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Workplace Ergonomics: Benefits And Ways To Improve It

15 min read
Last Updated on 13 June, 2024

Workplace ergonomics studies designing a workplace to make work easier and prevent strain, injuries, and accidents.

For example, sitting for long hours at a stretch stresses the body and can cause musculoskeletal disorders(MSDs) and other problems. These problems can further cause low productivity, increased absenteeism, increased healthcare costs, etc.

Research has shown that effective and successful workplace ergonomics programs reduce the number of MSDs by 61% and staff turnover by 87%.

Adopting steps to minimize these risks and practicing good ergonomics has become crucial for employers worldwide. Moreover, a properly designed workplace reduces fatigue and increases performance and productivity among employees as well.

What is Workplace Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is a method of encouraging good posture and movement at work. Workplace ergonomics states that a person's work environment should be customized to their body, not vice versa.

Man-sitting-in-a-proper-posture-and-doing-his-work-on-a-computer

With good ergonomic factors, organizations can improve the following:

They can also promote many other business outcomes by designing a workspace to suit a person's health needs.

Workplace ergonomics aims to identify repetitive movements, postures, and behaviors. These issues can cause eye strain, headaches, and other musculoskeletal discomfort. Modern office ergonomics aims to promote movement throughout the day and lessen the negative effects of a prolonged sedentary lifestyle.

Types of Ergonomics

Workplace ergonomics come in various forms, each focusing on a different aspect of worker productivity, comfort, and safety. The following are some of the important ergonomics in the workplace:

Physical Ergonomics

This kind focuses on the physical environment's design, including workstations, chairs and desks, and other equipment. It allows workers to maintain relaxed, natural body postures while performing their duties. It also seeks to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Cognitive Ergonomics

This field, cognitive ergonomics, focuses on improving cognitive function and lowering mental tiredness. It involves creating tasks, procedures, and user interfaces considering human cognition's strengths and weaknesses. It helps employees improve their focus, judgment, and problem-solving capabilities.

Organizational Ergonomics

This ergonomics considers the job structure, work schedules, and team dynamics. It seeks to establish a productive and healthy work environment and workflow. It also aims to lessen stress and boost overall job satisfaction.

Corrective Ergonomics

Corrective ergonomics involves assessing existing conditions to identify areas that can be improved for better ergonomics. This method is frequently reactive, where problems are found and fixed after noticing them. For example, corrective ergonomics would involve evaluating the workplace and making the required modifications if experiencing discomfort or injuries.

Environmental Ergonomics

This area of ergonomics researches how people interact with their surroundings regarding weather, temperature, pressure, illumination, and noise. It builds environments that maximize human performance and well-being.

Suggested Read: Impact of Indoor Environment Quality at Workplace

It also attempts to understand how these elements affect them. For instance, it can entail deciding on lighting options that reduce eye strain. Or ensuring that a workspace has adequate ventilation and a comfortable temperature.

Preventive Ergonomics

Preventive ergonomics is proactive in contrast to remedial ergonomics. The emphasis is on spotting and resolving any ergonomic problems early on. This could entail doing routine workstation assessments and educating staff on recommended practices. Basically, making sure that workspaces are created with ergonomics in mind.

Micro Ergonomics

Micro-ergonomics designs system components like tools and interfaces to be useful, dependable, comfortable, and safe. The focus is on how people interact with things and the ergonomics of a smaller scale.

Macro Ergonomics

On the other hand, macro-ergonomics takes a bigger-picture approach. It considers how technological and human elements are combined inside an organization. It focuses on the interactions between large systems and their users. For instance, it can entail creating software programs to enhance organizational workflow.

To sum up, ergonomics includes different things that help make environments, objects, and processes fit well with what humans can do. This makes things safer, more efficient, and better overall.

Benefits of Workplace Ergonomics

Employers should prioritize workplace ergonomics as a preventative intervention to promote better employee health. Ergonomics can significantly impact a company and benefit it in many ways.

Here are a few benefits of workplace ergonomics for organizations -

1. Improved Productivity

Workstation ergonomics help employees organize items, supplies, and computer hardware for better work performance.

