Employee Discomfort Surveys

Revised 2019.11.01

Employee discomfort surveys are often cited as a useful part of a corporate Musculoskeletal Disorder Prevention (MSD) program. Doing them on a regular basis can help you track the success of your program. However, many companies don’t use them for fear that they would have to take action if they find out that their employees are having difficulties.

There are at least two good reasons why you would want to know if your employees are experiencing discomfort.

1. If your employees are experiencing discomfort, it is costing you money even if you don't know about it because of lost productivity, reduced quality, absenteeism, trips to the doctor, etc.

2. Discomfort can turn into serious and more expensive injuries.

Once you make a decision to proceed with a discomfort survey there are a few issues to address first.

1. What questions do you want to ask?
The more questions you ask, the less likely employees will find time to complete the survey. If you don’t ask enough questions, you will have to do follow up surveys or inquiries. More on this below.

2. Who will the surveys be sent to? Should they be anonymous?
Employees may not respond to the survey if they feel that their reports may jeopardize their employment or chances at promotion. Even if surveys are promoted as being anonymous, employees may fear that they can still be identified. Completed surveys need to be handled by someone employees trust.

3. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.
You should have a plan in place on how you will respond to employees who are reporting discomfort.

4. How will you communicate survey results and action plans?
If you don’t do this well, your chances of getting a good response the next time you survey will be reduced.

What questions do you want to ask?

At a minimum, there are 2 questions you could ask.

1. Are you experiencing discomfort at work?

2. If yes, to what degree is it affecting your work? 
  • No impact on my work
  • It makes some tasks difficult.
  • I am unable to perform some tasks properly.

If you want more details, you could ask:

What tasks are being affected?
What body parts are experiencing discomfort?
What ideas do you have to address these difficulties?

Discomfort survey examples:

1. Cornell University Ergonomics Web
Good examples with ideas on how to score the surveys

2. Ontario’s MSD Prevention Guideline
Worker Discomfort Survey

Let me know if you would like me to assist with the design of a customized survey to address your workplace needs.