Ergonomics: Improving Your Workplace One Chair Adjustment at a Time
Have you ever worked in an office or situation that put your body under strain? The amount of strain can range from relatively minor, like low lighting that causes you to strain your eyes to see your computer, to significant, like a task requiring you to bend over for extended periods. Each of these situations are very different, but each is creating a work environment that is stressful on the body.
Ergonomics is a field dedicated to designing jobs to fit employees so the work is safer and more efficient. When your body is stressed by an awkward posture, extreme temperature, or repeated movement, your musculoskeletal system is affected. All of these stressors can lead to symptoms of fatigue, discomfort, and pain. If you don’t pay attention to these symptoms and redesign your work, you could develop a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). MSDs affect your muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and nerves, and these can be very costly in lost time and disability claims. In fact, musculoskeletal disorders are estimated to cost $22 billon annually, and workplace hazards are responsible for many of them. By implementing ergonomic solutions, you can make your employees more comfortable and productive.
If an office setting, proper ergonomics can be achieved by setting up a workstation in such a way that it lessens risk of headaches, eyestrains, back pain, neck pain, and repetitive motion injuries. Since each employee probably has a standard set of equipment, you may need to customize elements for each of them. This includes things like desk height, monitor height, chair size, and equipment layout.
In addition to keeping your employees comfortable and safe, ergonomics offers many other workplace benefits:
1. Cost Reduction – By investing in office ergonomics you reduce the costs associated with MSDs. MSDs are the number one reason for lost-time claims reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and these claims cost employers millions of dollars each year.
2. Increased Productivity – Well designed workspaces promote good posture, limit repetitive motions, and require less exertion. This creates a more efficient and more productive work place.
3. Improved Work Quality – If their workspace is working against them, employees cannot do their best work. Poorly designed and configured workspaces lead to tired and frustrated workers that have to worry about more than just doing their best work. Investing in ergonomics sets your employees up for success.
4. Increased Employee Engagement – Proper ergonomics will reduce turnover and absenteeism, and increase employee morale. Employees will be appreciative that the company is looking out for their health and wellbeing and will be more loyal and engaged.
5. Improved Safety Culture – Investing in ergonomics shows your company is committed to health and safety. If you have a strong safety culture your employees will be more diligent and your company will experience fewer workplace accidents.
Many companies assume that investing in new equipment or ergonomics assessments will be too costly to justify, but studies show that investing in ergonomics is well worth the cost. If you’re in doubt, there are two reputable ergonomics return on investment (ROI) calculators available online and free to use: Cornell University’s ROI Estimator and the Cost Calculator from the Puget Sound Chapter of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
A comprehensive ergonomics program can save you money and offer a lot of workplace benefits, but before implementing one, be sure to have a plan that includes:
- Employee involvement: Workers should be involved and consulted in all aspects of the ergonomics program. A health and safety committee can be a great way to effectively involve a large number of employees.
- Management commitment: Company leaders and managers must present a consistent approach to health and safety and communicate its importance.
- Employee Training: Employees need to understand what ergonomics is, the benefits, and their role.
- Sustainability: Ergonomics should be a part of your regular safety reports and meetings.
- Evaluation: Keep track of key statistics, eg. MSD claims and ergonomics related costs.