A worker may concentrate on their task at an optimized workplace without being sidetracked by discomfort or disorganization. Your staff can be more productive at a higher level if they are more focused.

2. Better Health

Employees who work in ergonomic environments experience better health. Your heart will be in better shape than working in a typical setting. Because strains and overexertion are the most common types of work-related injuries, ergonomics can help your employees' health.

You can modify the workstations to meet your height. Ergonomic workstations can assist you and your staff feel less tension in your bodies. Your eyes, neck, and back won't strain if you're in a neutral position. Better blood flow can also benefit your legs.

3. Increases Employee Engagement

Employees-engaging-with-each-other

Employees can tell when a corporation is making an effort to protect its employees' health and safety. It can lower attrition, lower absenteeism, boost morale and raise employee engagement. All these are possible if a worker is not overworked and uncomfortable during the workday.

4. Better Safety Culture

Using ergonomics demonstrates your business' dedication to safety and health as essential values. Your most important resource is a healthy workforce. Developing a safety and health culture at work will improve employee productivity.

Suggested Read: Workplace Health and Safety: Ways to Incorporate It

5. Reduced Physical Discomfort

You can think clearly and complete your work more effectively by minimizing physical discomfort and correcting your posture. Ergonomics can help you increase your focus and lessen stress.

You can concentrate better on your work when you're at ease. Ergonomics aids in reducing discomfort, building muscles, and boosting blood flow. Combining these things can increase mental clarity.

6. Reduce Absenteeism

By preventing workplace accidents that result in lost workdays and making the workplace more comfortable for workers, ergonomics helps reduce absenteeism. Implementing ergonomic measures can reduce workplace stress and fatigue, which can cause employee absences, whether mental or physical.

man-present-at-work-regularly

Encourage your staff to take frequent breaks and switch up their body positions. Also, ask them to modify their chair heights and workstations to match their body types better.

Provide materials and motivate your staff to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle to promote positive health behaviors. You and your staff will be more productive and involved in your job due to better moods and attention.

7. Decreased Pain

A study of ergonomics focuses on making work environments, tools, and equipment as comfortable and safe as possible.

Ergonomics helps with posture and prevents injuries like back pain by offering ergonomic chairs, desks, furniture, and flexible workstations. Employers may contribute to ensuring that workers stay healthy and productive by establishing an ergonomically planned work environment.

8. Improved Mental Clarity

A calming environment, aided by ergonomic design, can reduce individual stress and anxiety. It also improves cognitive ease, increases job satisfaction, enhances focus and concentration, and helps avoid burnout.

Employee-finding-mental-peace-at-work

Moreover, it encourages activity and mobility, facilitates the free exchange of ideas and teamwork, and boosts morale.

Furthermore, ergonomics encourages active pauses, lessens despair and anxiety, and encourages open communication among team members. Overall, ergonomics fosters a positive and inspiring work environment.

9. Eliminates Hazards

Ergonomics plays a significant role in fostering a productive work environment by identifying and removing workplace dangers. It minimizes interruptions and offers flexible furniture and equipment, optimum lighting, and ventilation. It can demonstrate attention and engagement to inquire about employees' worries, ultimately increasing workplace safety.

10. Reduces Overall and Insurance Cost

Ergonomics at work considerably lowers accident risk factors, saving businesses much money on workers' compensation. Improved ergonomics can also cut insurance costs by lowering the likelihood of work-related diseases and injuries.

Reduces-overall-and-insurance-cost

Ergonomic upgrades like adjustable workstations, ergonomic chairs, and lighting can reduce employee fatigue. Ergonomic policies and programs can provide legal protection against worker injuries. Overall, ergonomics is essential for lowering stress levels at work and boosting overall productivity.

11. Employee Satisfaction and Lower Turnover Rates

Employee-feeling-satisfied-at-work

Benefits of ergonomics in the workplace include decreased workers' compensation claims and employee attrition. Enhancing office ergonomics can help employers retain staff, prove their worth, and attract top applicants.
Organizations can recruit the best people and maintain a healthy, safe, and productive work environment.

