Ergonomics in the Workplace

How Ergonomics in the Workplace Can Improve the Health of Working Americans

After, oh, several hundred thousand years of human existence, we finally live in an age where people are beginning to place a higher value on feeling good at work. Phrases like “company culture,” and “work/life balance,” are frequently used to discuss the employment sector.

People want to earn a living, but they don’t want to give their lives away to do it. A sensible enough dynamic. One that employers need to get behind if they are going to stay competitive in their recruitment process.

So where does ergonomics fit in this constantly involving work culture? In this article, we take a look at what ergonomics are, why they are important, and how business leaders can use them to improve morale and health.

First, What are Ergonomics?

To be ergonomic, a product must be designed to help prevent injury over long-term use. It sounds like a feature that should be built into every product, but it turns out, no. It’s not. You would be surprised what common pieces of office equipment can result in injury after prolonged use.

Chairs. Desks. Keyboards. Computer mice. Over time, these products result in muscle wear that can cause injury. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common office-related injury, but back pain, neck injury, and many other conditions are also on the table.

It’s easy to dismiss these injuries as being minor, or even the aches and pains of privileged people. There is an entire episode of The Office built essentially around that very concept. But while office injuries can’t compare to the risks of a construction site, can have a serious impact on the sufferers’ quality of life.

Below, we take a look at a few of the ways introducing ergonomic furniture and equipment in the workplace can have significant benefits.

It Improves Morale

Workers place a high value on evidence that suggests their bosses care about their wellbeing. A troubling study published several years ago revealed that the average employee trusts strangers more than they do their own boss. Why?

Well, one reason is that most people really only hear from their boss when there is an issue. They don’t receive indications that they are valued members of the team.

Ergonomic furniture and other employee-centric gestures can help team members understand how valued they are.

It Prevents Injury

Naturally. That’s the reason ergonomic equipment exists in the first place. For the employees being impacted, this alone can have a significant impact on their quality of life. It’s important to keep in mind that aches and pains aren’t just bad for their own sake.

They can also have a wearing effect over time that results in insomnia, anxiety, and depression. People don’t like feeling bad all the time. When pain becomes the norm, it can have a very bleak impact on the sufferer’s overall world view.

It’s also worth mentioning that higher levels of physical comfort can have lateral health benefits as well. For example, an employee who feels good physically after work may be more inclined to exercise when they get home.

It Boosts Results

All of this boils down to improved productivity. The employee may not necessarily want ergonomic equipment for that reason. However, for the employer, it may help to justify the, sometimes significant, cost of refurnishing the workspace.

People work better when they feel happy and comfortable at their place of work. When you invest in ergonomic equipment, you aren’t just buying furniture and keyboards. You’re securing tools that will help your staff do their jobs better.

But How?

That’s a good question. Beneficial or not, money doesn’t grow on trees. So how can you swing the sometimes large investment that is required to replace office equipment? Naturally, some businesses will just bite the bullet and shell out the cash.

Others may apply for business grants, or other forms of funding that will help them avoid tapping too deeply into their own liquidity.

Still, others leave the matter more open-ended. Many companies will allow employees to decide if they want ergonomic equipment. This approach accomplishes many of the benefits described above but at a more approachable sticker price.

Your staff will understand that you care about their well-being. They will appreciate the gesture, and some will benefit from the impact of the ergonomic equipment.

Others may not decide to get it right away, or at all. Everyone gets what they want, and the approach to achieving it isn’t quite as overwhelming as buying new stuff for twenty people all at the same time.

It’s a Small Step

Well. Sorry. But it is. Financially, maybe not so small. Replacing office equipment can be very pricey. However, from a work culture perspective, preventing work-related injuries is literally the least you can do.

On a construction site, this concept is very obvious. You can’t have a work environment that runs the risk of maiming employees. Construction sites, by the way, also prioritize ergonomics alongside other safety precautions.

In the office setting, “danger” is a little bit more abstract. The risk of injury usually isn’t immediate but develops slowly over the course of many years on the job. But just because injuries happen slowly, it doesn’t mean that employers aren’t responsible for preventing them.

So yes. Don’t expect a gold medal for focusing on implementing ergonomic technology in your office. It’s a nice gesture, sure, but also one of the many employee-centric initiatives that your workers will expect and deserve.

Keep in mind that we now live in an era where the majority of job seekers care more about the work environment than they do compensation. To boost retention and recruitment, it is important to foster a safe and welcoming workplace.