You may have heard the word ‘ergonomics’ in your workplace, particularly if you have an office-based job. But what does ergonomics actually mean? And what are the benefits of good ergonomics?
The word ergonomics is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment.”
Ergonomics in the workplace aims to fit the environment to a person’s needs, rather than the other way round. This means that ergonomics is about putting the individual first, taking into account their capabilities.
The following factors are considered when it comes to ergonomics:
- The activities, jobs and tasks being carried out – for example, the user’s posture, repetitive movements involved and analysis of their duties.
- The equipment and/or tools that a person uses.
- A person’s physical characteristics – for example, what people are able to do, the user’s body shape and size, their strength, their hearing.
- Mental characteristics – how people think, their workload, stress and job satisfaction.
- The social and organisational environments – for example, teamwork, level of support from others, room temperature and surrounding noises.
If all these factors are taken into consideration, employers can ensure that their staff are working in a suitable, comfortable and safe environment. Practicing good ergonomics in this way can improve the overall health of employees by reducing the risk of physical ailments such as musculoskeletal problems.
According to statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 470,000 people in the UK were suffering work-related musculoskeletal disorders in 2020/21.
Working when you are experiencing musculoskeletal pain from bad posture and the incorrect set-up of a desk can be hugely detrimental to the individual, both physically and mentally. This is why sometimes simple ergonomic changes to a person’s working environment can be so important and have such positive implications.
However, is ergonomics all actually about improving the health and safety of your workforce, or does it have additional benefits?
By ensuring your employees are comfortable and pain-free in their working environment, employers will not only expect to see a reduction in cases of workplace-related ill-health, but also a greater degree of efficiency and productivity of staff and improved overall job satisfaction.
This can, in turn, actually lead to a fall in business running costs due to both a reduction in absenteeism and improved performance resulting in increased output – as well as achieving the all-important happy workforce. As a result, more and more businesses are now looking to ergonomics to achieve these benefits.
So what can you do to improve the ergonomics in your workplace?
Carrying out a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) workstation assessment can be a great place to start because it helps to identify hazards and risks of workstations that might impact on the health and well-being of each employee.
It looks at the relationship between their posture, work environment and the tasks they carry out. The assessor then will make changes, educate both the employee and the employer as well as provide further recommendations to allow employers to implement additional changes to improve working environments.
By offering a bespoke set-up for each employee, you are able to reduce their risk of experiencing pain and discomfort and, as a result, experience the positive changes mentioned above for both the individual and the employer.