Ergonomics in the Workplace

By implementing ergonomic concepts, a company can safeguard employees from work-related injuries and enhance performance and production. Poor workplace ergonomics can be expensive. This is because employees are more likely to experience health problems when their occupations are poorly designed.

Ergonomic Risk Factors

Work hazards and ergonomic conditions can make balancing muscle tiredness and recovery more difficult. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of developing musculoskeletal disorders.

The major workplace ergonomic risk factors are

  • High task repetitions
  • Forceful exertions
  • Repetitive/sustained awkward postures

High Repeated Tasks

In many industries, such as manufacturing and data entry, repetitive movements or jobs are called high-task repetitions. Repetition too often might have negative effects on your health and ergonomics.

When work tasks and cycles are combined with excessive force and uncomfortable positions, it can lead to the development of MSDs. Repetitive tasks are those with a cycle time of 30 seconds or less.

Here are some concerns associated with high task repetition -

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs): Repeated, continuous motions can affect specific muscle groups, putting tension on them and resulting in weariness. MSDs such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or bursitis can result from this constant stress on the joints, muscles, and tendons.

Increased risk of injury: Repeating tasks without breaks or ergonomic considerations can raise the chance of getting strains or sprains.

Mental fatigue: High task repetitions can cause mental weariness and lessen focus. Additionally, physical exhaustion may jeopardize the job's quality and safety.

Forceful Exertions

Work duties that demand a lot of forceful exertion raise the risk of MSDs and accidents related to the job. Employees frequently lift large objects and push or pull loads. Some must also perform powerful hand and arm movements in construction, manufacturing, healthcare, and agriculture.

Here are some concerns associated with high task repetition -

Lifting big objects: If proper lifting procedures are not followed, lifting big boxes or equipment can result in back strains and accidents.

Pushing and pulling: Activities requiring large carts, equipment, or things can put undue pressure on the shoulders, back, and arm muscles and joints.

Forceful hand grasping: Activities requiring constant tight grasping, such as utilizing tools or moving objects, can harm the hands and wrists.

Hammering and impacting: Hand, wrist, and arm injuries can result from hard, repetitive hammering or impacting.

Utilizing hand tools: Hand tools that require a lot of power might tire your muscles. This can also put you at risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome.

Repetitive/Sustained Awkward Postures

In the workplace, repetitive awkward postures involve prolonged, abnormal bodily positions that stress muscles, tendons, and joints. These positions are used in various occupations and sectors, including physical labor and assembly line jobs. Joints that operate close to mid-range motion harm joint efficiency, which increases the risk of musculoskeletal problems.

Here are some concerns associated with high task repetition -

Forward neck posture: A forward neck posture occurs when one stares at a computer screen or other equipment for a prolonged period of time.

Twisting or turning: Performing activities that require repeatedly twisting or turning the body puts stress on the spine and auxiliary muscles.

Bent Posture: Working in a bent or stooped position for a long time is called having a bent or stooped posture. This is especially common during manual handling tasks.

Reaching Overhead: Reaching overhead to retrieve items or do duties regularly can strain the shoulders and upper back.

Extended Wrist Posture: Typing on a keyboard for a long time with the wrist bent can cause discomfort in the wrist and forearm.

Kneeling or Squatting: Squatting or kneeling positions can strain the knees and lower back.

Ways to Improve Workplace Ergonomics

Proper workplace ergonomics assessment and adjustment help identify and reduce risk factors. A great ergonomics program is a continuously improving process that is proactive and prioritized.

So, how do you go about improving workplace ergonomics?

Little things like correctly positioning chairs, desks, and computers can help make a workplace ergonomically correct. These might seem small, but they can make a big difference for an organization.

If you are an employee, here are some tips that can help you improve ergonomics at work -

Conduct a workplace ergonomics assessment.

It's important to approach your ergonomics process using a scientific approach. The goal is to find and measure ergonomic risks. Not only that, but it also improves the work environment by considering workers' abilities and limitations.

To achieve this goal, evaluating and minimizing workplace risks is important. This can be done through an objective and scientific examination of ergonomics.

