Are employers thinking on the employee’s best interest?

By gildalit

ergonomics

ergonomic consultation

When have you last heard of employees going on a strike or mobilizing workers unions solely to protest against the ergonomic conditions of their employment?

That’s a pretty rare situation, to say the least.

Well. If there are no strikes and no sanctions, does it follow that the ergonomic working conditions are all excellent? I don’t think so.

We’ve have all seen some horrific working environments, with narrow and wobbly desks, old and broken chairs, bad lighting, crowded spaces etc.

And just to be clear, those are modern urban offices I am talking about, not sweatshops or third worlds factories in remote locations.

I’m sure we’ve all heard by now of employees, who spend most of their working hours in front of a computer, complaining about discomfort, wrist pains and disk hernias.

This is a well known, quite widespread phenomenon, and yet employers are not rushing to search for the aid of the nearest ergonomic consultant. When offering my services to employers, I’m often confronted with the reaction: No thanks, we’re very concerned and proactive regarding our workers health and comfort, see? We’ve just purchased gel pads for their keyboards and mice.

Does this reaction teach us anything? Yes.  Clearly, it shows that employers tend to ease their consciences or mollify their employees’ complaints with a simple ergonomic toy. Does this toy solve the employee’s problem? Probably not, but it does buy the employer some additional quiet time.

Would having the employees listen to a lecture on ergonomics once every couple of years help them? Perhaps it would help them a bit, but it would sure help the employer much more.

Good ergonomic consulting starts with a functional ergonomic mapping of the organization, getting an exact understanding of employee’s needs followed by personal planning and guidance for each employee at his personal workstation, including fitting the proper ergonomic equipment.

Are there any employers who have embraced this concept? Yes, of course, but they are still a minority. Most employers are still in the stage of putting out fires, only trying to solve specific personal problems when an employee complains loudly enough.

When employers do invest seriously in ergonomics, is it because the employee’s interest is of paramount importance for them?

Every business’s primary goal is to make profits. Organizations that realize how ergonomics assistance would greatly improve their employees’ performance, actually understand that in the long run, they gain happy, contributing employees with better performance levels, who take fewer sick leave days.

Correct ergonomic thought should take into consideration that an investment in ergonomics will not only repay itself but bring the company monetary gain as well.

Don’t think of ergonomics as being a manner of coddling the employee, or being just a part of HR welfare. Think of it as a method that enables the employer to increase company’s profit.

When employers will understand that there’s money to be made, they will invest in ergonomics. That’s a no brainer.

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Promoting Ergonomics in the Work Place – What are the Obstacles and Can it be Done?

By gildalit

ergonomics sitting

non ergonomic sitting

As an independent ergonomic counselor offering my services to high tech companies, I often wonder – who would be the right person to meet at the organization in order to create a serious and effective ergonomic program?

My experience tells me that in each organization, the correct answer will be different.

The crucial person or function to approach could be located at: Human Resources, Staff Welfare, Operations or Acquisition management, R&D Department, or it could be any of the organization’s vice presidents: Safety, IT, Administration, or any departmental Manager.

One of the main obstacles in promoting ergonomics in organizations is that the employees themselves may lack ergonomic awareness. They do not put any pressure on the organization or ask emphatically enough for ergonomic consulting services. After all, not all employees are aware of the causal connection between working environment and bodily pains.

It’s not always easy to make the connection between work and pain. The discomfort and pains suffered by computer users usually develop gradually and do not force the users to stop working immediately. The discomfort turns into chronic pain that the employees learn to live with, suffering quietly and hoping for the best.

Even when employees are well aware of the situation, some of them might hesitate to complain of discomfort and pains they feel at their daily work out of fear of being fired, or being regarded by the organization as trouble makers.

Employers sometimes take advantage of this ignorance or fear, and do nothing to raise awareness. After all, why create problems where you have industrial peace? So they sort of “let sleeping dogs lay”. The situation is the worst in organizations where employees’ turnover is high and the employer has no incentive to improve working conditions.

But ending on a positive note – we see more and more organizations that are open minded towards ergonomics, being well aware of its importance. Those organizations do not hesitate to invest substantial amounts in order to create the right working environment.

As I’ve noted in previous posts, organizations are not promoting ergonomics solely for the employee’s interest. They understand that in the long run, investment in ergonomics has a very high ROI.

For one good example I can give the Israeli Low department that after a long period of consultation, trial period and ROI calculation bought for all its clerics an innovative forearm support board the ergocloud.