Ergonomics is not a hot topic at the lunchroom water cooler. Instead, it’s a subject that often falls by the wayside, and that’s unfortunate. Given the amount of screen time we all engage in each day, ergonomics is more important than ever (and for reasons you might not have considered). Yes, ergonomics is about posture and proper body alignment. But it goes so much deeper than that. Ergonomics plays a big part in productivity and the overall quality of job performance. It also affects employee morale, your company’s safety culture, and, most crucial, your bottom line. For these reasons, it should be seen—and used—as an investment.
The Beginning of Ergonomics
In the 1950s, ergonomics became a science that studied the interaction between people and their work equipment and environment. It includes posture, body manipulations, movement, workplace configurations, and general health. In an office setting, ergonomics refers to the furniture employees use and how they use it. Good ergonomics aims to create a space that fits and allows for the most comfortable working environment possible. When people feel comfortable, they can excel at their jobs as they are not distracted by muscle aches and pains.
Foster Engagement and Safety Culture Through Ergonomics
Start looking at ergonomics as an investment. It’s an investment into your employees’ well-being and, therefore, your business’s health. To your employees, it represents that you care about and value them. To that end, it is worthwhile to build office ergonomics into employee communication to support the corporate messaging that “we care,” which will enhance employee engagement. This positively impacts the safety culture and, in turn, your corporate image, leading to stronger community relationships and a more impactful brand. As we all know, employees are the most valuable assets of any organization. Implementing ergonomics into your office design shows your company’s commitment to employee safety; thus, supporting safety as a core value.
Get Started with Ergonomics in the Workplace
So, how do you create a space and culture of ergonomics in the workplace? Start with your employees—include them in the discussion. Behaviour is a habit, so you need to cultivate an environment where habits can change so employees can create new behaviour. To do this, start talking about ergonomics. Have a meeting where everyone can discuss the topic of pain and discomfort in the office. Have your employees share their experiences and get them to provide input as to why they think that is. Take their considerations to heart and then implement new and improved ergonomic solutions based on their feedback.
If you can’t start with a whole ergonomic setup, start with less expensive options, including split keyboards or footrests. Show your employees how they should be sitting and encourage micro-breaks—voluntary breaks from your workstation, including having a snack, chatting with a co-worker, stretching, or a quick walkabout the office. Following these steps will reinforce to your employees that you care and want them to be comfortable and safe at work.
Designate an Ergonomics Specialist
There is a lot to know about ergonomics, so it can get confusing: adjustable chairs, lumbar and pelvic support, sit-stand desks, monitor height, footrests, keyboard, mouse, lighting, micro-breaks, plus more. There are so many little things that make up the study of ergonomics, so we recommend designating a person at your company who can be the in-house ergonomics specialist. This will ensure your employees know whom they can go to when they have specific needs or require adjustments. This person can be trained to adjust existing and new furniture and be a knowledgeable point of contact for concerns, requests, or questions.
Having an appointed ergonomics specialist will provide multiple benefits to your company:
- Knowing someone at the office is trained in ergonomics will maximize your investment and reinforce the importance placed on staff well-being in your workplace.
- Employees feel most valuable when given the proper equipment to work with.
- They will also feel the physical benefits of having ergonomically designed furniture, increasing creativity, productivity, and efficiency.
- Your employees will know they matter because they will recognize the company’s investment of time, energy, and money to ensure their comfort and to set them up for success.
Your resident expert can do some minor fine-tuning but may also be the link to outside organizations with greater ergonomic specialties. Getting your ergonomics specialist set up will require some initial work, but like all good things, the effort will be worth it.
Ergonomics is a Savvy Investment
Is it worth investing time and money into ergonomic furniture for your employees? Yes! We all want the best for our employees, not only because we care but also because, with ergonomically designed furniture, employees will be able to do their best work for the company. So many companies shy away from investing in ergonomics because the upfront cost can be so high. But not investing in ergonomics comes at an even higher cost:
- Roughly 34% of missed workdays are a direct result of ergonomic-related injuries.
- Employees who have taken time off work due to musculoskeletal disorders need, on average, 11 days to recover.
- Musculoskeletal disorders are among the costliest medical conditions in Canada at $22 billion annually.
You will need to educate your staff on the importance of ergonomics. And it will be well worth it when you see the increase in their innovation, productivity, general health, and overall well-being. Your employees will be happier coming to work, feel healthier both mentally and physically, and know that they genuinely matter to the organization. Our best employees do the best work, so we must do what we can to help them reach their full potential.
If you are looking to move into a new office space or redesign your current location, consider partnering with a design and construction firm (like us) that understands the furniture and design requirements needed to implement ergonomic solutions. The team at Truspace specializes in creating large-scale office spaces. Reach out to learn how our in-house team of experts can help you create a space with ergonomics in mind—we would love to speak with you.
To learn more on this topic, see the following reference materials we used in creating this article:
Ergonomics Safety: https://safetyculture.com/topics/ergonomics-safety/
Truth vs. Myth: Ergonomics is Expensive and There is No Return on Investment: https://safetyculture.com/topics/ergonomics-safety/
Common Workplace Ergonomic Issues and their Causes: https://ergonomictrends.com/common-workplace-ergonomic-issues/
Poor ergonomics costs enterprises billions in workers’ comp claims every year: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/poor-ergonomics-is-costing-enterprises-billions-in-workers-comp-claims-every-year/
The economics of ergonomics: https://www.whsc.on.ca/Files/Resources/Ergonomic-Resources/RSI-Day-2016_MSD-Case-Study_The-economics-of-ergon.aspx