying to have that role.
Before a Remote DSE Workstation Assessment, my clients let me know of any pain or discomfort that they might have, or if they're having a problem with their workstation. They can send me photos of their setup in advance too, and we ask for 3 measurements:
- Their current desk height, assuming it's a fixed height desk.
- The length of their thighs - so from the back of their bottom to behind your knee. This basically gives us a good idea of what sort of seat length they need.
- And then from the seat to the top of the shoulder, which gives us an idea of what sort of backrest height they need.
Then during the DSE Assessment, I'll ask them where their pain is, what the characteristics are, what eases it off a little bit, and what tends to trigger the pain. We'll go through each piece of equipment that they currently use – including their chair, desk, mouse and keyboard – and see if there's anything that can be done to adjust them right there and then. So for example, sometimes it's not actually their chair that's the issue, it's the fact that they don't know how to set themselves up in it properly. And then if their equipment isn't appropriate for them, we make a recommendation for something new. We send our report to their employer so that an order can be made within their business' budget.
Posturite offer a chair setup service as well, so my colleagues go into workplaces and assemble and install new equipment and enjoy seeing all the positive reactions!"
Sarah: "When I started at Posturite, I carried out DSE Assessments in London too, and one of my most memorable venues was the Bank of England printing works! I had to hand over my cash before I went in as we weren't allowed to go in or come out with any money. The chap I was assessing, it was his job to manually assess the printouts of the sheets of money. So he was leaning forward with a magnifier, and as you can imagine, no regular chair is useful for that because you're leaning away from it. And so I recommended him a HÅG Capisco chair so he could sit backwards on the chair, and it was resting in front of him. That was a fun assessment visit because, you know, when do you ever get to see money being made?"
Impressive! What kind of skills make you good DSE Assessors? It sounds like you need to draw upon a range?
Sarah: "I think the most important skill is being a good listener. A lot of the time we get to see some fairly serious issues in DSE Assessments and need to be respectful and sensitive. More often than not we are in an open plan office, so I always make a point of asking people if they're happy to chat there or if there's anywhere else they'd prefer.
As well as conveying our knowledge of ergonomics, we also need to instil confidence in our clients that they're being listened to, something is going to happen and hopefully they're going to be more comfortable."
Lucy: "That's right. I try to find a balance between being empathetic and being professional, because you obviously want to be understanding of someone's health conditions but avoid being patronising or anything like that. I've also got to be able to switch quite quickly between speaking to someone with mild backache and someone with a life-limiting condition.
Good communication is vital and being able to apply my knowledge of the ergonomic principles and guidance."
Talking of knowledge, could you tell me a little about your backgrounds please?
Lucy: "Sure, I have a First-Class degree in Sports and Exercise Science and the two main areas that I apply on more or less a daily basis to my DSE Assessor job are physiology and also biomechanics, which is how the body moves, how it functions, how it should normally be functioning, and why it might not necessarily be functioning normally. That knowledge helps me understand why certain movements or certain positions might be causing pain to somebody, and then why certain positions or movements might actually help another person.
I've always wanted to be in a role where I'm caring for someone and I'm making their lives better."
Sarah: "Similarly, my degree was in Sports Rehabilitation and I then worked in a physio clinic. It was absolutely fantastic to work alongside physiotherapists and rehab therapists, and learn more about posture, anatomy and core stability, helping patients and getting them fit and healthy. Mechanism of injury is very, very helpful - learning why things happen. So for instance I know what kind of movements would cause what kind of ‘repetitive strain' injury. I don't obviously give out medical advice but having that background knowledge really helps me work out what might help somebody."
We spend so long at work, don't we, that if you're uncomfortable, then it's going to affect your life massively. And it sounds like you're presented with such a diverse range of needs?
Sarah: "We do indeed, we help people to work comfortably who have a wide range of health conditions, body shapes, a disability or are pregnant. We're very blessed at Posturite to have a great range of chairs that we can work with and leg rests and, you know, with the chairs, we can adapt the seats. So if you've got somebody with a prosthetic, you might have a leg length difference. You can actually change the length of the seat on one side to accommodate that. We have seats that dip the front to accommodate if you need to drop the knee or open up the hip and drop the legs slightly so there's lots of adaptions we can do.
