BODY OF WORK: A PAIN IN THE NECK?

Feeling the aches and pains of returning to work? Want to prevent discomfort and injuries? Improving the relationship between our bodies and our salon environments takes time and investment. Sara Taylor Eggleston, a professional disability management specialist and founder of Structured Health Resources, describes her proactive approach to ergonomics.

Show Notes

Resources:

VirtualErgonomics.com – Personalized virtual assessment of your workplace

Structured Health Resources – Experienced consultants who optimize comfort and function 

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Edited for length and clarity.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

ASHLEY: Welcome to Outgrowth: A Slice of Pro Beauty with your hosts Ashley Gregory.

JAIME: And Jaime Schrabeck. After an extended break, many salon professionals now face another challenge: the physical discomfort, aches, and pains from returning to work and working long hours.

ASHLEY: Our guest Sara Taylor Eggleston of Structured Health Resources joins us to explain how we can improve our health and wellness through ergonomics. Let’s grow together.   

JAIME: Sara, welcome to Outgrowth.

SARA: Thank you for having me.

JAIME: When we were researching this episode, we were seeking someone who could speak directly to the beauty industry about ergonomics and how we work. Could you tell us a little bit about what you know about our industry?

SARA: Well I’m just learning about your industry because I’ve had very little direct work  with cosmetologists, but I have had friends and colleagues as well as my own professional approach to ergonomics where I have observed and been very astute to the posture and habits of my manicurist or hairstylist. And I have, for over 30 years, worked to help people be more comfortable, which makes it natural that I would identify techniques that might improve the comfort and health of either people that I know in your industry, as well as my own technicians that I’ve used over the years. So I’m excited to kind of share what I’ve learned in the office, and what I’ve learned in industry and factories, and how that applies to your industry of working with customers to perform either hair styling or nail services.

JAIME: Ashley, I don’t think we’ve ever been so excited to have someone here that’s coming from outside the beauty industry.

ASHLEY: I totally agree only because I’m excited for a fresh take on the challenges that our industry faces. So Sara, we’re really excited to have you and thank you for being with us.

SARA: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to share some discoveries that I’ve had even in preparing for our session today.

ASHLEY: So walk me through a little bit about, for the lay person or someone who’s not familiar with ergonomics, what actually is it?

SARA: Great question. Ergonomics is the relationship between the person and their environment. And so I’ve spent, as I said, three decades watching people work, helping them have a better relationship with the environment that they work in. I am a licensed counselor so I sometimes laugh. I feel like I’m helping people have a good relationship with their computer or their line on a production line because we do spend more time usually in our work than we do with our significant others. So that relationship needs investment. And we need to take time to really look at how that relationship feels to us physically, and mentally, and in every capacity. So I’m hoping that your audience from this session today will really take a pause and start thinking about what they can do to have a better relationship with the environment in which they work.

JAIME: Sara, I’m curious about the title that you use professionally: disability management specialist. The word disability certainly captures my attention.

SARA: Well, I entered the field as a disability manager, meaning that I was trained in how to deal with various disabilities and help people be accommodated when they go to work. So, let’s say they have a back issue, and I would go in and analyze their work and help modify it so that they would have the least amount of strain or discomfort to their back. That’s how I originally entered the field, and what I discovered quickly is that ergonomics, which is more proactive, trying to kind of prevent or mitigate those discomforts, is really a valuable investment for a company or an individual. And although my expertise is brought in disability, my goal is always to prevent it and to help people be empowered to make good choices about how they work, so that if they have a discomfort, they’re not further aggravating, and if they don’t have discomfort, they’re certainly not creating it.

ASHLEY: How then are ergonomics different from just having good posture?

SARA: Well, what the challenge has been in my years of experience is many people think ergonomics is a product. They don’t really recognize that it’s more about the interface between a person and the tools or the environment that they work in. So ergonomics is about not having a keyboard that has curvature to it or scissors that swivel. It’s about how you use those tools. So even though ergonomics has been promoted as more of a product than necessarily a personal investment in how we work.    Is that clear?

