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The Economics of Ergonomics

Businesses are constantly seeking ways to improve employee productivity in an attempt to increase the bottom line. Unfortunately, investing in and improving employee wellness is often ignored as a way of achieving this.

Office ergonomics is an essential and easy way to improve employee wellness. Simply defined, ergonomics is the study of how one’s body interacts with the environment when you perform a task or activity. Office ergonomics focuses on workstation arrangement to fit the individual’s needs and includes the choice and placement of equipment such as the desk, computer monitor, chair, computer keyboard and mouse¹. Addressing the ergonomic set-up, can improve the person’s posture and reduce conditions associated with long hours spent in a sustained position.

Whether or not someone’s workstation is causing a physical problem, a workstation that is properly set up can increase productivity and quality of work life¹. One study showed that implementing the correct practices can raise alertness and increase productivity by up to 15%⁶. To sustain business performance, companies need strategies to protect employee health and hence attract, motivate, and retain valuable staff³. Addressing office ergonomics and making use of the correct ergonomic products is the wave of the future¹. Can your company and your bottom line afford to ignore this?

What some interesting studies show

It is common knowledge that smoking is bad for your health, however sitting may be as harmful to your health as smoking. Every hour of sitting cuts about 22 minutes from your life expectancy. By contrast, it is estimated that smokers shorten their lives by approximately 11 minutes per cigarette⁵.

With the development of technology, many of us have unfortunately become office and deskbound and will continue to be for many years. One in four middle-class Americans say they will have to work until at least age 80 to live comfortably in retirement². Researchers suggest that computing has become a significant part of daily work activity and 93% of workers in the US use a computer for more than four hours a day³. The average adult now spends 50% – 70% of the day sitting at work².

Diverse sources have reported on how deskbound lifestyles contribute to health problems relating to obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, diabetes, cancer, depression and other ailments. Some concerning research results include:

  • The mortality rate is 20% higher for men who sit more than six hours a day and 40% higher for women.
  • Those who sit 23 hours a week or more are 64% more likely to die from heart disease. Even more concerning is that studies show that regular exercise does not reverse these negative effects⁶.
  • In 2012 Australian researchers analysed the results of 18 studies with a total of nearly 800 000 participants and found prolonged sitting increases the risk of diabetes (112%), cardiovascular events (147%), death from cardiovascular causes (90%) and death from all causes (49%)⁵.
  • The Australian study also found that adults who sat for 11 hours or more a day had a 40% increased risk of dying in the next three years compared to those who sat for fewer than four hours a day⁵.

Incorrect posture and sustained positions are also a leading cause of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). In industrialised societies, MSDs are the main cause of permanent work disability and functional loss in adults. It is the second greatest cause of short-term, temporary work disability⁴. Loss of productivity due to MSDs and other ailments can have a significant effect on the bottom line³. Costs accruing from the onset of MSDs relate not only to health associated costs but also to indirect costs such as loss of productivity, with productivity losses adding up to as much as 1.3% of the U.S. gross national product⁴.

Make a positive change!

Contact Ergonomicsdirect at, info@ergodirect.co.za for more information on how we can assist in making your employees healthier, more comfortable and more productive. Alternatively, you can visit our website, www.ergonomicsdirect.co.za  for more information on our product offerings.

 

References:

  1. Kind, M. (2008). The economics of ergonomics. New Hampshire Business Review (September 26 – October 9).
  2. Humantech illustrates importance of office ergonomics. Professional safety, August 2013.
  3. Chim, J. (2013). The FITS model office ergonomics program: A model for best practice. IOS Press. Work 48 (2014), 495–501.
  4. Lima, T. & Coelho, D. (2011). Prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in office work: A case study. IOS Press. Work 39 (2011) 397–408.
  5. Kerst, J. (2013). There’s no excuse for having an ineffective office ergonomics process. EHS Today, November 2013, 23-26.
  6. Hughes, M. (2014). Get your office moving. Industrial Engineer, March 2014, 27-31.

Reynolds, G. (2012). The First 20 minutes. New York. Penguin Group.

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