Those who are not familiar with the term ergonomics, typically give us 1 of 2 reactions.
The first being a head nod followed immediately by the question… “and what you do you think of the current economic state of our country?” – no we are not EConomists, we are ERgonomists.
The second being a slightly confused and awkward look because they have no idea what you just said.
So, Ergonomics, what exactly is it? It is the science of improving employee performance and wellbeing in relation to job tasks equipment and the environment.
Unfortunately, over the last few years, ergonomics has come under the health and safety bracket in organisations which can often take a very reactive approach. When someone is suffering with lower back pain, for example, an assessment is conducted, some solutions identified, and a new chair purchased. Or we give employees a program of rest and stretching exercises and hope that will mitigate their issues.
Whilst obviously all these things are important to help combat ill health and injury, ergonomics in its truest form is actually about being proactive and designing out the problem or designing to enhance performance.
Think of us as the coach who watches every detail of his team’s performance to identify how they can do things better or more efficiently and not as the physio who is waiting for someone to get injured.
Let’s go back to the person who has lower back issues in the office. Typically, a chair is the first solution to be discussed. However, we know from research that the leading cause of lower back discomfort in an office is trunk flexion (leaning forward), so giving someone a new chair is most likely not going to help them and cost the business a lot of money. In fact, what we need to do is identify what the actual problem is and mitigate it with design.
Our hands and eyes drive our posture forward so if our monitor and keyboard is too far away from us, we will naturally lean forward to reach our tools, causing us to have little to no back support from the chair. By bringing the monitor and keyboard closer to the user, it will encourage them to sit back in the chair and use their back support properly.
Moral of the story – design out your issues which will, in turn, enhance performance and reduce musculoskeletal disorders.