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Ergonomics in the Workplace

Rujuta Borkar Jan 22, 2019
Why is ergonomics in the workplace important and how should one go about it? That is exactly what we will focus on.
“Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”
-International Ergonomics Association
Basically, “ergo-”, when used as a prefix means “work”; and “-nomics”, when used as a suffix means, “law” or “discipline”. Thus in simpler terms, “ergonomics” means, study of people in their working environment.
Ergonomics, holistically, comprises of many disciplines, like, psychology sociology, engineering, biomechanics, industrial design, physiology, anthropometry, interaction design, visual design, user experience, and user interface design.
Broadly, ergonomics can be divided into three divisions of specialization:
  • Physical Ergonomics
  • Cognitive Ergonomics
  • Organizational Ergonomics
While, physical ergonomics focuses on physical aspects of human body (human anatomy, bio-mechanical characteristics of physical activity, etc.), cognitive ergonomics focus on the psychological aspects such as, perception, memory, motor response, etc.
Organizational ergonomics refers to the increasing the efficiency of organizational structures, managing crew resources, designing working times, team work, etc.

Why is ergonomics in the workplace important?

Physical comfort at workplace is very important from the  employee’s perspective. Physical comfort, in a way, further offers psychological comfort which, in turn, helps an organization to grow, as a whole. Some basic benefits of ergonomics at the workplace are mentioned.

Reduces cost and increases savings

Employees working in awkward postures, or extreme temperatures are prone to, what are called as, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These disorders, as the name suggests, are mainly related to muscles, joints, ligaments etc.
These disorders or related injuries can incur a lot of treatment costs. Better ergonomics at workplace, resolves this issue by providing comfort to the employees and reducing treatment costs.

Increases employee’s efficiency, productivity and quality

As said earlier, physical comfort is linked to psychological aspects of productivity and efficiency. Friendly and comfortable workplace environment, increases employee productivity. Increased productivity also implies that the quality of work done by an employee increases.

Improves employee engagement

Another benefit of ergonomics is improved employee engagement, in the form of improved employee morale, decreased absenteeism, etc.

Promotes healthy work-culture

Basic, yet the most important benefit of ergonomics is the promotion of healthy work culture at the workplace. Employees, in a way feel relieved that their health is not compromised due to the work and hence they offer more commitment to the organization.

Adjusting the workplace

Given are some tips or adjustments that can be implemented in the workplace, for the better comfortability of the employees.
  • Adjust you computer workstation that suits your natural posture.
  • The chair you sit in should be adjusted correctly, so that its height and distance from visual display unit (in this case, the computer’s monitor) is appropriate.
  • The keyboard and mouse should be arranged so that it doesn't require awkward posture to use them. It is generally considered, that the keyboard and the mouse should be kept at a height of 2 cm from the thighs and at least 8 cm from the edge of the desk. The keyboard and the mouse should be at a shoulder distance apart.
  • The workstation should be arranged so that things that are frequently used are always within reach.
  • Document holders, if used, should be placed closer to the screen, to avoid the awkward position of the neck.
  • Avoid holding the phone with your neck as it causes a lot of strain on your neck muscles.
  • Pause-Stretch exercises should be performed regularly to reduce pressure on muscles, joints, nerves, etc. Some pause-stretch exercises that can be done at the workplace are, chin retraction, back bend, forearm stretch, shoulder rolls, thoracic extensions, etc.
The aspect of ergonomics is something to be followed in every workplace in order to increase the efficiency of the employee and growth of the company or organization further.