What Is “Ergonomics” and How Does It Increase Productivity
Most people have heard the term “ergonomics,” and many know it is generally a good thing. But what is ergonomics, what does it really mean? And how in the world does applying ergonomics to the workplace improve productivity?
Very simply, workplace ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace to suit the worker, instead of the worker having to adapt to their surroundings. This is applied to the design, function, and layout of the workplace. It includes elements like the right-fitting desk and chair, a computer monitor at the ideal height and distance to eliminate neck and eye strain, proper lighting, hands-free phones, other displays, and controls being easily within reach and use, and more. All of these factors are evaluated and adjusted for each individual worker in an ergonomic environment.
By taking limitations of the worker into account, proper workplace ergonomics create a comfortable environment where duties are performed easily and efficiently. It removes risk factors that can cause injuries while increasing productivity and performance. When offices are designed without it, workers are usually tired, frustrated, in pain, and wind up taking more time off for injuries. This translates to unhappy workers and lower productivity. Taking the time to focus on an optimal ergonomic workplace improves the daily lives of employees, which can then improve the company’s overall performance.
But how exactly do the right desk and chair translate into greater productivity? We’ll go over some of the key ways.
One reason ergonomics in the workplace improve productivity is that employees stay healthier by avoiding repetitive-strain injuries. These types of injuries, that are the result of a poor working environment, include strains, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, back injuries, and other musculoskeletal problems just to name a few.
And when an injury finally occurs, the employee will usually need time off to recover. Maybe a lot of time off. Repetitive strain injuries develop slowly over time. So once an injury happens, it takes a long time to treat, which means long employee absences. Not only does this negatively impact productivity because that worker is lost, but it can add to everyone’s workload which hurts morale too.
Or an injury can make an employee stop working altogether. Companies with ergonomic workstations have reported a higher rate of employee retention by avoiding injury and discomfort in the workplace. This cuts down on the expense of having to consistently hire and train new staff, or pay overtime to your current staff who are taking on more of the workload due to an absent worker.
Comfortable and Efficient Workers
In addition to keeping workers off the injured list, a properly-fitting work environment will improve everyday comfort. When workers are in pain, they report feeling tired and drained both mentally and physically. This has translated into being able to work less efficiently. They need to take frequent breaks to relieve the pain by walking around or stretching, or just repositioning themselves at their workstation, which interrupts their flow of work. And when workers are in pain, they are less able to be creative and generate ideas because they are so distracted by the discomfort.
Studies have found that workers who are distracted by their discomfort also make more errors, leading to a worse work product. Whereas workers in ergonomic environments were better able to concentrate.
When working in a comfortable ergonomic environment, workers can also perform tasks more quickly because it can cut down on repetitive motions. For instance, workers with ergonomic keyboards often type faster and need to take fewer breaks. And being comfortable leads to more energy, which increases productivity and efficiency overall.
Or another example, having a computer monitor at the correct height and distance, at the proper brightness, with good office lighting reduces eye strain which means fewer headaches as well as greater accuracy when reading.
This all means that even when injuries haven’t occurred, just being uncomfortable made workers distracted, unhappy, and error-prone. When comfortable and using ergonomic equipment, they can do more work more efficiently.
Ergonomics Can Increase Company Morale
Companies that have committed to a healthy ergonomic workplace are telling their employees that their physical comfort and well-being is important to them. Focusing on improving employees’ daily comfort tells them they are important to the company, which makes them feel good. Just knowing their company cares about them can have a substantial impact on motivation, which improves productivity. Workers also want to reciprocate by producing an excellent work product.
By creating work environments that are adapted to the workers, companies can improve overall productivity. Having properly-fitting desks and chairs, computer monitors at the right height and distance, and other ergonomic (layouts) makes workers more comfortable, efficient, and reduces the chance of repetitive-strain injuries. Those injuries may require an employee to be absent for a long period of time, or leave the workforce altogether, forcing the company to pay to hire and retrain someone new.
Pain-free workers can focus better, are happier and more motivated. And knowing the company cares enough to make their health and comfort a priority gives employees an added boost of morale, which also contributes to higher productivity. An ergonomic workplace not only improves the physical and mental state of the employee, but it can improve the productivity of the company as well.
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