JAIME: Sara, that makes it sound like ergonomics is individual to the person.

SARA: Absolutely. So in the office environment, people will buy an ergonomic chair or even in your industry, you know, you buy chairs that might say they’re ergonomic, but ergonomic chair means absolutely nothing if it’s not adjusted to the stature and the needs of the person that’s using it. So you might feel all good about having invested in an ergonomic chair for yourself or for your customers, but without making adjustments to it, it doesn’t really provide comfort. And so there’s an investment of time, both in us performing our work and even anybody we service, to make sure that they are comfortable. And with that, you might find that your clients appreciate it and recognize that you’re trying to allow them to be more comfortable. I know time is money, but I think taking time before we start our work, whether we’re working on a computer, a production line, in a salon, you need to take time to make adjustments so that our work is comfortable for us.

JAIME: What are some of the most common injuries that you come across?

SARA: In your industry, obviously it would be carpal tunnel or shoulder impingement, neck strain, back issues because of the nature of the work. So in the office environment, it’s pretty much those as well, back shoulder, arm, neck. You know, those tend to be the predominant areas. What we teach in the office environment is to avoid reaching, and what cosmetologists are taught in training usually is to work at heart level, I believe. And so the concept is is that we want to avoid reaching, an extension of our arms, or bending significantly forward and sustaining that bend. So what we want to look at is creating these neutral postures, which usually means that we are not bending forward at the waist, that we are not extending our arms above shoulder heighth. So if one of the things that I discovered in preparation for our discussion today is that there are very similar issues within the office environment in relating to a computer and a salon in relating to your customers. And that is the chair that’s being used and the heighth adjustment range that it offers. And for a nail technician, it’s going to be the heighth of the, the surface in which you’re working on, you know, with your customer, if you are using a table. What I discovered is that the same issues are present in the helping beauty industry as they are in corporate America, and that is, that workstations are too tall and people’s time to adjust a chair is often not present. So let me elaborate on that for a minute. Anthropometrics is the study of, and the discovery of, heighth of individuals and optimal posture. So for instance, there was a study almost 20 years ago called CAESAR that identified the heighth of individuals and what would be the optimal work heighth that they should perform their duties. And what they discovered is that for a man who is six feet two or three tall, the best work surface heighth for him is about 29 inches. Now I know that your industry is predominantly women, and I know that based on anthropometric data involved on ergonomic standards committees, and I’m aware of these measurements, that in your industry being mostly women, surfaces that a nail technician would work at should never be higher than 27 inches, if even that high. And yet, when I went to look at what is a typical heighth of a nail station, I discovered they’re all in the 29, 32, 34, really high tables. And so what that means is whenever a nail technician is working at a table, that’s taller than the anthropometric data shows that it should be based on heighth of women and their elbow heighth, they are having to lift up and extend their arms. And whenever we lift up and extend our arms, we expose ourselves to discomfort. I know this is a long description of something that I hope that the audience leaves with understanding about this. So let me say it one other way to simplify it. We want to work with our elbows near our side. If the table that we’re working on sits above our elbow heighth when we’re sitting in our chair, then we’re going to be uncomfortable. And that goes for our customer, you know, the customer that we’re working with as well as the practitioner. I think that this data about accommodating that 6’3” or 6’2” male has influenced even your industry.

ASHLEY: That’s really interesting cause I know as nail techs, we definitely like to have what we’re working on very close to our eyes. I’m very near sighted personally, and so it’s like I can’t get enough light. I cannot get my face close enough to my client’s hands. And I’ve never thought of it the way that you’re explaining.  