Proper posture.

Maintaining good posture is an integral part of being healthy and fit. It helps prevent back problems and also creates a good impression of a person.

As you spend most of your time at work sitting down, you must maintain proper posture to avoid awkward positions.

A neutral posture is a position where a person feels comfortable and places minimum stress on the joints and muscles. Whereas a position that puts pressure on the muscles and joints of a person can be an awkward posture.

Look after your eyes.

Staring at computer screens for long hours is unavoidable for corporate employees and causes eye strain, affecting many people worldwide. Eye strain can cause stress and headaches and hamper productivity.

Position your computer monitor at an appropriate distance from you. Ensure it’s at eye level when sitting in your chair. Moreover, if there is a light or a window behind, adjust the monitor's position to reduce glare.

Also, if your monitor has a low resolution or has a damaged display, replace it as soon as possible.

Take breaks.

Even if your workplace is designed ergonomically, stress at work can cause severe problems to your body and mind. Workplace stress can cause strain on your muscles and cause them to tense up.

Take breaks to relax from work and prevent the build-up of stress. Even a short 5-minute break can help reduce fatigue and prevent musculoskeletal disorders. Moreover, taking breaks combats boredom and increases motivation and productivity.

Listening-to-music

Image courtesy: Canva.Pexel

Make things comfortable and avoid harmful practices.

Keep things like phones, printers, keyboards, etc., close to your body so that you can effortlessly reach them. Having to reach out to access items excessively can strain your muscles unnecessarily.

Also, avoid corrupt practices such as slouching and jamming your phone in between your ear and neck. Such practices put stress on the spine and can cause serious problems.

Stretch often.

As already mentioned before, sitting for long hours is very bad for the body. It causes fatigue and leads to various health problems, such as obesity and diabetes.

Make it a point to get up from your chair and stretch frequently. Stretching your muscles can improve muscle strength, balance, and coordination.
Also, stretching re-energizes the body and increases blood circulation, reducing the risk of injury.

Stretching

Image courtesy: Canva.Pexel

Now, here are some ways to improve ergonomics if you are an employer -

Invest in good chairs.

Ensure that all the furniture in your workplace is ergonomic, especially the chairs. Buy adjustable chairs that have settings for different postures. A good chair should provide lumbar support, armrests, and footrests and should have adjustable height settings.

Providing good chairs will ensure that your employees maintain proper posture while sitting, preventing back problems, etc.

Provide proper lighting.

Your workplace should be well-lit, with adequate lighting, be it natural or artificial. Insufficient or excessive light can seriously affect an employee’s performance and productivity. It can cause eye fatigue, headaches, and even cause workplace injuries and accidents.

Make sure your workplace has adequate lighting in all areas. Check if all the lights are working correctly. You can also provide table lamps for people who work on desks.

Layout and placement.

Office ergonomics is about the interaction of your work environment with your body. As such, the design and layout of your workplace must be well-planned.

Ensure that all the equipment in your workplace is properly placed according to your employees’ convenience. Items that are used regularly should be placed in a way that minimizes strain and effort to access them.

Also, plan the layout in such a way that employees don’t get in each other’s way. Also, make sure that the working space is not cramped.

Ensure safety by overcoming ergonomic problems.

Safety and prevention of workplace hazards are the main objectives of ergonomics. After all, a safe workplace is a happy and productive workplace.

Identify the ergonomic issues affecting each employee’s health and safety and accordingly address them. Ask your employees if they are having any problems and if they think something needs to be changed.

Eliminating existing ergonomic issues is the first step in optimizing your workplace.

Create employee awareness.

Training is an essential element of a successful workplace ergonomics implementation program. The implementation of proper ergonomics at work can be a lot easier if employees are trained and educated on the same.

Employers-making-employees-aware

Conducting training sessions for your employees can increase their knowledge of ergonomics and help them identify potential problems in your workplace. They will also be able to minimize workplace accidents and injuries, creating a safer work environment.

Chill out.

