You can’t set foot far inside a modern office without hearing the word ergonomics; something we’re pretty glad about, to be honest. In a time gone by where ergonomics was but a distant dream, people suffered greatly due to workplace induced injuries. When we look back over the last few decades, it’s interesting to see how workplace ergonomics has been managed. We as a workforce have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. We’re always seeing new innovations, designed purely to improve the work experience – from the ergonomic laptop holder to the ergonomic chair – and it’s exciting to know that things will only get better.
A fundamental driver of this enhanced focus on ergonomics is the desire to reduce injuries, in particular musculoskeletal disorders. Many of the musculoskeletal disorders that occur in office settings are from things like poor posture and repetitive strain injuries (RSI). We are driven by a need to prevent injuries, to improve productivity, to retain people as employees and to have a functioning and injury-free workplace. This is why the business landscape is shifting more and more towards the ergonomic workplace, and we’d like to take a look at a bit of the history and how things have changed.
Ergonomics in the 1980s through to today
Over time, people have spent more and more time in offices, thus starting to feel the pressures of a desk job on our bodies. Before long, there was higher instances of back pain, as well as problems associated with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. As a result, people wanted to reduce the risk of workplace injuries. It was detrimental to workers and business owners, and it was something that we needed to manage. Given the relative infancy of the science, the approach that people took was a reactive one. We used symptoms and injuries as a means to measure the success of our approach, and we reacted to employee complaints. Nowadays, of course, we are proactive and focus on measuring the exposure to potential injury risks before something happens. The shift in the outcome has been huge, and the more success we have with injury prevention, the better we get at managing injuries.
As the focus improved, ergonomics spread across a range of process improvement methods. Things like lean manufacturing, six sigma, and safety management systems all sprung up to improve the factory manufacturing and office output processes. Business leaders adopted the process of continuous improvement as a means to ensure the positive performance of staff in the workplace.
The responsibility of a safe workplace shifted from management to the workers, and therefore there has been an ever-increasing focus and outcome of excellent workplace ergonomics.
Importance of ergonomics in the workplace
No matter what you’re up to in your day to day work, the stressors of strain, bad posture and RSI can cause problems for your health including:
- Bad posture
- Back pain
- Muscular problems
- Physical injury
How to prevent an ergonomic injury
The best way that you can go about preventing a workplace injury is to be very aware of the risks associated with your workplace. Working in partnership with your employer or your workplace, make sure that your health and physical position throughout the day is a priority of yours. You must also ensure that you are always thinking about your back, neck and shoulders, because they are so important to your health overall. When you are in pain it’s so much harder to think and to work, but just by implementing something as simple as an ergonomic laptop holder, you will see a huge difference.
In conclusion, the article highlights the significant evolution of workplace ergonomics from its reactive beginnings in the 1980s to its current proactive and integrated approach. This shift has been driven by the need to prevent workplace injuries, particularly musculoskeletal disorders, and to enhance employee productivity and well-being. Ergonomics has become a fundamental aspect of various process improvement methods, reflecting a collective responsibility between management and employees to ensure a safe and efficient working environment. Emphasizing ergonomic practices, such as proper posture and the use of supportive equipment like ergonomic laptop holders, is crucial in mitigating health risks and fostering a healthier, more productive workforce.