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Ergonomics in the Workplace: a Profitable Investment?

An ergonomic office is beneficial for employees, we all know that. It improves their health and well-being, keeps them safe from injury, and makes them happier overall. But businesses exist to make a profit and, on the surface, it seems like retrofitting offices with ergonomics is an expensive undertaking that would reduce profitability, right?

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An ergonomic office is beneficial for employees, we all know that. It improves their health and well-being, keeps them safe from injury, and makes them happier overall. But businesses exist to make a profit and, on the surface, it seems like retrofitting offices with ergonomics is an expensive undertaking that would reduce profitability, right?

Wrong!

Studies prove that ergonomics makes businesses more profitable.

In fact, The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries recently reviewed over 250 studies of ergonomics and found impressive results like these:

  • Honeywell, a large electronics manufacturer, spent $355,000 on ergonomic improvements and measured productivity increases of 37%, labor cost reductions of $100,000 per year, and $2.1 M per year overall savings.  ROI on their ergonomic investment was 1,675%.
  • A private electronics company adjusted their desks to allow employees to conduct their work either sitting or standing. They invested $57,000. They tracked results like sick leave duration, that averaged 22.9 days before ergonomics, down to 1.8 days and a 57% reduction in lost work days overall. Estimated savings of $490,000 from a $57,000 investment.

If Wall Street promised returns like these, we would all invest heavily in the stock market. But these results are not from stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. Real companies and organizations are seeing highly profitable results from investing in ergonomics.

While helping employees be healthy and happy is an honorable achievement, these kinds of business returns make ergonomic investments an unquestionable decision for improving your business results. Ergonomic improvements do not have to be expensive In fact, an ergonomic sit-stand desk can be a do-it-yourself project with little (or no) financial cost, however, it’s important to keep in mind ergonomic principals to achieve the greatest results, and the business benefits of ergonomics are many:

Ergonomics reduces costs

Many of the case studies explored by the Department of Labor and Industries focused on a reduction of costs. OSHA tells us that $1 out of every $3 spent on worker’s compensation costs is attributed to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and “insufficient ergonomic protection.” While the direct costs of healing employees’ MSDs is burdensome, once we factor in the indirect costs, like those resulting from decreased productivity, overworking your remaining employees to handle the added work load, and finding and training a replacement, the results become stifling to a business.

Investing in ergonomics reduces costs, both direct and indirect, associated with injuries.

During an interview with a facilities manager for a high profile national company, it was noted that, by the time they closed out a worker’s comp MSDs Injury case, they could have outfitted every employee on one floor with a sit-stand desk and ergonomic chair for the same amount of money. In hindsight, making the decision to be pro-active would have paid off.

The Ohio State University tells us that 2014 costs for low back pain alone in the United States is between $39 and $78 billion. Add in other common office injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, and neck problems, and the breadth of the costs multiplies many times over.

Ergonomics improves productivity

When proper ergonomic equipment is used, employees’ productivity rises. Reducing unnecessary and awkward postures reduces the time it takes for employees to complete tasks and decreases errors. When employees are more productive, they can create more, accomplish more, and earn more for the company.

This infographic explores the effects of proper ergonomics on employee productivity

Ergonomics increases loyalty and engagement

Ergonomic upgrades are an investment in your employees. When they sense that the business cares about their health and invests in their work environment, they will gladly invest more in their workplace. Moreover, by taking steps to decrease employees’ fatigue and discomfort, you will also be decreasing absenteeism and turnover, while improving office morale.

What kinds of ergonomic adjustments can you make?

With ergonomics, you can make small adjustments or big ones – and get small returns or big ones. In general, investing in furniture and peripherals that are adjustable will serve many different body types, heights, and susceptibilities. It is recommended to implement adjustable sit-stand workstations with a height range of 24-50” and ergonomic chairs with adjustable back height and tilt that locks upright, as well as appropriate ergonomic lighting. Monitor arms, document holders, gel wrist pads, foot rests, and anti-fatigue mats are low-cost ergonomic enhancers that can really help your staff.

But investing in office ergonomics isn’t just about changes to furniture. You can also instill behavioral change like stretching breaks, provide employees with reminders to hydrate regularly, maybe even start an exercise contest or club.

Will ergonomics increase your business profits? Absolutely. Without a doubt.

Will ergonomics help your employees’ health and well-being? Certainly. There are no questions about it.

You don’t need to choose between ergonomic improvements or your business profits. It is a win-win for both, your company and your staff. By investing in ergonomics, you are strengthening your investment your business and its ultimate success.

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