Around 4 million working days are lost each year due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). In fact, MSDs are the largest majority of workplace injuries and result in the most compensation costs and days lost.
This can all be prevented with one simple solution: Ergonomics.
You’ve probably heard the word before, maybe you’ve even considered buying an ergonomic chair.
But what does ergonomic mean? And how can you implement it in your own life? Keep reading to find out.
What Does Ergonomic Mean?
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So, what is ergonomics? The word comes from two Greek words, ‘ergon’ which means work, and ‘nomos’ which means law. So the most basic ergonomics definition is then the laws of work or the science of work.
It is a scientific discipline designed to optimize human well-being and system performance. It does this by focusing on the design of products and how they can be better structured for optimal function to benefit humans.
Ergonomics looks at traits such as height, weight, and proportions. It also takes into consideration human characteristics such as hearing, sight, and temperature. This information is then applied to engineering to create the most suitable product based on human factors.
We see products such as desks and chairs at the forefront of ergonomic engineering. Any product which humans use for an extended period of time is a good candidate for an ergonomic upgrade.
You can use ergonomics and ‘human factors’ interchangeably to refer to this discipline.
Ultimately, ergonomics focuses on enhancing people’s strengths and reducing their limitations. A simple explanation is to think about a mop.
Initially, a mop did not have an extended handle. This means that the person using it needed to bend over in an uncomfortable position. This is not only inefficient but creates health issues over an extended period of time such as back problems. It’s also extremely frustrating.
An ergonomic solution looks at all of these problems and attempts to provide a solution. Introducing the extended handle which allows the person using the mop to remain standing upright, solving all of the stress factors.
Why is Workplace Ergonomics Important?
In recent years, ergonomics in the workplace has boomed. Both employers and employees have turned to create an ergonomic work environment. Why had ergonomics become so important in the workplace? Check out some of these important benefits.
1. Boosts Productivity
When you design a workstation based on ergonomic principles, the result is an efficient station. Less exertion and fewer motions are required to complete basic tasks, discomfort does not create a distraction and employees are overall more productive.
For example, if you can sharpen your pencil at your desk rather than getting up to go sharpen it at another station, your productivity will increase.
2. Reduced Injuries and Associated Costs
By fitting a job to a person using ergonomics, muscle fatigue and tension are significantly reduced. This would reduce the frequency and severity of work-related MSDs.
When you remove risk factors from the workplace, worker compensation costs are reduced. There is a reduced likelihood of injuries, either immediate or long-term, and significant savings for the company.
3. Improves Quality of Work
Fatigued, frustrated employees who are uncomfortable are unlikely to produce their best work. Ergonomics addresses these problems, ensuring that the best possible working environment is provided to support the best possible quality of work. The less physically taxing a job is, the better quality of work can be sustained.
4. Encourages Employee Engagement
How does a company reduce employee turnover and absenteeism? By creating a comfortable working environment that is concerned with employee health and safety.
Employees who aren’t subject to workplace conditions that create fatigue and discomfort are more likely to show up for work, have higher morale, and more involvement.
5. Creates a Safety Culture
Ergonomics is important in a company because it demonstrates the commitment to safety for employees. This is the overarching benefit of the previous four benefits.
Ultimately, when a company creates a safe culture, employees feel comfortable and valued and this leads to better performance.
How to Improve Workplace Ergonomics
Whether you’re looking to apply the principles of ergonomics across an entire company or simply looking for ways to make your personal workstation ergonomic, there are some easy ways to do this.
Firstly, an ergonomic chair is one of the easiest and most popular ways to upgrade offices. These should have adjustable heights, armrests, lumbar support, and seat pan depth settings. Feet should be able to reach the floor, and if they can’t, add a footstool.
Computer desks are also important. This is where you can make productive ergonomic upgrades. Your keyboard and mouse should be positioned in such a way that your wrists are in a straight, neutral position. Everything you need should be in reach and organized. If you use a phone a lot, choose a headset.
There should be adequate lighting and your computer monitor should be placed strategically to reduce glare from the window.
These are just a few simple ways to improve workplace ergonomics. Other quick tips include task alternation to avoid repetition, incorporating movement and stretching throughout the day, and enforcing a neutral posture.
How Can You Make Ergonomics Work for You?
So, what does ergonomic mean? It means considering human factors in the engineering of products and environments.
Now that you understand the ergonomics definition, you can start implementing ergonomic thinking into your own life and workplace. Try to pinpoint tasks and products that cause discomfort and could use improvement.
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