Many organizations hesitate to embark into what they see as the stormy waters of ergonomics, fearing that they will face purchasing costly ergonomic accessories, or that employees will start demanding special chairs, keyboards, mice, desks and so on.
Is their fear justified? By all means no!
As an ergonomic consultant to numerous organizations, I am often called to examine and give advice for existing workstations, only to find faulty ergonomic planning. Surprisingly, it is the actually at work stations boasting special design and laden with expensive accessories where we find problems.
For example: an expensive executive chair that does not fit its user, or is badly proportioned to the desk, or a desk that doesn’t allow for resting your legs comfortably, or a desk that is too large for the room’s dimensions or a large size ergonomic keyboard that does no fit the user.
My job as an ergonomic consultant is to provide the functional solution, meaning that as far as I’m concerned, a wide desk with appropriate leg room will provide a better solution than an expensive, designer table that does not allow for a comfortable sitting posture. Likewise, a chair that fits both the desk and the user’s body proportions will be a much better solution than a fancy, expensive executive chair that is out of proportion with the user’s body or the desk.
Equipment that is suitable and adjusted to the employee will certainly prevent discomfort or bodily injuries in the future.
In many companies that use my ergonomic consulting services we actually witnessed a decrease in demands for a chair replacement, because when you provide the employee with the proper guidance on how to adjust his or her chair and organize the workstation in a proper ergonomic way, work comfort and usage experience are enhanced.
True, sometimes there’s a need to replace some of the equipment, but at least the new equipment is directed to where it’s really needed, the acquisition is budgeted and prioritized and is nor a half baked random purchase that eventually might be discovered to be unnecessary.
In many companies I have come across foot rests thrown in the room, unused keyboard gel pads, superfluous monitor stands, etc.
As you see, solid ergonomic advice not only saves you money and renders good ROI in the long term! It can reimburse the expense almost immediately.
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.