expert interviews Aug 05, 2021
 

I’m very passionate about Healthcare Professionals adding ergonomics to their professional skill set. “With so many changes that our world has gone through, I saw that it’s an opportune time to be able to truly go to the potential of helping people how I want to help them, and I know that my skillset and background would be an advantage for that,” says Accelerate Member Elsa Escobedo-Lopez, Occupational Therapist and Certified Ergonomics Assessor. Elsa is the founder of Work at Home Office or On Site (WAHOO), where she provides virtual services to office and healthcare workers. 

Elsa combines her extensive expertise in Occupational Therapy with Ergonomics. In today’s episode, you'll hear how she’s moving forward with her ergonomics consulting business. You'll learn insights about the upcoming trends in the industry, how to handle challenging consulting situations, and how Elsa shares her passion to elevate business in her community. 

The following is an excerpt from our interview.

What has attracted you to keep coming back to the ergonomics industry after all these years?

Elsa: In my background and knowledge, I knew that working with someone who's injured, there could’ve been so much prevention, and that prevention wasn't happening. Part of what we do as clinicians is to help with education, training, and prevention of injury. Or if someone has been injured, we help them to not be re-injured. Teaching and education of those types of practices and habits that people have in their worksites are so important. I knew that I had that drive within me to tell people that I can prevent them from doing something or I can train them the right way. So over time, I knew that that's kind of where I was leading myself. 

You brought this idea of prevention. I'm wondering how you would compare both reactive and proactive ergonomics in the types of services that you provide.

Elsa: I see the transition in our society where people are geared towards wellness and health and trying to minimize the long-term effects of something. So that mindset of us in our society has really demanded and called for all of us as healthcare people and ergonomists. To me, that's prevention. It's about making a lifestyle and a way of living healthier and having a better foundation. I think that's why there's a difference in how we approach it versus someone who doesn't realize that the sedentary way of living is carried over into the rest of their life. But for someone who has the mindset and realizes they're not getting any younger, they’re going to pick up some exercise and pick up habits that are better for them. So I think that's been the difference there. We've always talked about prevention and not letting people get hurt by teaching them and helping them know a better way to do things.

Are there any memorable ergonomics cases that you want to share with us?

Elsa:  I worked with an individual that had surgery for her elbow, we call it ulnar nerve transposition. She had a lot of tingling and numbness on the small finger and along the side of her forearm. It was from her setup at work. She told me, “If they had just understood and listened that I was in pain and the position of my desk wasn't accommodating.” I’ll never forget her because we worked so hard to help her rehabilitate. Unfortunately, she developed what's called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. So she had some surgeries to help correct that, and she had to learn to adapt her whole life around that. Needless to say, she couldn't go back to the type of work that she’s doing before. And I thought, “What could’ve been done earlier on?” That really drove me to think that there's prevention that needs to take place. So I started diving more into doing assessments, pre-screenings, and things like that in worksites. You never forget some situation where you helped someone in that scenario, but you saw the value for yourself in how you can help somebody else later on. 

I also had another individual that’s very proactive in her work. She said, “Oh, my gosh. You made this little change in my keyboard, and now I can reach things better.” Everybody around could see the changes, and they're like, “Why don't we get that change?” So it’s kind of neat to see that when you walk in as an ergonomic person in a company, you carry a message to everybody else that there’s a solution. It doesn't have to be drastic. It could be a small one, but those things are really important. 

Do you have any helpful tips that can help further develop that customer relationship so that you can get your client ready for more of your services?

Elsa: For me, it’s about developing a relationship with that person and letting them know that you're there to help them. I want them to know that this is not just one little session where we're going to help fix things and hopefully, you'll see some great improvements, but that it's a continuum. Things change. We came in and set up their workstation for them, and then they found that that monitor height really made a difference. But then they forgot to change the way they sit, or they didn't realize that there’s an adjustment needed. So I really try to bring that forth at the beginning that we’re going to do a follow-up to see how things are going or if there are new changes. I think that it's a win-win that I can help the person at the time and continue that relationship because they're going to need it eventually, at least a little bit or maybe a lot.

There’s this misconception about ergonomics that if one person gets it, everybody's going to get what they want as well, and that can be a major cost issue. Are there some tactics that you can share with the audience that has helped you distribute information?

Elsa: A really important part of it is communicating with the decision-maker. For me, that's going to help because when you go in there to help one person or two, and then you've got six to tell you, “I'm having the same issues too,” you have to be able to go back to your management or to whoever's in charge. Ask them: “Have your other employees complained about similar pains?” or “What kind of other concerns have you heard? I got some feedback from your employees when I was there. I'd like to share these with you, but I'd also like to know if you’ve seen a similar thing.” And then, we can go into our wonderful whole scenario that people can be injured over time. So prevention and communication. Communicate with the person involved and help them to see that there's a potential possibility of making some inexpensive changes. You've got to get on their side and help them see that.

If you could recommend something to somebody who's starting out in the ergonomics world, what would their best first step be?

Elsa: We always talk about the therapeutic use of self, how we can use ourselves to help others. But I recommend that you look at yourself as an individual. How do you function? How do you perform your daily task? You can’t preach what you don’t practice. Make changes that can help you to help others. Otherwise, someone might say, “You’re telling me to do this, but I don’t see you doing that.” I think it's important that we reflect on how we carry out what we do so that we can help others.


Elsa shared a lot of interesting insights with us, from the value of early intervention, to how technological developments have influenced people’s sedentary behaviors, and to her tactics of listening and sharing the information with the decision-makers so you can move forward with them. I hope you find this interview helpful. 

In case you have additional questions for Elsa, do leave them in the comment section below or connect with her on LinkedIn. Click here to join Elsa's Facebook group: Ergo OTs: The Optimum Fitters. Check out her Facebook page: Ergonomically Speaking if you want tips or you want to ask her specific ergonomics questions. Lastly, you can connect with Elsa via email: [email protected] 

If you want to learn how other healthcare professionals are already adding office ergonomic expertise to their services, get on the waitlist for the same program that Elsa is in, Accelerate. Just click here to sign up.

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