I provided a DSE Assessment to a wheelchair user and she had MS. So we were looking at office chairs which had lockable castors so that she could transfer easily from her wheelchair to her chair for working. The chair has got to be not moving around so that it's easy for her to get in, so I recommended a Positiv Plus chair in her DSE Assessment report.
We know the ergonomic products inside out and which products are good for which ailment. For instance a vertical mouse for ‘tennis elbow' (lateral epicondylitis). With a vertical mouse, the benefit is that you don't rotate your hand. You don't rotate your forearm (pronation) and your wrist is removed from the desk.
We see a lot of people who get migraines - potentially aggravated by blue light from screen use - and we can recommend a screen cover that filters out the blue light, and we can help them adjust their settings on their monitor too, to reduce the brightness.
I'm increasingly seeing clients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue these days. I help clients with Ankylosing spondylitis, a significant inflammatory disease. People assume we mostly see people for DSE Assessments who have backache, neck or wrist pain, but many of my cases are more severe than that."
Lucy: "That's right. On my very first day at Posturite I met with a lady who had really severe muscular dystrophy. You could tell she was just so uncomfortable in the way she was working.
I have also provided a DSE Workstation Assessment to a lady who had a bad back. She barely mentioned her hand - but in further discussion it turned out that her left hand would sometimes cramp in an unnatural position for months at a time. She was really struggling to type because she was having to bend down to reach the keyboard. I recommended to her a split keyboard, so the right hand side of the keyboard could stay on the desk, and then the left can be put on a monitor raiser. It's adjustable, so that if her hand cramps here, she can still type with her fingers and then type with her right hand down here. She's therefore not having to bend her back. It's satisfying to come up with individual solutions for people."
Are you providing DSE Assessments to lots of homeworkers?
Lucy: "We are and I'm genuinely sad to see cases where people are still sitting on a sofa to work from home. It's still happening two years into the pandemic! They're getting back pain and need help."
Sarah: "Yes, people are realising that homeworking is becoming a permanent thing now. So whereas they were putting up with bad setups before, it's getting to that point where the aches and pains are getting too bad now. I had one client who was having to use one of those small wrought iron garden tables to work on!"
How does a manager know which kinds of DSE Assessments their employees might need?
Sarah: "There's a guide to Posturite's different DSE Assessments here and a member of the team can answer any questions at all that clients have about the service by filling in the Posturite DSE contact form.
Please could you tell me about your own workstation? What makes you comfortable and productive?
Sarah: "There are two items which I would not work without now:
- Firstly is this beast behind me, which is a RH Logic ergonomic chair! It's contoured in shape and I absolutely love it.
- And secondly, is my Contour RollerMouse Pro - I would not go back to using a standard mouse and it's purely preventative; I have no upper limb issues. You're not reaching out for anything - it's just here in front of you."
Lucy: "I can relate to people I meet in DSE Assessments who don't have too much space to work at home, as my space is limited too in my London flat share! I have a JOSHO electric sit-stand desk which is great for allowing me to change my posture and spend some of my working time standing. When I'm using the standing feature, I stand on a little balance board, as keeping active while working kind of helps me.
My office chair at home is a Logic and they are really good. My RH Logic 220 ergonomic chair has a tilt function allowing me to actually recline in the chair when I want to relax – for watching something on screen or talking on the phone and so on."
And do you follow the trend of Posturite team members being super sporty?!
Sarah: "Actually yes! I play tennis and hitting the ball very hard is a brilliant destresser!"
Lucy: "I'm lucky to live very near the Olympic Aquatics Centre in Stratford, and swim nearly every day. I used to swim competitively and I love it!"
Thank you very much to Sarah Hubbard and Lucy Fairbanks. You can receive individual help and guidance on the most comfortable workstation setup for you by contacting the Posturite DSE Assessment team.
"Posturite are well known for our workstation assessments service and we're genuinely such a good team. I've been doing the DSE Assessments for 18 years and it's nice to be part of a team with a great reputation." Sarah