13 Sep Benefits of Ergonomics in the Workplace
Fact: people do better business when they’re comfortable.
As you optimize your computer systems and software for the best business operations, it is key — if not imperative — that you make sure you have the most efficient physical environment as well.
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the process of creating this efficient environment within a workspace. Having a workspace designed to both decrease injury and improve physical efficiency, is a simple way to approach having an optimized physical environment. Working toward a more ergonomically-optimized workstation can be as simple as appropriately adjusting your chair for your height, rearranging your items to avoid unnecessary leaning/moving, or using a pad or pillow to help with lumbar support.
Ergonomically-focused equipment such as sit-to-stand equipment can make a huge difference in daily tasks, and ultimately, have a positive tangible impact on the business as a whole.
The decision to bring ergonomics to a workstation requires being open to an initial sacrifice of making a change, but the benefits of ergonomics in the workplace far outweigh the cons, and it has shown to make a big difference in employee success.
Risks of Poor Ergonomics
The most prevalent risk of not utilizing ergonomics are Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). MSDs can cause various problems in your joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and nerves with some of the most widespread MSDs being Carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, and lower back issues.
Workers who are susceptible to these risks include blue collar workers who see constant and strenuous physical activity in their daily work. MSDs from this type of work are often the result of one-time explosive overloads that the body either isn’t used to or is unable to handle. Injuries often result from heavy lifting, awkward postures, muscular stress, and repetitive motions.
MSDs account for a large amount of employee illnesses, and instances of MSDs are being seen in white collar positions as well, where prolonged static positions are the norm. MSDs for workers in these types of positions tend to develop over time, but they can be easily avoided with ergonomics.
Benefits of Adapting Your Workspace with Ergonomics
Avoiding the harmful risks of MSDs is an investment in your longevity and a step towards having more productive and efficient business. The many benefits range from acute muscular healing to general increases in your mental state.
Specific ergonomic changes that can have the most impact:
- Using a headset instead of a phone (for neck tension release)
- Changing computer’s direction so that it doesn’t create a glare (for eye tension release)
- Using a properly sized chair – usually a bigger one (for lower back support)
- Using a sit-to-stand desk (for better blood flow and energy levels)
- Adjusting computer height as is appropriate for your height (for better back and neck posture)
- Adjusting computer distance (for arm/hand tension release)
- Using a properly sized desk (to accommodate for employees’ unique proportions)
- Using pillows or small stools (for back support and foot resting, respectively)
Benefits for the body
Heart and health improvements
Perhaps the biggest (and most obvious) benefit of ergonomics in the workplace is its tremendous improvement for the body’s cardiovascular system, and as an extension, the body’s overall health.
The first thing that employees typically notice when they apply ergonomics is a newfound relaxation in their muscles. While it often feels unusual at first (because of the drastic changes in positions), ergonomic equipment actually allows the body to ease into more natural positions. For instance, with the adjustment of chair height for computer angle and worker’s height, tension on joints, ligaments and tendons is lessened and better posture comes naturally.
Adjustments that are aligned to a person’s body allow for more relaxed and natural positions to be had. In turn, this creates better circulation. Common problems like the swelling of legs due to improper seat height and strains throughout the arms due to disproportionate distances gradually fade away when ergonomics are implemented and the body is allowed optimal blood flow.
Additionally, one byproduct of having correct posture from natural positions is increase in strength in the legs and core (muscles are able to support each other properly in their respective muscle groups).
Decreased neck and back pain
As proper alignment is introduced to sedentary activity, the positive effects will seemingly come twofold, as not only will muscles feel more relaxed and stronger, but pains and aches that were once distractions will also begin to subside.
For example, when sit-stand desks are used, they prevent cramps that come from prolonged static sitting positions and allow workers to feel more energized after switching from seated to standing. In fact, with the introduction of a sit-stand desk to the workstation, workers are helping to lower the risk of any back pain even further, increase energy levels, and improve their longevity.
From the smallest of changes, such as switching from using a phone to using a headset, to the most beneficial of changes like switching to a sit-to-stand desk, each ergonomic change to your workstation lowers the risk of potential nagging pains (and more serious MSDs), and they allow the body to work at its highest level of productivity.
Better mental acuity
When combined, the decrease in pain, the strengthening of muscles, and the increase in blood flow create a heightened mental ease. Less anxiety, better moods, more alertness, and improved focus are all common benefits of having ergonomics in the workplace.
Accordingly, workers are able to concentrate on their work without needles bodily distractions, and they become more effective and productive in their work.
Implementing Ergonomics for Businesses
Implementing an Ergonomics Program
With MSDs as widespread as they are, an office-wide ergonomics program may be the best implementation for managers to use for their staffs. Luckily, the US Department of Labor has put forth a simplistic guideline that illustrations how companies can implement such a program so that as many people as possible can reap the rewards of ergonomics at their workstation. Management support, involving workers, offering training, and evaluating progress are among the keys aspects of implementing an office ergonomics program.
Direct Benefits for the Business
As employees experience the physical and mental benefits of having ergonomics, the business will succeed in a macrocosmic fashion. Advantages of ergonomics on business operations include an overall increase in morale and productivity, decreased absenteeism, and increased savings.
The low cost measures that it will take to put proper ergonomics into a workplace are a small fraction compared to the cost risks of not doing so. Moreover, if these problems continue, a company could be looking at greater risks to the business including lackluster work from employees due to their distractions, making accommodations after employee injuries (including paying overtime), and even spending money on advertising/hiring to replace the employees when they potentially stop working due to MSD symptoms.
The lack of ergonomics in a workplace can be detrimental to both business operations and daily worker performance. However, when the benefits of ergonomics are considered and the distinctive features of workers’ workstations are examined, proper ergonomic solutions can be put into place and workers and businesses alike can have consistently optimal results.