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Ergonomic practices in the workplace: designing a safe and healthy workspace


October 5, 2023


November 16, 2023

Have you ever worked on a height-adjustable desk? Well, if you haven’t, this office equipment should be on top of your office ergonomics checklist

Ergo-what? 🤔​

From developing a hybrid workspace to incorporating biophilic design, we like to highlight the best methods for building work environments that make employees and businesses thrive. So today, we’ve decided to dig into a fundamental topic: ergonomic practices in the workplace.

In other words, it is the science of designing a workspace that adapts to workers’ needs. It goes from introducing ergonomic hardware, such as adjustable desks and chairs, to creating a landscape that ensures safe and healthy mobility for everyone. But it also includes cognitive, organizational, and environmental ergonomics. We talk more in detail about these below.

While it might sound like a “nice-to-have” idea, ergonomic design benefits employers as much as employees. It aims at avoiding musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and other work-related physical and mental health issues. But the associated advantages are worth it, too. 

So, let’s discover why and, most importantly, how to create an ergonomic workstation setup!

The four main types of ergonomics in the workplace

Physical ergonomics

As its name suggests, physical ergonomics is related to the body. It is the concept of designing a work environment that prevents injuries and provides comfort to the workforce. For example, more companies equip their employees with height-adjustable desks and chairs. This helps reduce the risks of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) like back or neck pain.

Cognitive ergonomics

Cognitive ergonomics refers to brain functions and mental processes, such as memory or decision-making. It focuses on optimizing psychological processes and minimizing cognitive strain, promoting better performance and employee well-being. In the physical and digital workspace, businesses can implement tools with user-friendly and intuitive interfaces, for instance. If you have a hybrid team, using desk booking software like deskbird simplifies the process of reserving a workstation, reduces mental effort, and enhances workplace efficiency.

Organizational ergonomics

Organizational ergonomics is about developing work processes and optimizing tasks. Through guidelines and rules, it enables team members to know exactly what to do and how to do it. Focusing on this aspect of ergonomics helps lower mental pressure, reduce stress, and decrease the risks of errors. Overall, it boosts collaboration, productivity, and performance. Setting up a well-thought-out hybrid work policy is a great example of organizational ergonomics.

Environmental ergonomics

Environmental ergonomics refers to the environment employees are in. Factors like lighting, noise, atmosphere, design, etc., can have a significant impact on workers’ health. Undeniably, it also affects your team members’ performance and productivity. Poor lighting can, for example, increase eye strain and cause sight issues and headaches, later impacting performance.

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office set up
Ergonomic office set up

The benefits of proper ergonomics practices in the workplace

Lowers the risks of work-related health issues

Ergonomic practices in the workplace are preventive measures that help avoid injuries and illnesses. Office jobs often imply sitting in front of a screen for hours. When in focus mode, employees tend to adopt a “bad” posture or forget to move and stretch. Over time, this can create eye strain, muscular pain, headache, etc. It affects your staff’s health and, ultimately, their ability to do their job properly. Office ergonomics reduces MSD risk factors and other work-related health issues.

Fosters an employee-centric corporate culture

By developing proper ergonomic practices in your workplace, you send a clear message to your workforce that their well-being and health matter. When sharing posture guidelines, allowing more breaks to stretch, or making your office more ergonomic, you undoubtedly boost workers’ satisfaction and positively impact your corporate culture. As we highlighted in our article about employee happiness and productivity, these two aspects are strongly correlated.

Boosts productivity

So yes, if your employees are happy and grateful for the work environment you’ve designed and provided them with, they are more likely to be engaged and efficient when completing their tasks. Yet, this is not the only reason why ergonomic practices increase productivity. Have you ever tried to keep working with a sharp pain in your neck or a massive headache? If you know, you know. By introducing more ergonomic measures at work, you avoid this from happening so your team members can work in optimal conditions and, therefore, be more productive.

Decreases health-related costs

By reducing MDS risk factors, promoting ergonomic practices in the workplace decreases the chances of your team members developing work-related health problems. This means they are less likely to call in sick due to MSD. On one hand, businesses avoid losing money because of absenteeism. On the other hand, they lower medical expenditures, and employees do, too.

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The main steps to create an ergonomic workstation setup

Get trained and develop your ergo eye

Ergonomics is a science on its own. Developing an “ergo eye” means learning the principles of ergonomics in order to be able to scan and detect the potential ergonomic improvement that can be made. While our jobs become more sedentary, creating an ergonomic work environment is now essential. Getting proper training helps you better understand the basic ergonomics rules to promote good posture, implement adjustable hardware, and design ergonomic guidelines and processes.

Evaluate the risk in the three ergonomics fields

Once you’ve understood the principles of workplace ergonomics, it’s time to put the theory into action. With your ergo eye, detect the ergonomic hazards and evaluate the MSD risk factors in your office space. We often tend to look at physical ergonomics the most, as they are easier to spot. However, don’t forget that analyzing cognitive and organizational ergonomics is also crucial. Lastly, discuss with team members to find out where they think improvements should be made first to create a workspace that adapts to their needs.

Determine a plan of action to make your office space more ergonomic

According to the current situation, your goals, and your means, develop a strategy to design an ergonomic workplace. Let’s say a high percentage of sick notes are related to back and neck pain. Then, replacing your old chairs and desks with adjustable equipment sounds like a priority. You can also create a “movement” space in the office where employees can stretch and do some sport throughout the day.

Train your employees to ergonomic practices in the workplace

This is more the role of HR teams, but we couldn’t talk about ergonomic workplace tips without mentioning the importance of training your staff. Team members also need to learn good posture and ergonomic techniques to implement according to their job position and their physical needs. You can, for instance, contact an ergonomic office consulting firm to help you and your workforce learn more about the best ergonomic practices to adopt.

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home office set up
Ergonomic home office set up

Measure the progress of your action plan

Willing to enhance the ergonomic situation in your work environment is great, but how do you know it’s working if you don’t keep track of your progress? You can ask your employees if they’ve noticed some changes, as well as check data. For example, has the number of sick notes related to MSD gone down? Have team members perceived an improvement in how they physically feel at the end of the day?

Keep improving your ergonomic workplace

We are not saying you should get the latest ergonomic furniture each time something new comes out, except if you have the budget for it, of course. But continuously looking for solutions to make your office space more ergonomic and adapting to your workforce’s needs and new ways of working is essential. For example, the rise of remote work has increased Zoom fatigue for many people. Reviewing your meeting policies is a cognitive ergonomic practice that can help minimize this issue.

Your office ergonomics checklist

Provide ergonomic furniture

Getting ergonomic furniture is a life changer for employees. Introducing adjustable desk equipment like chairs and desks in your office is the first change you should make. Thanks to hardware that adapts to your workers’ needs, they can improve and vary their posture throughout the day. Regularly moving and switching from a sitting to a standing position is highly recommended. Reducing muscle pain, giving energy boosts, and keeping blood circulation going are among the main benefits of standing desks.

Check hardware placement 

Other employees’ equipment can be made more ergonomic. For example, check where monitors are located (at least arm’s length away from the workers’ eyes, in front of them, with no window or light reflection, etc.). The shape and placement of the mouse and keyboard can play a role in promoting a more ergonomic workstation setup as well. Are your team members often reading on paper or tablets? Investing in documents or small device holders can also improve their neck and back posture, therefore reducing the risks of MSD.

Analyze environmental ergonomics

We often talk about the importance of work environments and the major impact they can have on your employees’ physical and mental health. From an ergonomic perspective, choosing the right lighting, preventing noise disturbance, or controlling air quality, for example, helps significantly create optimal work conditions for your teams. When reviewing how ergonomic your workplace is, don’t forget to go through these aspects, too.

🍃 Read our article about biophilic office design to discover the effects of a nature-inspired environment on your team members! 

Employee in wheelchair working in office
Employees in ergonomic setting

Review digital tools and processes

When going through your workplace ergonomics, don’t focus only on the physical aspects. Consider cognitive and organizational ergonomics as well. This implies reviewing the ergonomy of your software and all the digital tools you provide your team members with. It also means ensuring that the processes and working methods enhance effectiveness, easy collaboration, and productivity. 

Provide ergonomic practice guidelines

Last but not least, make sure your coworkers know the right working postures and basic ergonomic methods to avoid developing MSD. You can, for instance, hang some quick reminders on the walls, provide ergonomic practice guidelines, and write content about this topic that your staff can access whenever they want to, etc. 

So, how ergonomic do you think your workplace is? No matter what your answer is, you can always implement new ergonomic procedures in your workplace. With this step-by-step guideline and office ergonomics checklist, you’re ready to design a work environment that minimizes MDS risk factors and boosts your employees’ satisfaction, well-being, and productivity!

Do you supervise a hybrid office? Handling a flexible workspace can sometimes be challenging. You have to adapt your premises to the rise of flexible work arrangements, figure out how much space you need, ensure everybody gets the desks they expect to have when coming on-site, etc. This is a lot, but we can help you! Start a free trial of the deskbird app and discover our amazing features to optimize and manage your hybrid workplace and workforce efficiently!

Ergonomic practices in the workplace: designing a safe and healthy workspace

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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