The term “ergonomics” may sound like corporate jargon, but its importance to the workplace can’t be overstated. Companies with solid ergonomics programs are better places to work, and they’re more profitable in the long term, too. This is as true in white collar offices as it is in construction sites and on manufacturing lines. In this article, we’ll review the myriad of reasons why the economics of ergonomics couldn’t be clearer — and why an excellent ergonomics program should be a core part of any workplace.
1. Workers Compensation Claims
Poorly designed workspaces come with a wide range of direct and indirect costs. This is particularly when it comes to workers compensation claims. In terms of direct costs, any employee who must receive medical care due to an on the job injury — Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) like carpal tunnel syndrome are most common in the office setting — will require medical treatment and prescriptions. These costs can fall back on your company in terms of increased insurance premiums, as well as through any workers compensation claims filed to account for the employee’s out of pocket costs. We’ll cover more indirect costs throughout the remainder of this article.
Sometimes, an employee’s injuries become so serious, they have to skip work to rest and recover. What starts out as a day missed here and there can quickly escalate into protracted absences. This is especially true if the employee requires surgery and recovery time. In their absence, teammates must pick up the slack. This can make them feel overburdened and overwhelmed. It can also prevent them from doing the job they originally signed up for. If the absent employee is a specialist or has a book of clients with whom they have a special relationship, their absence is particularly difficult to deal with, as there may be no easy last minute replacements. Proper ergonomics in the workplace ensures valuable employees stay healthy and on the job.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, presenteeism is when employees push themselves to come into work even when they’re feeling awful. Unfortunately, if they’re really in pain, this can actually be worse than absenteeism, as presentee employees just aren’t at the top of their game. They often have inefficient ways of working and low productivity rates, as their minds are distracted by their pain. And even if they are checking off every item on their to do lists, there isn’t much head space for getting creative and innovative. Presentee employees are also much more likely to make mistakes (sometimes big ones). They can tire out quickly and be irritable, which doesn’t make for the best team dynamics.
4. Low Morale
When employers don’t look after the physical health of their employees, that sends a clear message that you don’t care much about them in general. Especially if they’re already exhibiting symptoms of debilitating workplace injuries. This leads to a feelings of antipathy and low morale, which in turn get in the way of performance and productivity. Low morale also makes employees much more likely to leave a company sooner than they otherwise would have. A high turnover rate comes with clear costs, as your company will need to advertise the new position, and devote both time and money for the hiring and training process. And if the new employee leaves early too, all of those costs will again be for nought. Put this way, poor ergonomics is really a poor investment strategy.
5. Inefficient Working
If you’ve ever tried to navigate the world with an injury, you know just how inefficient completing normal tasks can be as you navigate around the pain. Let’s say, for example, you’ve sprained your ankle. Sure, you can wrap it up and limp from place to place, but your experience won’t be nearly as efficient or rapid as it would be if you were injury-free. The same thing happens with workplace injuries. An employee with carpal tunnel syndrome may still be able to type, but they’ll do so at a much lower rate than they otherwise would have. In fact, even the way they’re engaging their muscles to work around the injury are inefficient. These inefficiencies can likely trigger injuries in other parts of their musculoskeletal system. Much better, really, to keep employees working in top form.
6. OSHA Fines
If all of these factors don’t drive home the importance of implementing ergonomic solutions like split keyboards and standing desks, then how about OSHA fines? With average penalties increasing every year, these fines are nothing to laugh at. And don’t forget all of the legal bills your company will have to pay if you’d like to appeal the fines.
Doing an ergonomic audit and implementing new solutions is a long term investment that will more than pay for itself. What’s more, you’ll likely find other inefficiencies to fix along the way, meaning that ergonomic programs bring with them as many indirect as direct benefits. The real question is: when will you begin? Say yes to ergonomics and give us your pledge to embrace pain-free working in the comments below.