When you think of ergonomics, what comes to mind? Posture, a customized chair, a hand rest for your mouse pad? Most people think of ergonomics as supports, similar to these, for the physical body.
In reality, ergonomics is much more than that.
In a recent conversation with ergonomic consultant Jamie Tessler, MS, MPH, she described ergonomics as “a system with social and technical and structural aspects to it, and ergonomics examines the way humans interact with that system.” A more detailed definition describes ergonomics as “the application of psychological and physiological principles to the (engineering and) design of products, processes, and systems. The goal is to reduce human error, increase productivity, and enhance safety and comfort with a specific focus on the interaction between the human and the thing of interest.”
Jamie went on to say “You can look at it from the lens of engineering, and you can look at it from the lens of occupational psychology, kinesiology, human evolution essentially. While ergonomics is often used in little sound bites to talk about a device, a piece of equipment, or posture, what we are looking at is an entire system of human work. Who we are in that system, and how our physiological, psychological, and intellectual strengths and weaknesses as humans fit in. The goals are fairly straightforward; human well-being, worker well-being, and success of the socio-technical system.”
Workplace well-being programs often don’t include ergonomics, or if they do, it is limited to an assessment, such as determining if your desk and chair are set up properly. In order for a workplace well-being program to truly address all aspects of employee well-being, it’s essential to dig deeper into ergonomics. Consider the following questions:
- If your building department is planning a renovation does the design provide natural light, opportunities for movement, access to drinking water, and places where colleagues can interact?
- When new equipment is being purchased are there conversations about how employees will use that equipment and how it will impact their well-being?
- If the Human Resources department is revamping the employee recognition program are they considering providing recognition for well-being?
Workplace well-being professionals are in an ideal position to be the ambassadors for all things well-being in the workplace. Make the connection between ergonomics and increased productivity, decreased human error, and greater safety and comfort within the workplace. These are all key components of a thriving workplace. Take the lead and start the conversation today.