Don’t wait until your head hits the office door.
I remember this phase very vividly, my back was troubling me for weeks on end, I was doing everything in my power to counteract and make it go away as quickly as possible. I blamed my bed, I blamed my picayune movement throughout the day, and I even blamed my mother.
In reality, as I have recently come to learn, my back pain was caused by an un-ergonomic office chair at the office I used to do my usual 9 to 5 at.
I bent down whilst walking, due to the stinging pain in my back. I carried my laptop bag in front of me and turned around slightly to literally bow out for the day. It was bad. And that’s when I hit my head on a doorframe in the office. It’s called pain distribution.
Ergonomics in your Workspace really does make a difference.
Back in the 19th century, Frederick Winslow Taylor formulated the time and motion study. The aim was to find a way for coal mine workers to work more efficiently. Instead of focusing on the tools and the conditions the workers were operating under, the research found that eliminating unnecessary micro-steps and actions in the shoveling process would boost productivity at work.
21 years later, this approach was contested by Vladimir Bekhterev and his namesake Vladimir Nikolayevich Myasishchev (I checked that surname twice), who re-focused research with a care about worker well-being in the workspace. They adopted a moralistic approach to mitigate the gap between work efficiency and productivity, and employee satisfaction, and coined this new discipline “Ergonology”.
In the ’50s, the study was widely accepted and the discipline which studies worker efficiency and productivity in the work environment became known as Ergonomics, derived from the Greek words Ergon and Nomos:work and natural law.
Ergonomics is a build-up of different scientific areas such as biomechanics, environmental physics and applied psychology, which weigh into the creation of an all-around functional, ergonomic -conform product that is perfectly adapted to the office-user and their environment. It is a holistic approach, that covers all areas influencing the person on a functionality spectrum. It even covers the human body’s individualistic needs by assessing body shape and size, population variations as well as social surroundings. It also factors in work skill, learning technique, errors and any other possible variances.
Ergonomics also takes into consideration the environment within which one works, be it an office space or any other workspace. These include sound, light, and temperature.
An ergonomic product is one that fits the individual’s needs by considering the above factors and designing or arranging a workplace or product in such a way, that it will best fit the person using it.
“I don’t break the rules, I simply bend them in my favour.” -Efrat Cybulkiewicz
The Business Case for Office Space Ergonomics
Knowledge is Power
A study undertaken in Nigeria in 2017 assessed the effects of ergonomics on employee performance. The study found that the main factor hindering employers from engaging in ergonomic initiatives was the general unawareness of the benefits that can be derived from such initiatives. This outlines the importance of educating workers on the positive effects of adequate office ergonomics. Furthermore, the study also found that there is an undeniable link between ergonomic hazards and employee performance.
Office Ergonomics is Proven to Work
In 2010, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work conducted a study about work-related musco-skeletal disorders (WMSD) within the EU. The study found that 38.1% of occupational diseases was made up of WMSDs. Another study taking place over 12 weeks, where 763 office workers from 14 organisations in Australia were provided with individualised ergonomic workstations, found that a combination of an ergonomic workspace and neck-specific exercises greatly decreased absenteeism and maximised productivity. It’s a no-brainer: the better your company’s office space ergonomics, the better off your employees and your company.
Keep your employees working…
A study conducted by ErgoPlus found that the direct costs of MSDs add up conservatively to 20 bn. USD a year, whilst total costs add up to 45-54 bn. USD annually. Direct costs include worker’s compensation payments, medical payments and legal expenses. Indirect costs include training replacement employees, accident investigation, lost productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism. Furthermore, WMSDs require 38% more time away from work than the average injury.
…and working for you
In today’s world jobs are in abundance and job-seekers are becoming pickier. Companies need to gain a competitive edge in attracting millennials. Millennials do not prioritise money, they prioritise work-life balance, benefits and a healthy work atmosphere. Forbes identified 5 aspects as being essential to satisfy millennials in a workplace; coffee, noise control, ergonomics, green offices and natural offices. Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union gives the EU the prerogative to adopt directives in the field of safety and health at work.
The EU has enacted various directives on the nature and conditions of work, some of which directly advise employers to adopt measures to maximise employee satisfaction and comfort at the workplace, and your employees know it.
A study was conducted among librarians in Southern Nigeria in 2014 with the aim of seeing the influence of workstation and work posture ergonomics on job satisfaction. The conclusions were that neglecting ergonomic principles lead to major decreases in job performance and satisfaction.
Assessing your office space in relation to office furniture ergonomics, health and safety, as well as investing in ergonomic products and perhaps even ergonomic training programs for your employees can help you boost productivity, cut costs, increase retention and maintain employee satisfaction.
Creating an ergonomic workspace
If you’re as convinced of the power of office ergonomics as I was after looking into it a little deeper, then you’ll be asking yourself one question: what’s next? Here’s a little step-by-step guide to help you out:
Employers: Identify and assess your office
- Take a look at the physical condition of your office space; consider the room layout and the flow of movement throughout the office, and think about where your equippment such as photocopying machines should be placed;
- Examine environmental aspects to your office such as noise, lighting, temperature, humidity, air-rate, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide prevalence, asbestos and fungi, among others;
- Collect dimensions of office apparel such as chairs, desks, height of cabinets etc.;
- Consider conducting employee satisfaction questionnaires and interviews in relation to your office space;
- Include the effect of ergonomic changes in the office when carrying out performance reviews and appraisals;
- Familiarise yourself with EU Regulations and local legislation regarding office safety and health;
- If you’re a larger enterprise, you may also consider implementing an ergonomics policy.
Employees: “Ergonomise” your workstation
- Assume a neutral body posture;
- Adjust your chair and desk so as to fit your neutral body position;
- Arrange your monitor at eye level (wherever that may be) so that you don’t have to tilt your head in any way. This also applies to multiple display users and your go-to coffee shop table;
- Use headphones when on the phone so as not to cradle your device between your head and neck;
- Give yourself a break from sitting. Get up and shake it out! Also give yourself a break from staring. Look away from your screen every 10 to 20 minutes to relax your eyes.
That feeling when you hit the target, not the doorframe.
Since my back pain has left me, I have been able to focus that much more on my daily output. I feel more motivated and ready to handle my workload thanks to the alleviation of this pain, and my output shows it. At BUSINESSLABS, we take office ergonomics seriously, and are always looking for ways to find the perfect blend and set up of office space furniture and amenities so as to make your workday as seamless and productive as possible.
Want to get to know more about what we do at BUSINESSLABS? We’d love to hear from you!