This article intends to showcase the relationship between an ergonomic work environment and its positive effect on employees and companies. Specifically, this article sets out to explain how simple ergonomic adjustments to one's work environment can lead to increased productivity, higher job satisfaction, and lower employee turnover.
So what exactly is an “ergonomic work environment”? Essentially, ergonomics according to the National Research Council is “the study of human characteristics for the appropriate design of the living and working environment” (Human Factors and Ergonomic Society). Ergonomists attempt to learn about these human characteristics such as but not limited to a person’s potential, restraints, ambitions, motivations, and aspirations with the objective of bettering the work environment. The ultimate goal in ergonomics aside from promoting good posture is to create an office space that is fully tailored to the physiological and mental needs of workers with the hopes of creating a more efficient workspace. This in turn paves the way for improved job performance and overall employee well-being.
Though making a work environment more ergonomic seems like a simple task, it is in fact a process that takes into consideration a handful of factors that often go overlooked. According to scientifically proven research, small details such as; the height of the seat, the elbow positioning, the height of the monitor, the distance between the user and the screen, and the height of the desk, all play crucial roles in the overall long term health and job performance. Since the average office worker sits for 10 hours a day, the argument can easily be made that workstations should be as comfortable as the homes we live in. Failure to do so will eventually lead to unwanted negative side effects.
The image below shows in detail the exact manner in which a worker should be seated at his or her desk;
If we were to compare this photo and its ergonomic set up to our current office set up (desk and chair), we may begin to realize that the neck pain or eye strain we complain about after a long day of work can be avoided altogether with a few simple ergonomic modifications. However if companies and other entities continue to delay converting their workplaces into a more ergonomically friendly one, then they will inevitably continue to operate and perform at a rate far less than their potential. In addition to lesser than ideal job performance, employers will also be faced with more frequent cases of employees being absent due to medical reasons directly associated with the manner in which they are seated at their workstations.
Scientists and academic researchers have repeatedly warned society that extended periods of sitting can be dangerous to users. Specifically, they put forth the credible argument that such extended periods of sitting has been associated with a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression and obesity, as well as some of the more common problems such as joint issues and muscle pain (Washington Post). Reoccurring evidence on these negative effects of prolonged sitting has led to the rise in popularity of elevating desks also known as the standing desk. The standing desk — ergonomic friendly — encourages and allows workers to opt for standing while working instead of being confined to a chair. And according to Harvard Health Publishing, the simple act of standing while at the workplace has the potential to lower the risks of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death (Harvard Health Publishing).
Another key benefit of standing at the workplace is its positive effect on cognitive performance. Since standing requires more effort, the brain is required to manage more variables such as balancing your body weight, controlling muscle contraction, and contributing to cognitive stress. Thus the brain is in a constant state of alertness in comparison to when one sits down. In the image below, we see a worker in action standing at his control station made by Sustema, one of the pioneers in the ergonomic control room furniture industry.
Implementing an ergonomic working environment is undeniably costly, but one of the smarter investments a company can make. According to Mark Middlesworth in his 2021 article titled “5 Proven Benefits of Ergonomics in the Workplace ”, employees will take notice of their employers putting forth their best efforts to ensure their health and safety. Employees will also begin to no longer experience tiredness and irritability during their workday, which can “reduce turnover, decrease absenteeism, improve morale and increase employee involvement”. Some other noteworthy findings as it relates to ergonomics are; a 48% average reduction in employee turnover will occur, 75% reduction in lost workdays as well as a 58% average reduction in employee absenteeism.
The above statistics can be a tremendous incentive for company’s considering ergonomics!
Having understood the importance and benefits of ergonomics at the workplace, Sustema has been on a relentless mission to offer ours clients state-of-the-art, ergonomically focused workstations. All of our products take into account the various factors that lead to better comfort and job performance. We empower our customers to have full control of their workstations by giving them complete control from everything to monitor angles, desk heights, and chair to keyboard distance. When we develop new products or consult with current or prospective clients, we always put ourselves in the shoes of the end-user. One of the first questions we always ask ourselves is “How can we make their day better, more productive, and above all, more comfortable!.”
At Sustema , we like to do things the ergonomic way!