SARA: Well, you’re bringing up a very good point. So what is the better or the worse of the two evils? So in one way you’re talking about lowering the surface so that you’re not working above your relaxed elbow heighth, and the other case you’re saying, but I can’t see what I’m doing. So this is part of that identifying where are your symptoms? Where is your issue? So could you use a magnifier in order to better see the customer’s nails? Then that would allow you not to have to lean so far forward to look at the work that you’re performing. So again, you want to take time to analyze it, or are you having difficulty with your wrists and your shoulders? And you don’t realize that you’ve been lifting up and extending your arms to work. This is why it’s a very individualized and important that that person take time to evaluate what their needs are.

ASHLEY: I have a lot to think about and consider for sure. Now, as far as parts of the beauty discipline, like nails where we’re sitting, there’s a lot of challenges with hunching, leaning, craning our necks forward. I also know that a lot of our listeners are in the hair space and they’re standing all day. So are there some best practices for those who are in a standing posture most of the day and working their arms and shoulders, and what can they do to assess that similar to how a nail technician would?

SARA: Excellent question. Ashley, and I think that again, we’re going to talk about adjustability. So the idea of having a chair that allows the pneumatic and the cylinder on the chair to adjust to place the client at the right heighth based on the beautician or cosmetologist’s stature. So, for that hairstylist, they want to take time to evaluate their customer stature and determine where is the best placement. Now, just like in the office setting, I would say one of the best investments is in a quality chair, and I would say the same to salons. Now I’ve heard that there’s some uniformity that’s desired. So maybe we’re not recognizing that the 5-foot stylist might need a different adjustment on her chair than that 5’9” stylist that’s next to her. It’s really important that we have the ability to adjust and that we take time to adjust. So again, with the concept of working more towards your heart level and never working at shoulder heighth or above, we need to get that orientation right for us and take time. Again, time is money, but this is valuable time because it will help you create a more comfortable relationship between you and the work that you’re doing for your customer.

JAIME: Speaking of money, I certainly hope there are some salon furniture manufacturers listening to you today because this quest for uniformity compels salon owners to spend a great deal of money on furniture that looks beautiful, but doesn’t necessarily function in the way that you’re describing, and too many stylists, or nail professionals, or skincare professionals find themselves adapting to the furniture other than the other way around.

SARA: Jaime, that’s a phenomenal point because that is ergonomics. So ergonomics is the relationship between that person and their environment. It is important that you’re adapting the environment to fit the individual, not expecting the individual to adapt to the environment. So that’s key. The idea that taking time to adapt the environment to fit the needs of your individual will have a phenomenal return on investment to help people be more comfortable. Now, I’ve heard some individuals who have been off of work and     not been in the salon and they’re all sudden realizing I don’t have distance comfort anymore. This is wonderful. And they may or may not want to come back to work because they’re feeling so good. So I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us to engage individuals in this industry to really take time to invest in themselves and try to identify, what can I do different?  How can I have a paradigm shift in how I’m working so that I feel better when I’m at work and I’m not aggravating any discomfort that I might experience? So here’s another concept. Sit to stand is very popular in the office environment, and there’s some promote that sitting’s the new smoking and I’m guessing skeptic to this. I feel that poor setting could be the new smoking, but it’s really driving the sale of heighth adjustable surfaces, which are wonderful. So a heighth adjustable surface means that someone who’s 5-foot can lower that desk down to 22 inches to work at their chair with their feet on the floor. All is golden, whether they’re working on a computer. Whatever they’re doing, it gives them the ability to lower their surface. I think the same needs would be really optimal for the nail technician, but also for the hairstylists and thinking about buying chairs that have a really broad range in their adjustment. And I did see that you can buy chairs that do go down significantly lower, but those were promoted just for that person of very small stature, so down to 13 inches and going up to 23 inches. I didn’t see that in one chair, but I saw that in two different chairs. Why couldn’t, just like in the office environment, you have kind of a standard chair and maybe an alternative chair for someone’s who’s taller or more petite? Why couldn’t that same solution be offered in the salon?

