Most professionals understand that if you want to get the best out of the people you work with, you have to treat them well. You need to listen actively to their concerns, express gratitude for a job well done, and be willing to compromise. The positive momentum and enhanced morale engendered by kind and fair treatment directly lead to a more motivated and productive workforce.
Too few businessmen and women realize, however, that this considerate treatment of workers ought to encompass physical factors and emotional; providing an ergonomic environment can protect workers and fuel productivity in the following ways.
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How ergonomics improves productivity
1. Employees are healthier.
While many business owners are aware that the greatest threat to productivity is employee absence due to injury, too few people know that many workplace injuries do not occur as a result of falls or lifting heavy equipment, but rather because of daily repetitive strain. In fact, more than 40% of workplace injuries come in the form of sprains and strains.
Because repetitive strain injuries take a long time to develop, they also typically take a long time to treat and, therefore, cause the lengthy absence of skilled employees. This not only results in significant lost productivity, it could cost your company a great deal of money in the form of compensation payments.
There are other costs to consider – such as a lower rate of employee retention due to injury and discomfort – which lead to the expense of hiring and training new employees frequently. Your business may also need to pay overtime to staff members who are covering for absent co-workers.
2. Employees are more engaged.
Providing your employees with an ergonomic environment shows that you take their health and well-being seriously – a message that has been strongly linked to increased productivity. According to a worldwide study by Willis Towers Watson, the “single highest driver of employee engagement is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their wellbeing,” said Tony Schwartz in the Harvard Business Review article “Why Appreciation Matters So Much.”
When you give an employee ergonomic equipment to work with, you say to them, “How you feel matters to me; I want you to be happy and comfortable, and I want to protect you from harm.” Some of the most successful companies in the world, notably Google, have mastered the creation of ergonomic and enriched workspaces in a bid to ensure that their employees have high morale and feel free to think creatively.
Did you know? Lighting also impacts employee productivity. Research by Philips found that employees who have access to daylight see a boost in their performance.
3. Workers are more comfortable and alert.
Workers who are uncomfortable and in pain often report feeling tired, making them less able to work effectively. They must also take frequent breaks to stretch, walk around or lie down in an attempt to reduce muscle strain.
Physical pain negatively impacts mental energy too; it’s hard to feel inspired, solve problems or generate new ideas when you’re distracted by physical discomfort.
4. Staff can work more efficiently.
Ergonomic equipment often makes an employee’s work easier to complete, as it cuts down on repetitive motions and optimizes posture.
For example, ergonomic keyboards can help a typist to type faster and with fewer breaks, ergonomic cleaning equipment can allow cleaning personnel to clean large areas without having to bend so frequently, and computer monitors that are designed to reduce eyestrain enable employees to focus on their screens for longer periods without developing headaches. All of this leads to greater productivity and higher quality of work.
5. Employees make fewer errors.
Not only do workers concentrate better when they are not being distracted by discomfort, in industries where personnel must complete demanding physical tasks, ergonomic workstations often result in fewer mistakes.
According to an HR Business & Learning Resources article, “How Business Benefits From Ergonomics,” “At one business, a $400 mechanical device eliminated a $6,000 annual loss in scrap caused by employees who had been unable to consistently perform a demanding physical task. The return on investment was 1,500 percent.”
Did you know? In addition to ergonomics, weather impacts productivity. It is important to understand all of the external factors that could be affecting how much your employees are getting accomplished.
How ergonomics help the bottom line
1. Ergonomic workstations reduce labor costs.
In a review of 250 case studies, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries found that reducing ergonomic risk factors prevented costly musculoskeletal disorders by almost 60%.
By reducing the likelihood of workers developing those disorders, not only will your business save money, but your employees will be present more often. The less time an employee spends out of work because of medical issues, the more they can give to your company – which benefits both the employee and the business.
2. Less movement to complete a job means an increase in productivity.
A workstation that works for an employee allows them to focus on their job, rather than placing that energy into making their chair comfortable, resting their hands on their desk properly or having to go out of their way to complete daily tasks.
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries review found a 25% increase in productivity from implementing ergonomic solutions at work, stating, “By designing a job to allow for good posture, less exertion, fewer motions and better heights and reaches, the workstation becomes more efficient.”
3. Ergonomic workstations lead to fewer errors.
If an employee has to constantly go out of their way to make their workspace work for them, they might have less energy to put into their actual job, leading to more mistakes and longer lead times. The research found a 67% average reduction in work errors, or work having to be scrapped, because of an insufficient workspace.
The report also states, “When the job task is too physically taxing on the worker, they may not perform their job like they were trained. For example, an employee might not fasten a screw tight enough due to a high force requirement which could create a product quality issue.”
When you add up the various costs incurred by failing to invest in ergonomics, it quickly becomes clear that ergonomic equipment is not a luxury – it’s a necessity.
If you’re worried about the initial investment for ergonomic equipment, try purchasing secondhand equipment. With a bit of research, it’s often possible to secure ergonomic equipment for little more than the cost of conventional equipment.
Jennifer Post contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.