Employees who work in a stressful atmosphere may tighten their muscles and hold them for long periods of time. Under time constraints, employees may skip breaks or exert excessive physical effort. Which in turn prevents them from employing effective ergonomic material handling techniques.

Make sure that employees are not putting themselves under excessive stress. Taking control of the ergonomic setup of a person's workspace and training can reduce stress that leads to ergonomic injuries.

Good positioning of the keyboard and mouse.

Place your keyboard and mouse at a good angle. Adjust the keyboard and mouse in front of you so that you don't have to put unnecessary strain on your arms and neck.

Place the screen above the keyboard in a way higher than eye level. Keeping the screen at eye level will help to avoid eyestrain.

Follow the 20/20/20 rule.

Now, sitting in front of the computer screen will put a strain on your eyes. If you engage in different activities, it will relax your eye muscles and reduce eye strain.

For every 20 minutes you spend watching the computer screen, you should spend 20 minutes on different activities. For example, having a striking conversation with your colleagues or listening to music.

Socializing

Image courtesy: Canva.Pexel

Stay hydrated and do not skip lunch.

Office hours are hectic; therefore, breaks are essential. Eating lunch allows you to take a break. It also allows you to move your muscles and let your eyes take a rest from the computer screen.

Always stay hydrated, as drinking water helps a lot. Water helps in flushing out the waste from the entire body.

Time-To-Hydrate

Image courtesy: Canva.Pexel

Get up and walk around.

VFit__Get-up-and-walk-around

The aim is to take many steps during the day. Continuously sitting for hours at the workplace creates a sedentary lifestyle. The objective is to take many steps during the day. Walking shores up your bones and lighten your mood

Spacious workstations.

Workstations should be spacious enough. Employees often want to move around easily and quickly.
When there is free movement within the workstation, it ensures comfort and productivity.

Use a footstool for support.

Your chair and desk might be too high without having a flexible option. In such a scenario, use a footstool and rest your feet. It will reduce the pressure on your legs and decrease foot pain.

Adjust your armrest.

An armrest is a padded arm of a chair where the sitter can keep their arm comfortably. The armrest helps reduce shoulder pain and neck strain. Adjust the armrest in a way that supports your elbow and not putting pressure on the shoulders.

**Workplace ergonomics isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Taking the steps mentioned above can significantly help you to improve ergonomics at your workplace. The most important thing is to be able to recognize potential ergonomic risk factors and accordingly find solutions to eliminate them.

Conclusion

You've taken a step towards creating a better workplace for yourself and your coworkers. Organizations can show that they value employee well-being by enhancing workplace ergonomics.

It's time to rearrange things now that you are aware of these outstanding advantages of ergonomics in the workplace. Don't forget to pass along the advice you learned today to your staff.

A healthy work environment is important for employee wellness. Improving workplace ergonomics can help employees succeed in their jobs.

FAQ

Q.1 What is ergonomics in the workplace?
Ans: Workplace ergonomics includes planning and organizing the workspace to accommodate employees' abilities and demands. This is done to improve comfort, security, and productivity.

Q.2 What are the 3 major areas of ergonomics?

Ans: There are three primary subfields of ergonomics:

  • Physical ergonomics: Physical ergonomics pertains to body mechanics and posture.
  • Cognitive ergonomics: Cognitive ergonomics deals with mental strain and decision-making.
  • Organizational ergonomics: organizational ergonomics focuses on job structure and communication.

Q.3 What are 5 examples of good ergonomics?

A. Adjustable chair heights and desks for good posture.
B. Eye-level computer monitors to lessen neck strain.
C. Appropriate illumination to lessen eye fatigue.
D. Consistent breaks to avoid overexertion.
E. Keyboard and mouse that are ergonomic to lessen wrist fatigue.

Q.4 What is the purpose of ergonomics in the workplace?

The goal of workplace ergonomics is to improve working conditions to enhance employee productivity, health, and overall well-being. At the same time, minimizing the risk of accidents and discomfort.

Besides working as a content marketer at Vantage Circle, Shah Alif Ahmed is also an internationally certified nutrition specialist, competitive bodybuilder and a musician. For any queries reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com

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