JAIME: That’s a great question for all the salon owners out there who either are planning an investment in furniture, or have made an investment already, but rethinking  how they work and how they have their colleagues work around them.

ASHLEY: I think sadly in our industry a bit of trial and error happening. Myself being very tall, I tend to work on a higher surface just so that way I don’t have to bend as far forward and I can still see. But I’ve been in a booth rental situation where I was given an antique sewing desk to work off of, and it looked to me like doll house furniture. I mean, I just dwarfed it. Nail techs, we love to talk about relaxing your hand and getting our clients to relax their arms and stop trying to pull them away from us. We get a lot of forearm and shoulder injuries that way too, just battling our clients. And Jaime has a pretty innovative way that she’s addressed that in her salon, as well as some of the things that she teaches at shows, so I’ll let her share that, cause that was mind blowing to me. But we did just anecdotally take a quick poll of our audience on all of our social media platforms about what parts of their bodies are actually hurting a lot as they’re returning to work, and the number one answer across all platforms was neck, their neck, then followed by their back, then shoulder, and knees and feet. So we have a nice sampling of everybody across disciplines, but neck injuries seem to be the number one issue that we’re dealing with. And I’m excited about this work surface height assessment that I can do, and using the height of the chair to stop craning my neck forward and all those sorts of things. What other things can we do to protect our neck?

SARA: Well basically again, we’re talking about choosing the right lesser evil in a way. Let’s just talk about a nail technician for a moment. and let’s talk about lowering that desk to the elbow heighth. Then your head is going to be extended forward and the head weighs about 10 pounds. So that’s your neck holding a 10 pound weight up and that’s naturally going to cause strain to the neck. I was observing my oral surgeon perform a root canal on me yesterday and what I discovered, and I’ve always admired his posture because he sits very erect. His elbows stay next to his side, and he’s actually looking through a microscope, and looking straight ahead, rather than bending down to look at the nails, or in my case, the tooth. And so I would think that really trying to recreate a way that you’re performing this work. So here’s an example or something I would not support is a back brace that are being promoted as something to keep your shoulders back, and maybe keep your neck more vertical. And what happens with those is if you don’t change the environment that you’re working in, if you don’t change the heighth of the table and the orientation of your customer, you will actually aggravate your condition by wearing those devices because you haven’t changed the fundamental way in which you’re working. So it’s just putting more pressure and I’ve seen that for decades as an issue. So when people wear a wrist brace, but they don’t change the orientation of their elbow and their wrist into the device that they’re using, more pressure is put on that wrist, for example. So I’m not a proponent of the brace. Back to the neck and what we can do is the more we keep the head balanced on the shoulders and straight, the better we are. And what that requires is adjusting the customer mostly, because the customer sitting and your styling their hair, you need to take the time, again I know it’s money to adjust things, but take the time to raise or lower the customer based on the service you’re offering. Are you coloring? Are you cutting? Are you styling? What are you doing to adjust their heighth so that you can keep your elbows closer to your side and not have to either look significantly down or significantly up? And I think that’s just the best, as well as using creative tools like magnifiers, possibly when you’re doing nails, because you can’t hold a customer’s arm extended up at shoulder heighth to get their nail closer to your eyes, right? It’s just not going to work. One other thing I’d like to address is earlier, you mentioned the idea of customers kind of pulling their hands back, and that you have to kind of engage, and kind of pull them forward to do their nails. If a customer’s elbows are below the heighth of the desk when they’re sitting in their chair, and what that means is that their upper arm is vertical. So imagine them sitting in the chair before you’ve started to work with them, and their hands are in their lap, and they’re just sitting in the chair waiting to start the nail treatment. If their elbow is below the heighth of the surface that you’re about to work together to do their nails, it will be uncomfortable for them to lift up their arm and extend it to you. People pulling back usually means they’re uncomfortable. It’s a sign that something’s wrong. And I’ve been that customer. When we hold our arms against the edge of a desk, it compresses our skin against the edge of the desk, and can impinge our nerves or our tendons, and it’s just physically uncomfortable. So I think being aware that when that customer’s pulling, it’s most likely that they’re not comfortable. Maybe take a quick break. Let them stretch. Ask them to do shoulder curls or just kind of pull back for a minute, and then go back if you cannot lower that surface so that they’re not having to extend and reach their arms.

