How much does office ergonomics really matter?
According to the World Health Organization, one-third of health-related absences are due to musculoskeletal disorders. Back pain accounts for 60 percent of these injuries, followed by neck pain and wrist pain.
Other studies conducted on State Farm Insurance and Blue Cross-Blue Shield found that productivity improved by a measure of 15 and 4.4 percent, respectively, after ergonomic upgrades.
With this in mind, I think we can safely answer “it matters a lot.”
HOW ERGONOMICS BENEFITS THE BOTTOM LINE
It is tempting to assume that if employees don’t suffer from musculoskeletal disorders, then ergonomics initiatives won’t generate value.
Assuming that without ergonomic equipment and education your employees will indefinitely remain healthy is a significant gamble. Ergonomic-related injuries frequently cause decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and lowers employee engagement.
But beyond the liabilities associated with inaction, there are positive incentives for incorporating ergonomics into your office environment.
GENERATE VALUE WITH ERGONOMICS EDUCATION
In a 2000 study in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, office workers who chose to participate in ergonomics education reported less wrist pain and psychosocial stress than workers who had no training. Importantly, they also noted less pain and better stress management than workers who were compelled to participate in traditional ergonomics education courses.
These findings make a case for making ergonomics education a fundamental part of workplace culture, rather than a superficial initiative pursued solely to obtain credentials.
Whether dealing with back pain, neck pain, or wrist pain, employers and employees achieve the best results through a tacit agreement that:
The second part is a crucial element to using ergonomics to generate value. Most top-down ergonomics initiatives fail to inspire employees to maintain appropriate postures and work habits long-term.
INVESTING IN AN ERGNOMIC ASSESSMENT
Any extensive ergonomics initiative should begin with an ergonomics assessment. Hiring a Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist to review your office’s layout rarely takes more than a few hours and can generate significant revenue in the future.
Industrial workplaces may find that an ergonomics assessment costs more, usually because of the many unique factors that must be taken into consideration on the modern factory floor. Developing an ergonomic solution is more involved in these cases when employees are not necessarily uniformly seated and facing computer screens.
However, it is in industrial and mixed environments that ergonomic assessments are most important. Workflows that involve heavy machinery offer far more potential causes of musculoskeletal disorders, including back pain, neck pain, and wrist pain.
IS THERE AN EASIER PLACE TO START?
If you find yourself unable to commit the time or resources to conduct a full ergonomic intervention on your space there are a few quick wins you can use to reduce a few significant risk factors while limiting the financial costs:
This article was originally published on OfficeInteriors.ca.
1. Luttman, A., and M. Jäger. 2003. “Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace. WHO: Protecting Worker’s Health Series (5).
2. Schneider, M. F. 1985. “Why Ergonomics Makes a lot of Sense from a Dollars-and-Cents Standpoints and Why it may be Inevitable because of Legislation.” Ergonomics and Economics.
3. Caver, K. and T. O. Davenport. 2015. “Capturing the Value of Health and Productivity Programs. Willis Towers Watson.
4. Harrison, K. L. 2017. “Boost Creativity with This Simple Trick.”
5. Rostykus, W. 2012. “A New Perspective on Ergonomics.” Workplace Safety Reference Materials.
6. P. C., 2000. “The Efficacy of Office Ergonomics Education.” Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation 10 (4): 243–255.