As workplace wellbeing climbs its way up the agenda, ergonomics has become a popular topic of conversation.
Good ergonomics can help people become healthier, happier and more productive at work. This is because it looks at how people interact with equipment and processes and sets out to improve this interaction.
Ergonomics is about making products and systems comfortable and efficient for people to use.
In terms of workstations, this involves looking at all aspects of the workstation environment and adjusting different elements so that users can work comfortably. This includes helping people work in the correct posture by using ergonomic products and accessories, such as a monitor riser to ensure that the top of the screen is level with the user’s eyes.
An ergonomist will assess the design of products and systems to see if these meet people’s needs and look at how they can make them easier and safer to use.
Ergonomists also study the effect of the work environment on employees, because poor layouts, processes or systems can increase the risk of stress, burnout and other issues.
The number of people saying their health is at risk as a result of their workplace has fallen from 31% in 2000 to 23% in 2015. This is great news, but employers are still looking to improve matters.
Cigna’s Health and Wellbeing report found that retaining a motivated workforce is a challenge for up to a third of employers, with four in ten employers looking to make a further investment in health and wellbeing.
There is still much that workplaces can do to nurture wellbeing, and workspace ergonomics provide a clear way to deliver this.
When ergonomics is not as it should be, this can create a productivity issue. Or where there’s a productivity challenge, there may be an ergonomic solution.
Improving workplace ergonomics reduces risks to employees and can remove barriers to productivity by making tasks easier and faster to complete.
For example, ergonomics can encourage people to work comfortably and use their equipment more easily, so that they become less tired and can work more quickly and effortlessly.
One example is the monitor arm, which allows users to effortlessly adjust their screen and collaborate with colleagues. Dual monitor arms bring even further benefits, with one study finding that workers showed a 44% boost in productivity for text tasks and a 29% rise for spreadsheet tasks when moving from a single screen to a dual-monitor setup.
Another example are sit-stand workstations, which can encourage movement and higher energy levels in the workplace. By alternating sitting, standing and moving during the working day, people can improve their posture and reduce the risk of back problems and other health issues.
Workers using standing desks are reported to stay more alert and focused, allowing them to be more productive across the day
Ergonomics can help a workplace to welcome all users by adapting the environment, equipment and processes to make these accessible to a broader range of needs.
Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth through more inclusive employment is one of the key priorities of the EU’s ten-year Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs.
By becoming more inclusive employers and attracting a more diverse workforce, businesses can meet their growth goals.
Where workplaces are adapted to the needs of people with disabilities, there is a significant and positive increase in satisfaction, according to EU Project, ERGO Work.
With more than 15% of people in the EU reporting a disability, yet only 47.8% of working disabled people employed, compared to 75.9% of non-disabled people, many employers are still missing the opportunity to broaden their employee base.
In one study, Cigna discovered that stress was a major issue influencing health and wellbeing, with increased stress levels affecting 50% of organisations.
Ergonomics can help to reduce stress levels by delivering solutions that support better health and encourage employees to be more active in the workplace.
Helping people to work more safely, healthily and effectively at their workstations is fundamental to good ergonomics.
A workstation assessment will look at every aspect of how employees interact with their immediate environment and recommend adjustments to ensure working practices are as efficient as possible.
This can include ensuring the position of the monitor screen, or level of lighting, does not lead to eyestrain, headaches or lower back pain.
When a screen is too low, users can lean forward and strain their neck and lower back to view the contents. Screens should be positioned so the top is level with users’ eyes.
Monitor brightness should be set so the user can easily view the screen’s contents and read words on the screen without straining their eyes.
An ergonomic mouse and keyboard can help prevent wrist strain, and lumbar support for office chairs can help to lower the risk of lower back pain.
You can complete a free online healthy workstation assessment here.