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Five Steps to an Ergonomic Office

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
By Anne Kramer

Creating an ergonomic office has dual benefits: not only does it protect employees from injury, but it also increases productivity. An ergonomic office is therefore a wise investment for any company that wants to cut down on medical expenditures and revenue lost during recoveries, while improving profits. With the assistance of ergonomic professionals, attaining an ergonomically friendly workspace requires five simple steps.

  1. Start With Space Planning. In a truly ergonomic office, layout plays a critical role. The location of equipment, the configuration of individual or group workstations, and even the traffic pattern of an office contribute to overall office productivity and safety. If possible, it is preferable to plan a space from the outset, to prevent costly reconfiguration in the future. A qualified space planner can evaluate a new workspace and recommend the best layout for any office environment.
  2. Evaluate Individual Workstation Needs. Once an overall workstation layout has been established, the same careful planning should be used for each individual workspace. Each station should be outfitted with the correct ergonomic equipment for relevant occupational tasks. An ergonomic consultant can advise on the best equipment for every employee. Generally each workstation will require an ergonomic chair, footrest, and the capacity for adjustment of computer input devices. Other items, such as telephone headsets and document holders, will vary based on the function of each workstation.
  3. Train Management and Employees. It is important to foster ergonomic awareness at all levels. Ergonomic workshops are extremely effective for educating managers about choosing functional and ergonomically friendly equipment, in addition to teaching employees how to use that equipment correctly. Meanwhile, training an on-site employee as an ergonomic resource provides long-term options for continuing education and safety monitoring. That in-house “expert” can instruct future employees and provide guidance for ongoing ergonomic interventions.
  4. Encourage Continued Ergonomic Awareness. Provide employees the tools they need to remain healthy and productive at work. Installing stretch break software on company computers is an easy way to ensure that employees receive ergonomic reminders. For employees whose tasks are not computer based, stretch break cards are an easy alternative. Foster open communication between employees and management, so that employees feel comfortable requesting alterations or making suggestions about office safety.
  5. Regularly Assess Workplace Conditions. Review employee incident reports, along with disability claims, to uncover injury trends. Use that information to ergonomically improve the worksite. If, for instance, an employee has a slip and fall accident, installing an anti-fatigue mat or other surface with added traction can reduce the likelihood of such injuries in the future.

By starting with a comprehensive overview of office layout, making educated decisions about individual workstations, and educating employees about ergonomic issues, any company can improve productivity and reduce injuries.

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