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Why Ergonomics is Worth the Investment

7/13/2017

Humans are a big factor in keeping a company working smoothly, efficiently, and cost effectively. So why is it so common for businesses to ignore the human factor when designing a workspace? In a market where consumers are primarily cost-concerned, companies today are often challenged with incorporating lean manufacturing, while keeping costs low and avoiding cutting corners. Businesses need to cut back where they can in order to sell a product at its lowest cost while still remaining profitable. Consequently, when Thrifty Jane is choosing office furniture, it can be hard for her to splurge on those beautifully designed, fully adjustable, ergonomic chairs for the office when she’s see the much-more-affordable-and-still-sufficient swivel chairs next to them. Herein lies the problem! We are often focused on the immediate result and how lucrative we’ll seem to our bosses when we show them all the money we saved…for now. When in reality, it’s critical to the longevity of a business to look at the bigger picture, which most notably includes all of its employees.

Keeping a company’s workers happy and healthy is a major contributor to what keeps it prosperous. Ergonomics is a surefire approach to accomplishing this safe and beneficial environment, which really is the best gift a company can give beyond an employee’s paycheck. Keep in mind, the health and safety of employees is not optional according to US regulations, so it might surprise you to know that over a third of workers’ compensation cases in 2015 in the United States were for Musculoskeletal Diseases (MSDs); that’s over 350,000 cases and resulted in about 50 billion dollars lost. (Interested in more about worker’s compensation and MSDs? Check this out.) As if that isn’t reason enough to keep the human factor a concern in the work place, consider the indirect costs of these work-related injuries; deficiencies in production (both quality and quantity) can eventually add up to five times the direct costs. So how can companies avoid these particular costs? Easy…ergonomics. Workstation details like work height adjustability, sit-to-stand working spaces, seating with proper support, and even the placement of parts cups are simple ways to create an ergonomic and therefore productive business.

While everything that goes into this ergonomic environment might sound like a financial burden to employers initially, ergonomics and efficiency are positively correlated, eventually leading to a happy, productive, and cost-effective work environment. In order to make those first steps in the right direction, companies should recognize that saving money in the long run means planning ahead in the present. Creating an ergonomic workstation in the first place will benefit a company much more than throwing together a usable – yet inevitably inefficient – space and eventually having to replace it all. Again, it’s the dilemma of choosing the cheap swivel chair over investing in the reclining, adjustable, ergonomic seating option. Sure Thrifty Jane will save some cash now, but she might regret her choice when the chairs are falling apart and her employees are suffering from back problems. Consequently, designers should keep in mind that the workstation and tasks completed at it should revolve around the user, not the other way around. Crafting the perfect workspace means considering the abilities, physical demands, and limitations of a person then applying this knowledge to maximize comfort at work. This newfound comfort encourages employees to consistently work at their stations for longer periods of time, which in turn can improve individual productivity by more than twenty percent.

Ultimately, the money saved from eliminating unnecessary workers’ compensations costs might not seem worth the initial investment in an ergonomic design. But, imagine a business with happy, healthy employees, little to no workers’ comp costs, and is running as efficiently as possible through a user-centered workspace. Even Thrifty Jane sees the value in that!