Ergonomics in the Workplace: Why It Shouldn’t Be Ignored

From the absence of office politics to unlimited vacation policies, companies have been finding different ways to create a strong workplace culture—and for a good reason.

Great office environments are known to boost productivity and encourage strategic thinking—the kind of strategy that rakes in profit and keeps great companies ahead of their competitors.

But there’s one aspect of company culture that isn’t often talked about: ergonomics in the workplace.

What Is Ergonomics in the Workplace? 

Ergonomics in the workplace is about more than just buying comfortable chairs with adjustable back, head, and neck support. It’s making sure a product, its purpose, and the person using it are a perfect fit.

It’s how every element in the entire office is set up—the desks, chairs, computers, printers, lights, and even the floors—so that workers can do their job without risks of injury or health complications.

Is An Ergonomic Office Expensive to Set Up? 

The cost of making your office ergonomic depends on several factors:

  • The size of the business;
  • The total number of employees;
  • The specific industry you’re in; and
  • The injuries you’re looking to prevent. 

Large businesses that heavily rely on physical labour, like factories and warehouses, would cost more to set up than typical offices. 

If you’re not sure how to start, you can hire a professional to carry out an ergonomic assessment. A consultant will visit your workplace to observe employees at their workstations and look for deficiencies that could lead to discomfort, sickness, and injury.

Then, they will introduce ergonomically designed equipment and best practices to follow for improved workplace safety and productivity.

The True Cost of Ignoring Workplace Ergonomics 

Ergonomic equipment and furniture can be a bit pricey, so many companies buy them en masse to “save” money. But the payback of ignoring ergonomic concerns is higher than what you would save on initial costs. 

1. Higher Worker’s Compensation Costs Due to Musculoskeletal Disorders

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders or WMSDs are disorders that affect connective tissues and the musculoskeletal system. It is caused by overexertion, repetitive movements, or awkward postures. This includes the following:

  • Little to no body movement;
  • Repetitive movements for long periods;
  • Constant strain or stress on a specific part of the body;
  • Working at a speed without sufficient time to recover between movements;
  • Lifting heavy objects;
  • Frequent overhead work; and
  • Exposure to extreme temperatures. 

An employee holds her neck in pain because of sitting on a regular chair too long while working

WMSD often results in increased health care claims for treatments, worker’s compensation costs, prescription costs, and insurance premiums.

According to the CDC, WMSD cases are even more severe than nonfatal illnesses and injuries. The economic burden of WMSDs in terms of compensation costs and lost wages is between $45 and $54 billion per year.

2. Employee Absenteeism and Loss of Productivity

Poor ergonomics in the workplace can cause other health issues and injuries such as:

  • Pain or numbness in the fingers, wrists, or hands;
  • Vision problems;
  • Stiff or swollen joints;
  • Muscle cramps;
  • Digestive issues;
  • Impact on breathing ability; and
  • Weight gain

These health issues can affect employee productivity and could lead to:

  • Presenteeism or when a worker shows up for work without being productive;
  • Delayed output;
  • Diminished work quality because of fatigue or other health complaints;
  • Recruitment costs if the injured employee doesn’t return to work;
  • Replacement worker costs; and
  • Orientation and training costs.

3. Other Costs

In Canada, employers have the legal obligation to protect their workers from hazards caused by poor ergonomics. When an employee gets injured, the company could be held liable and may incur legal expenses. 

Ergonomics in the Workplace Examples: What You Can Do to Mitigate Risks 

Here are a few simple ways to improve ergonomics in the workplace:

Incorporate Adjustable Work Stations

Workers shouldn’t maintain the same position throughout the day. Thus, the elements surrounding them should be made adjustable to fit their body.

For example, an adjustable table allows a worker to stand every once in a while and still have access to the keyboard, mouse, phone, etc. 

On the other hand, adjustable chairs offer posture support, relieve hip pressure, and help improve blood circulation.

Practice Good Posture

It doesn’t matter how high-tech your chair is if you don’t sit on it properly! 

To maintain good posture while working at your desk, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep your back, head, and neck upright; and
  • Ensure your feet are flat on the floor or propped up with your knees at the same level as your hips. 

As for your computer and tools, here’s what you should remember:

  • The keyboard and mouse must be placed at the same height. 
  • Your monitor must be at eye level or tilted so that it’s in a position that doesn’t make you bend your head to see the screen.

Organize Ergonomics Training Sessions

Educating employees on how ergonomics in the workplace can make their work easier, safer, and more efficient would help avoid WMSDs and other health issues. 

Train your staff to identify tasks that may lead to injuries and find better ways to get those tasks completed without risks.

A vector illustration of an office worker carrying piles of paper to the printing station

Upgrade Your Office Equipment with Integr8 

Ergonomics in the workplace doesn’t have to be costly. It could be as simple as positioning printers and supplies in an area where they can easily be reached or switching to network printing instead of using local printers that could cause workers to trip over cables and wires. 

Streamline your office processes with Integr8’s wide range of multifunction printers and copiers. With us, you can get one step closer to achieving ergonomics in the workplace. 

Get in touch to learn more about our top-notch products!

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