Let’s face it. As active as we would all like to be, many of us spend most of our waking hours sitting. Being sedentary is often unavoidable because our job requires us to spend so much time in front of a screen. For this reason, we need to be mindful of our posture to avoid causing significant, sometimes irreversible, damage to our bodies.
Here at CDI, we are passionate about ergonomics. Like you, we want our employees to enjoy coming to work (and we also want them to be productive). A study done by ScienceDirect found that job satisfaction is strongly linked to working environment, which includes having equipment designed for comfort, safety, efficiency, and productivity—or in other words, ergonomics. So, what’s the definition of ergonomics, exactly? At its most basic, it’s the science of fitting a workplace to a user’s needs.
The Basics of Ergonomics
It’s a fact: we aren’t as productive or effective when we are in discomfort or pain. Further, repeated stress on the body from sitting improperly can cause physical aches, pains, musculoskeletal injuries, and other issues that have the potential to impact all aspects of our life and last a lifetime.
Many people don’t understand—or they underestimate—how critical it is to pay attention to their posture for their overall health and well-being. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that comfortable furniture and ergonomics go hand in hand. And as studies have shown, mood, energy, innovation, productivity, and efficiency are significantly impacted by a well-designed workplace.
There is good ergonomics, and there is bad ergonomics. Good ergonomics is about making sure that you’re comfortable and are placing little to no stress on your body. An employee with good ergonomics has a chair that provides proper lumbar and pelvic support, resulting in less strain on the back muscles. Their chair is adjustable, their feet are flat on the floor with their knees level with their hips, and their hands are at the same level as their elbows.
On the flip side, bad ergonomics is any interaction with the world that causes discomfort or strain. Think about someone staring down at their phone for hours at a time or an employee in an office chair not designed with ergonomics in mind, causing them to slouch, thus putting unwanted pressure on the spine.
Ergonomics: The Hybrid Working Model
These days, it’s becoming commonplace for companies to ditch the old ways in favour of the hybrid working model. Many companies now allow their employees to split their working hours between the office and home. While this new location-flexible model creates greater employee satisfaction and can increase productivity, there is the question, “What kind of workstations are people using from their homes?”
While an ergonomic setup is ideal, it’s rarer than you might think. The University of Cincinnati did an ergonomics study on its faculty and staff while they worked from home during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is what the results showed:
- 58% sat in some type of chair,
- 64% sat on a hard surface,
- 27% sat in dining room chairs, and,
- 15% sat or laid in bed or on a couch.
Many of us don’t have a dedicated office in our home, much less an adequate workstation. When the work-from-home craze began, most of us took our work computers home, but how many brought home their office chairs? That number is unknown, but what is known is that giving employees an ergonomic office chair drastically improves their posture, reduces back pain, and ultimately improves productivity.
Bad Ergonomics Has a Cost
While comfort is a big part of the goal, ergonomics goes beyond simply being comfortable. It also affects company profits. Ergonomics-related injuries can bring job productivity down in multiple ways:
- Absenteeism: If an employee has an injury related to ergonomics in the workplace, they may use up their sick time, plus additional, unpaid time on top of that. Roughly 34% of missed workdays are a direct result of ergonomic-related injuries. Less than ideal working conditions restrict an employee’s ability to show their capabilities and reach their full potential. Investing in ergonomics reduces absenteeism, which supports businesses that want to thrive and understand that creating a positive physical environment positively impacts the bottom line.
- Poor Morale: Employees who use inadequate office furniture can’t focus entirely on their job because their discomfort is a reoccurring distraction. Further, their mood and energy are impacted, leading to a significant decrease in productivity. Engagement is an essential criterion for many organizations. When businesses explain why they provide an ergonomic environment, employees feel like the company they work for cares about them. Engagement and ergonomics result in higher productivity, leading employees to work faster and make fewer mistakes.
- Low Employee Retention: When employees are unhappy in their current role, they’ll jump ship when a better opportunity arises. A large part of employee satisfaction is the environment, which includes all the office equipment and furniture they use. Retention reduces turnover, allowing companies to maximize their training investments and increase the knowledge base of their staff. Having office furniture that is ergonomically designed has a significant impact on the happiness of those who use it.
If you’re thinking about designing a new office or updating an old one, the best advice we can give you is to buy ergonomic furniture. The study of ergonomics began in 1950, and the results have been clear: workers need to be set up correctly, which means having a comfortable workplace. Misaligned office setups lead to physical and psychological ailments, including strain and other musculoskeletal issues.
So, if you can only start with one piece of ergonomic furniture, what piece should it be—desk or chair? Without a doubt, research shows that the chair is the most crucial piece of furniture you need when creating a new office set up. It’s best to consider ergonomics before you need it, not only because your employees matter to you but also because, in the long run, giving them a comfortable and safe place to work will increase your bottom line.
To learn more on this topic, see the following reference materials we used in creating this article:
Impact of Working Environment on Job Satisfaction: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212567115005249
The Home Office: Ergonomic Lessons From the “New Normal”: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epub/10.1177/1064804620937907
Common Workplace Ergonomic Issues and their Causes: https://ergonomictrends.com/common-workplace-ergonomic-issues/
Our work-from-home trend has developed ergonomic growing pains: