What is Ergonomics?

Short Answer

Ergonomics studies efficiency in the workplace, in order to enhance workers. It develops tools to help workers stay healthy, engaged, and perform better. Ergonomics has shown us that, by improving a worker’s well-being, businesses lower their operational costs and improve productivity.

Ergonomics improves the worker’s quality of life to improve the business’ bottom line.

Long Answer:

Ergonomics is a science that brings together the knowledge of a number of diverse fields to examine how people work and how individuals interact with their work environment.

Ergonomics, also known as Human Factors Engineering, examines the psychological, physiological, cognitive, and social factors that determine how people work.

For years, traditional businesses operated with the expectation that their workers fully adapt and conform to the job and workplace. We know now that there are many inescapable factors that limit how much individual workers can conform to said work. There are certain realities in terms of human capabilities, limitations, behaviour, and characteristics, that determine how individuals work, irrespective of work expectations. By ignoring these factors, traditional businesses miss opportunities to get the most out of their workforce, and are forced to operate with built-in inefficiencies that hurt productivity and growth.

Ergonomics works to modify and optimize the work and working environment around the the individual worker, in a way that both minimizes stress, discomfort, and risk-of-injury for the worker.
The data backs up the common sense, that is, a worker that is healthy, not in pain, and moving/working efficiently, will be more engaged, motivated, productive, and will make fewer costly errors.

What Does Ergonomics Do?

Ergonomics is an applied science that looks at how people work. It is a person-centered study that designs optimized resources to help people work better and minimise preventable harm. The evidence shows that by  designing better equipment, tools, environments and work strategies, we can enhance the individual worker’s quality-of-life while simultaneously improving the performance and productivity of the workplace or  business.

In other words,  these solutions improve worker wellbeing, while also  improving the business’ bottom-line.

Businesses use ergonomic design to develop enhanced:

  • tools
  • equipment
  • work environments
  • workflows
  • organizational strategies
  • technologies
  • jobs/activities/tasks
  • training

Why is ergonomics so important?

It helps your improve your quality-of-life. It looks at how you, as an individual,  go about your work,  how you use your  tools, and how you interact with your work environment.  Ergonomics looks at where and how errors, obstacles, and inefficiencies occur. It then design solutions to mitigate these problems.

The goal is to:

  • reduce error
  • improve your health
  • prevent illness and injury
  • reduce pain and discomfort
  • increase engagement and motivation
  • minimize stressors in the workplace

We now know that office work, computer work, and workplace sedentary time are associated with damaging health outcomes regardless of physical activity.

Ergonomic office solutions help prevent the development of common office-related conditions, including work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs, WRSMDs) and repetitive motion injuries (RSIs). Musculoskeletal traumas are generally caused by actions such as remaining in prolonged, static postures, by heavy lifting, or by frequent and repetitive stretching. Repetitive motion problems develop as a result of constant engagement in fixed-position activities, like typing on a keyboard.

As discussed in our health guide, the evidence is clear on how WRMSDs and RSIs are prevalent and debilitating. The evidence is also clear on how, even small, ergonomic interventions in the office will yield substantial improvements your health and wellbeing.

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Ergonomic programs come in many shapes and sizes. Organizations don’t have to invest a lot to get results, and even a basic office plan can get you working better. Organizations will hire an Ergonomist to help them create and implement their program, and consult with suppliers like Merit, to get the equipment and furnishings that they need.

Whether you choose to implement and exhaustive multi-tiered program, or would rather begin with the basics, a great first step involves improving your office setup.

One of the simplest solutions that benefits many companies, involves improving your offices to help staff work better with computers. At Merit Office Solutions, we can help you design better offices with improved workstations, optimised office furniture, and computer-work accessories, to fit your business needs.

How Effective are Office Ergonomic Measures? (Average)

Fewer WMSDs
Reduced Cost per claim (WMSDs)
Incidence Rate Reduction (WMSDs)
Less Turnover
Fewer Lost workdays
Reduced Labor costs
Fewer Restricted days (WMSDs)
Less Scrap/errors
Reduced Workers' Comp Costs (WMSDs)
Less Absenteeism
Productivity Increase 0
Compsensation Costs Related to MSDs 0
Compsensation Costs Related to All Other Causes 0
% Return of Investment (ROI)

Median Cost:Benefit Ratio of over 1:6

Payback Period: Less Than a Year! (Average 4-8 months)