JAIME: This may be the ideal time to describe how I have our clients seated in my nail salon, because the point that you just made, Sara, about the comfort of the client is so critical because we cannot possibly adjust ourselves if the person we’re trying to serve isn’t comfortable first. So I would say that instead of adapting to the furniture, I want to make sure that the client is comfortable in the furniture that I provide, and then I can work around that, making sure that I’m positioned well. So what I did was realizing that there was always going to be this tug happening across a nail table, I took a step back and thought, where am I most comfortable when I’m at home? Where are most people most comfortable at home, other than lying flat on their bed? A recliner was my answer. So I started offering services with clients seated in leather recliners. They’re able to lean back, which is a naturally comfortable position for themselves. The recliner arms are wide and flat, which provides a great surface for them to rest on. And I just made sure that the height of the chairs that we use when we work with the client position myself so close to the client that I didn’t feel like I was having to strain and my eyes certainly weren’t strained to see what I was doing, and yet they were comfortable. I was comfortable and I could sit with a straight back by rotating from my hips, leaning forward from my hips, rather than anywhere up my back or through my neck.

SARA: Sounds wonderful, Jaime. It sounds both pleasant for the customer as well as for your own health. So I think that was a wonderful investment to make. And again, it took you kind of thinking about how can I help my customer be more comfortable, and then how can I get a better orientation to be able to perform my duties, and be able to see what I’m doing as well as be comfortable with my posture as well. And that’s what I think we’re kind of encouraging people to take time to do. I think this pandemic has afforded us a pause where we can take time to think, what was working? What wasn’t working? How can we change it to have a better relationship with our work? And I think that’s very exciting about finding some positives, as far as what to do with our time and energy as we’re considering going back to work.

ASHLEY: Something I’ve always wondered, and I know there’s a lot of misinformation out there, or maybe some old wives’ tales or things that are actually myths, but when I do nail art, I find that I hold my brush and put so much pressure on it that it forces the knuckles of my index and middle finger apart, and I end up with a lot of inflammation there and it’s a whole thing. But I was told when I kind of reached out to my peers about what I could do to avoid that, someone said, essentially, that I need to stop making these movements fine motor movements and start focusing on larger muscle groups. So instead of creating all of the movement on the brush from those two fingers and thumb, but to move my entire forearm to do that, and is that correct?

SARA: Yes, Ashley. That is an excellent point. So there’s fine motor skills and gross motor skills, and they’re very different. And you can even use the same analogy when you think about a roller brush. The larger the handle, not too big, but, but the larger the handle, the less turning that you have to do to get the rotation. And I would say that is excellent advice that someone gave you about looking at how you’re actually moving the brush, but you have to consider if you are using your more of your arm instead of your, just your fingers, you want to consider where your elbow and forearm might be, and what are they resting upon, and is there any pressure? So you have to then look up your arm for how you’re performing those gross tasks. So here’s a good way. I just was peer published on a concept and it’s a method that we’ve applied for 24 years called Mouse With Your Arm. And the idea is when someone uses a computer that they actually support their arm on the chairs, armrest, and the hand and the arm never touch the desk. And this allows you to what’s called Mouse With Your Arm, which means that you’re operating the mouse more from your elbow, and your shoulder, and your forearm comfortably supported on the chair’s arm rest. And that keeps your arm close to your body, keeps your elbow close to your body, and makes sure the mouse is below your relaxed elbow heighth that we’ve talked about. That’s kind of more of a gross, versus resting your wrist on the desk and operating your mouse with your wrist. That’s going to be compression. That’s going to put pressure on the wrist, just like you felt in your fingers. So you received very good advice and reevaluating how you do that. And again, you’re going back to work. Many people can change. Try something different. Give it a go. It doesn’t hurt to try it. And even sometimes we’ll say to people switch. Use your left hand with your mouse for a while just to change so that you’re not all your muscles and all your focus. So maybe a stylist could do that with their blow dryer and try swapping. I know it will take time, but maybe there are some alternating between the hands that you used to perform different tasks that might alleviate some of the tension and more unilaterally share the load, I guess, of the work that you need to perform.

