Stand up and stretch: Improving the ergonomics of your office boosts productivity and reduces injury

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A clear and comprehensive ergonomics policy sets expectations for workers and employers.

Many companies provide standing desks to encourage employees to move more during the day. This is only one component of a good ergonomic policy for offices and workplaces. Employers should consider a full ergonomic analysis to make sure employees are not at risk for injury.

Why do ergonomics matter?

Heavy lifting, repetitive motions, pushing and pulling, and overhead work can all cause a variety of injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common ergonomic injury that causes pain and weakness in the hand and wrist. People who develop this condition could take 27 days away from work to recover from this injury.

SEE: Ergonomics policy (TechRepublic Premium) 

Tendinitis is another problem with some studies suggesting that 28 million people in the US develop tendon damage every year, which represents close to $30 billion in healthcare costs. Lower back injuries are an even bigger problem with more than 80% of Americans suffering from this problem. 

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Work stations that keep people in awkward or strained positions for extended periods of time can cause injury. An individual who needs medical treatment as a result often means increased healthcare costs, prescription drugs expenses, and potentially higher insurance premiums. There are indirect costs from these injuries as well including:

  • Overtime to cover the absence of an injured worker   
  • Accommodations for modified duty    
  • Increased absenteeism   
  • Decreased morale   

How an ergonomics policy benefits a company

By providing a workspace that is ergonomically correct, companies can lower the risk of injury, boost productivity, and reduce the chances of workers' compensation claims. This does not always involve buying new equipment. An ergonomics consultant can assess a workplace and recommend minor changes to reduce strain. Awareness is another factor to consider. A good policy can encourage employees to develop new daily habits to reduce the chance of injury. 

SEE: Ergonomics policy (TechRepublic Premium) 

An investment in a more ergonomic workplace can have a significant ROI. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries analyzed the results of 250 ergonomics case studies to measure the impact. The report found that improving ergonomics at the workplace can:

  • Reduce lost workdays by 75%
  • Lower worker's compensation costs by 68%
  • Reduce turnover by 48%
  • Increase productivity by 25%

A clear and robust ergonomic policy establishes the parameters of a safe and healthy work environment and should be part of every organization's standard policies and procedures.

A good ergonomics policy has several components, such as: Worker involvement, management commitment, training, sustainability, and evaluation. 

An ergonomics policy should cover Expectations of an employer around equipment, training, and evaluations; and expectations of an employee around reporting injuries, attending training sessions and equipment maintenance.

The Ergonomics policy from TechRepublic Premium offers even more examples, tips, and a template for designing a policy best fit for your office's needs. 
 

SEE: Ergonomics policy (TechRepublic Premium) 

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