Whether you’re totally new to ergonomics or you’re such an ergonomics fangirl or boy, you wear a “Go Ergo!” trucker hat around the office for fun, one thing is clear: ergonomics equipment can be costly if you’re not careful. Treadmill desks, for instance, can cost a pretty penny, especially if you buy a few of them. And ergonomic chairs can just about break the bank!
But that doesn’t mean ergonomics is out of the question for small businesses with small equipment budgets — nor does it mean that buying ergonomic equipment has to be an expensive proposition in the first place.
1. Evaluate the Equipment You Have
Setting budgets is all about determining value. After all, you want to make sure that anything you devote funds to produces some kind of positive return. Not just that, you want those funds to return maximum value. This means that, even when a current solution is returning some kind of value, there may be even more to be had out there, so every line item should be viewed with a critical eye either once a quarter or at least annually.
For office equipment, this means doing an ergonomic audit. To do this, we highly recommend printing out OSHA’s workstation checklist, and taking this with you as examine every aspect of every worker space. This should also be paired with employee interviews, so that you can receive real feedback on any pain your employees feel and how efficient and productive they be they can be in their current setup. For the best results, ask your employees if you can set up a video feed of them for a day, so you or your hired ergonomist can see for yourselves how the employee is actively using that space.
This may seem like a lot of trouble to go to, but doing so will help you make smarter, more targeted decisions about what to keep, what to drop, and what to swap.
2. Look for Solutions That Will Deliver the Greatest Value
As you move forward from here, it’s important to be just as strategic in choosing your new equipment as it was in evaluating the old. You’ll want to do a lot of research into user reviews, and to ask retailers for demos or trials with higher cost items, so you can see in a hands-on manner whether or not each solution is right for you. What’s more, it’s important to look for items that will provide the biggest payoff for the lowest investment.
An expensive ergonomic chair, for example, may be worth it for an employee with chronic back problems, but it may not be a great solution for an employee who uses an adjustable desk and as such will barely sit in the chair. And keep in mind that it is often the smaller accessories, like an ergonomic keyboard, an ergonomic mouse, or a monitor arm, that provide the most impactful and broadest reaching benefits, for a fraction of the price. If, for example, it comes down to providing that ergonomic chair as opposed to 40 ergonomic keyboards, you will at least want to start with the keyboard as an easy, quick solution with big payoffs, and work your way up to the chair.
3. Build in an Experimental Portion
While you may not have the budget to overhaul every person’s workstation, why not have a few of your employees volunteer as guinea pigs to test out various solutions? This way, you can try out a range of products before finally deciding on one brand or set of solutions. And if you designate the funds here as your “experimental equipment fund,” it won’t even feel like you’re losing money when a product or two doesn’t work out. In fact, your experimental budget will save you money, as it will help you identify where your biggest investments should be targeted.
4. Call in an Expert
It might seem like a big upfront cost to hire an ergonomist as a consultant, but this again is an investment that more than pays off, especially if you’re venturing into ergonomics for the first time. An ergonomist will help you pinpoint the issues at hand, will have a number of creative solutions you may not have ever dreamed of, and may very well have connections with suppliers who can get you a deal you won’t be able to pass up.
5. Trim Back On Other Areas
Just as with any kind of budgeting, as you analyze all of your line items, it’s important to determine what can be cut. This goes not just for your ergonomics budget but for your general budget as well, which can be used to carve out space for your equipment. Really pause to think deeply here about whether or not each item is actually leading to higher revenues while keeping costs low. Additionally, as you set your new ergonomics budget, you may want to try making a “dream” budget, a “bare bones” budget, and a budget that’s somewhere in between. This way, you can identify all of the solutions you think you need, but then also force yourself to set priorities to tackle either now or in the future. For tight budgets, staggering purchases over a number of years can be a savvy solution.
Most of all…
Remember, Ergonomics is an Investment
And a good one at that! Though there may be costs upfront, you will receive a big return on that investment in the form of higher productivity, more efficient working, and more creativity on the job as employees focus on the task at hand rather than on their pain. You will also see lower absenteeism rates, and may even reduce health insurance premiums as you’ll have fewer employees in need of expensive surgeries to correct repetitive strain and other on the job injuries.
Investing in the health and comfort of your employees just makes sense. The real question is, when will you start? Let us know in the blog comments!