JAIME: That sounds particularly useful for services that involve, for example, massage, because if we’re able to provide that service using both of our arms, it gives us the opportunity to balance the workload in delivering the service.

SARA: Yeah, very good point. 

JAIME: And being more broad, what role should preventive healthcare play in the life of a beauty pro? I don’t think we think enough about it. We think about making time to gobble down a snack or something. There’s just so little discussion about ergonomics in our industry.

SARA: I think part of that is kind of this fashion forward, always looking at what it looks like, and I think that that can get in the way to how it feels. So for instance, wearing high heels all day is probably not a good idea, but a lot of people do it anyway, right? And, and it doesn’t at first, it looks good, but they don’t really look at the implications it’s going to have over time. So if people are uncomfortable standing, and they’re maybe not taking time to take breaks, or use a standing stool when they work on occasion, it will catch up with you. I think that there just needs to be a shift that gets individuals to start thinking about this, and I’d love to be a part of that shift, if my expertise is of benefit to that conversation.

JAIME: It’s absolutely a benefit. I think you are a fabulous resource for our industry, and I’m so grateful to Ashley for having discovered you. So thank you again for being here.

SARA: Thank you, Jaime and Ashley, I really appreciate this opportunity.

JAIME: Excellent. So let me ask about this whole concept of individuals in our industry thinking that they have to manage their pain. And that somehow this is just inevitable that they’re going to develop carpal tunnel, or they’re going to develop strain in their neck, and may even have to get surgery as opposed to just adjusting their environment. I mean, why is that so difficult for us to accept?

SARA: I think a couple things. One is the salon may not empower their individuals to take time to make those adjustments. Again, if you say I want everything uniform, your people are not going to feel empowered to make the changes for themselves. They’re going to feel more victim and more, this is what I have. I have no choices. So a couple of things came to mind to relate that to the business world. One of my first customers was an executive and she was in such physical discomfort. And she said she did this because her boss didn’t want to look at the cables of her computer. And so she had everything in this crazy orientation because she thought that her boss didn’t want to look at the back of her computer and all the cords. And it was one of those just misunderstandings. He wanted her to be physically comfortable, and productive, and successful, and she was worried about how things looked. So sometimes I think we gotta get past that concept of this uniformity or, you know, everything looking good, and try to take time to think about what feels good. Now I had plantar fasciitis at one time and I’ll admit I really missed my heels. I really did. I was kind of tired of worrying that just basic flats every function that we went to and I get it. I get that it takes away from the look that you want, but when it comes to your health and what is really best for your body, I think sometimes we just have to come to terms with that and it’s not easy. So, I really just think it’s a matter of people investing in what’s comfortable and recognizing that you do have choices that you can make. So here’s another example. I know someone who’s going to rent a booth and I asked what kind of customer chair will you have, and what are some of the tools that you’re going to be given within that booth? And the answer was a very basic chair, probably not that comfortable. So I looked into what it costs to buy a chair with a broader range of heighth adjustability, which would let you bring the customer up to a better heighth based on your stature. And I discovered you could get a quality chair probably for $800. That would be a good investment to make sure that the chair that you use afforded you to raise or lower your customers to a heighth that allows you to work more comfortably. And taking time to make those adjustments throughout the appointment, based on the tasks that you’re performing.

ASHLEY: That’s something I never considered having been a client many times. I feel like especially when I have my hair done, that the height is adjusted at the beginning and never again throughout the different portions, whether it’s applying color, taking me to the shampoo bowl, which is a whole other situation for me being tall. I put off getting my hair colored because it is so uncomfortable. I have to almost like plank onto their sink, and it compresses the neck, and there’s all these other things, but that’s such a great point that you’re making about creating an evolving environment wherein you are really in control.

SARA: Right, and I’ve seen, and I’ve heard of solutions like, oh, I stand on a stool, or I built a platform underneath the chair, or what are all these creative solutions that clearly the people that are doing that are making an effort to be more comfortable. And I’m thrilled for that, but there are risks involved in that. So if you are standing on a stool, from a safety perspective, that’s not going to be an ideal. And I’ve even heard some people say with poor quality anti-fatigue matting, that they kind of twist their ankle as they try to move around on the mat, it kind of catches on their foot and they can have, just kind of do a little twist of the ankle. Or if you’re wearing a heel, your heel goes to part into the matting and that catches as well. So those are things to pay attention to, and then try to remedy it. Do you need a higher quality anti-fatigue matting? Do you need an alternative shoe that’s not going to catch? So these are all really the idea of investing in your health and being proactive by thinking about what works and what doesn’t work within your individual setup.

ASHLEY: So that raises a good point, and I know a lot of our listeners at this point in the episode are feeling a lot of light bulbs going off in the ways that they could potentially adapt and change their work environment. So for the salon owners that have employees, what are the employer’s obligations to provide essentially accommodations in this space, and how would the ADA really apply in salons, if you could speak to that?

SARA: That’s a can of worms, and what I can say is that if someone has a disability and it is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they have rights to request accommodation. And it is the obligation of the salon owner to then accommodate that request. A lot of people don’t go to that extent. They ask. Maybe they don’t get something, and they just drop it because they value their job, or they think that somehow there’ll be retaliation. Who knows why people sometime don’t pursue that? And I work in the area of ADA, and I usually think by the time it gets to someone requesting an accommodation, it’s a little late in the game. I would much rather have the owner go to their employees and say, how are you? How’s this working for you? To everybody, I don’t care if you have a disability or not. Just unilaterally go to everybody and say, is there any accommodations? How are you feeling in the station that you’ve been assigned? Is it working for you? We’re looking at getting alternative stations where we have the chairs go lower or the chairs go higher. Wondered if that’s something that you might want. And just be really engaged with your people to let them see that you’re invested in their health and wellbeing. And I think that goes a lot further than waiting for anybody to request an accommodation through the Americans with Disabilities Act. So obligation? I mean, yes, OSHA says you need to provide a safe work environment, but until an inspection goes through and you’re somebody that works for your group has filed an OSHA recordable and a complaint. Are they ever going to come to your salon? So hopefully, you don’t get to that point, and you’re just proactive and invested in the valuable resource of your employees to keep them healthy and keep the customers comfortable as well.

JAIME: Sara, regardless of our work position, whether we’re standing most of the time or sitting, should we just be moving more? 

SARA: There’s the concept of your next posture is your best posture. And so to answer your question, movement is very healthy for our bodies. It helps with the circulation. It  rejuvenates our body. It is very important to move a lot. However, I would say that awkward postures are more problematic than static postures. So static posture means we’re not moving. Awkward posture means that we’re extending our arms. We’re compressing our bodies against something. We’re slouched over. So if I was going to choose the better of the two evils or I don’t know really know exactly how to say this, but if we have better posture, you’ll get a higher return than necessarily the movement concept, but the nature of cosmetology is it’s a very active, dynamic kind of job, and you are moving a lot because you’re getting up, and greeting customers, and bringing them in, and there is a lot of walking, and shifting of your posture, and I think that that in of itself is very beneficial. I think your greatest risk is in these awkward postures that are usually caused by not taking time to adjust the environment to meet your needs.

