When many people think of ergonomics in the office, they picture one of those large inflatable balls with someone struggling to balance and sit on it. However, ergonomics is much more than that and in most cases, the inflatable ball is not the most ergonomic solution at all. So why is ergonomics important in the office?
An office needs to be productive and comfortable. For many employers comfort, especially ergonomic comfort, is not really a priority. Comfort alone is not enough as comfort itself does not lead to an optimally productive office. Ever since office work began, back when monks started to reproduce biblical texts, ways to improve comfort in the working environment have been created.
It was in the 1940s when the use of office machinery started to take off that the science of ergonomics was properly formed. Growing levels of backache, and what we now know as repetitive strain disorders, began to appear. With this, studies into optimised use of office equipment and ways of sitting for extended periods of time were looked at and introduced. Today, these studies are more advanced than ever before, and the importance of ergonomics in the workplace is more recognised.
Ergonomics considers the workspace of an employee and the ability to perform their jobs well. The main objective of ergonomics is to creating a workplace where workers are comfortable and more productive. Some of the benefits of ergonomics in the office are mentioned below:
Healthy staff, healthy productivity
Ergonomics improves and increases the productivity of employees in the workplace. In an ergonomically designed office environment, good posture is promoted and less exertion is required along with reduced levels of motion, thanks to keeping things in easy reach. This promotes good health, and while lowering sick days due to reduced backache and other ailments. I t also keeps employees more alert due to less or optimised exertion.
Happy staff, happy office
Comfortable staff not only become more productive, they are also happier. Ergonomics plays a key role in office politics in its own unique way. When employees work in an uncomfortable office, they become tired and irritable and thus the entire atmosphere in the office begins to deteriorate. Likewise, grumpy, frustrated people engage poorly with customers and other service providers. When ergonomics is taken seriously, for all staff not just those higher up, morale is boosted as it becomes clear that the health and safety (and comfort) of everyone is a priority.
Safe staff, safe surroundings
When ergonomics becomes more of a priority in the office, staff welfare and safety also become a priority. Ergonomics in the office is a cornerstone for creating a culture of health and safety awareness in the office and this, in turn, leads to further improvement in human performance.
With many workplace health and safety risks mitigated, Musculo-skeletal disorders are reduced and can even be prevented. These disorders are costly both to the individual and the employer; it should not be forgotten that there are many indirect costs that result from these injuries too. Sick days cost a company money; ergonomics reduces these. Prevention is always better and, in this case, cheaper, than cure.
Improved or increased productivity
In an ergonomically designed office with ergonomic workspaces – seating, desk layout – improved productivity is the automatic result. Greater efficiency is created at any workstation through less exertion, reduced motion and less stretching thanks to ensuring things are within easy reach at all times.
Increased levels of quality
When employees are uncomfortable, they become tired and frustrated easier and faster. Tired, frustrated workers do not perform at their best. An ergonomic office reduces fatigue and thus frustration as well, resulting in fewer errors and improved work. This saves time and money too. The cost of redoing or rewriting something is higher than many imagine, and a tired mind could easily result in the wrong price being quoted.
With these in mind, the importance of ergonomics in the office is soon realised. Many stop at this point and look at the cost of ergonomics and believe they cannot afford it. However, a good manager who cares about his department, the company or employees will look at it from a holistic view. Ergonomics should not be viewed as a quick fix solution but rather as a long-term investment that yields substantial results, meaning that the cost is worth it. Ergonomics in the office cannot be ignored.