ASHLEY: Would you say then, Sara, is it ever too late to correct how we work?

SARA: Oh, absolutely not. It doesn’t matter when you do it. And what’s exciting is that if you make these type of changes, and I’ll just summarize them in a way. Keeping our elbows closer to our bodies is one. Not working above our shoulder heighth, two. Taking time to adjust the customer to a good orientation to allow that to happen. Using tools like magnifiers or heighth-adjustable stand to accommodate both the customer’s comfort and our need to see. I think these are all things that will benefit anybody, no matter how long you’ve performed your work. I think it’s a very valuable investment in your health.

JAIME: Sara, I know through your company that you offer risk assessments, and I wish that everyone had the opportunity to have you visit their salon space to do that onsite.   But I know you are able to do this virtually. Can you describe your virtual consulting services through virtualergonomics.com?

SARA: Yeah. So about 16 years ago, we started a virtual service realizing that there were a lot of remote locations, or people didn’t have access to corporate ergonomists to come in and help with their  work environment, or maybe they worked from home and they didn’t want some stranger coming in helping them set up their work environment. So we designed this virtual service that we do really through still images of an individual showing different postures that they engage in. And then we set up a one hour consultation to guide them through options that they could modify that space and posture to improve their comfort. What was exciting about this is that we’ve always measured our outcomes, whether we’re or onsite, face to face with a customer or whether we’re doing it virtually. And we were shocked that we actually had the same outcomes of ours over 95% of participants saying that they were more comfortable and they reduced or eliminated their symptoms, and it didn’t matter if it was virtually or onsite. So we’re really proud of that. Obviously we’ve fine tuned the model that we deliver this to allow it to be effective, and it’s just taking a couple hours to invest in your health, whether you’re working on a computer, or working with a customer, or doing nails. I just think it’s a valuable investment, and I also think, as I said earlier on in our discussion, investing in quality chair is really important as well.

ASHLEY: Well, I know, Sara, we could talk to you for hours and hours about the unique challenges that our industry faces in using our bodies, and protecting our resources, which is how we move and not letting it come to something catastrophic in order to really have a catalyst to take action.   

SARA: Absolutely.

ASHLEY: I think this is going to generate a lot of listener questions and speaking more specifically to the challenges they’re facing, we could literally listen to you speak on this topic for hours and hours.

SARA: Well, thank you. I really appreciate you asking the questions and being interested in the health and wellbeing of your fellow practitioners. That’s really important. So please take time to invest in our health, and, and I think that’s going to be time well spent.

JAIME: Thank you, Sara. I think we learned that it’s never too early to start thinking about this. This is a subject that should be covered in beauty school, and it’s never too late to make corrections so that we can extend the longevity of our careers.

SARA: Absolutely, and let me know if I can be of any assistance to anyone who has concerns or discomfort. It would be my pleasure.

JAIME: Please subscribe, rate, and review Outgrowth on your favorite podcast platform. It really does help us reach more listeners like you!

ASHLEY: Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and we might read your review on our next episode, like this one coming from Mavymoo: “Perfect to listen to before reopening. I was really happy to hear what she confirmed as legitimate sterilizer and why something might not actually work despite the label. A lot of clients and providers are being tricked right now into buying things with buzz words.” And that is from Mavymoo up in Canada, and clearly she’s referring to Part 3 of our fabulous series with Leslie Roste from Barbicide. So thanks for that.

JAIME: As always, you can follow us and comment on recent episodes on Instagram @outgrowthpodcast.

ASHLEY: And you can visit our website, also Outgrowthpodcast.com for all of our previous episodes, plus show notes and resources, along with transcripts from all of our shows. Until next week.

JAIME: Be smart.

ASHLEY: Be safe.

JAIME: Bye.

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