Let’s get back to ergonomics
With so much focus on viral illnesses over the last few years, other aspects of workplace health and well-being have taken a back seat. An ergonomic office design is still important, and ergonomic education is vital with the trend for working from home. Workplace fit-out company Evoke Projects looks at the role of good ergonomics with seven tips for best practice in your workplace design.
Injuries and illness strain the economy as well as the body
A research report, conducted by Deloitte Access Economics and commissioned by Safe Work Australia, found that each year between 2008 and 2018, there was on average 623,663 work-related injuries and illnesses. The report stated that, without these, Australia’s economy would grow by $28.6 billion each year, 185,500 additional full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs would be created and workers across all occupations and skill levels would benefit from an average wage rise of 1.3 per cent annually.1
Although it is difficult to attribute a percentage of injuries directly to poor ergonomics within the workplace design, there are some telling statistics. In 2019-20, 58% of serious workers’ compensation claims were for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).2 In 2021-22, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that the most common cause of workplace injury or illness was ‘Lifting, pushing, pulling or bending’ (24%).3 Improving ergonomics in the workplace would undoubtedly reduce some of these incidents.
Employers that care for staff well-being also reap the benefits of retaining talent, improved concentration and higher productivity.
Seven tips for best practice ergonomics in your workplace design
- Ergonomics is about designing work spaces appropriately for people, tasks and processes. One workstation and chair type is unlikely to suit every ‘body’ or every job. Conduct an audit of your team’s needs and provide a variety of options. The task itself may need adapting to become more ergonomic. Look at processes with fresh eyes and invite staff feedback. Staff absence due to spine and neck issues, repetitive strain or carpal tunnel syndrome is a warning sign of poor ergonomics in your workplace design.
- For office work, supplying an ergonomic chair is only the start. Posture is optimised with the appropriate combination of chair, desk, keyboard, monitor and adjustable footrest. Stand-up workstations give staff the opportunity to reduce sedentary behaviour and be mindful about posture.
- Working from home is a challenge for ergonomics. The dining room chair doesn’t cut it for anything more than an occasional 30 minutes. Employers have the same responsibilities for health and safety when staff are working from home as they do when present in the office. Safe Work Australia has published helpful guidance for working from home:
- Government bodies have a wealth of information for best practice ergonomics. See, for example:
- Encourage regular movement by situating printers and copiers a short walk away from the workstations. This may require a re-design of the office fit-out.
- Create a small stretching area in a corner of the office, preferably with an outdoor view. Encourage staff to take time during their day to stretch and relax.
- Think about the process that takes place when deliveries arrive or when items need to go into storage. It is easy for someone to lift a box or stretch too far without thinking. Train staff on ergonomic bending and lifting to avoid twisting the spine or over-reaching. Make trolleys and stepladders available.
Improving the ergonomic potential in your office design should lead to less staff absenteeism, improved morale and better productivity. Don’t see it as a cost but as an investment in the potential of your team!
For more ergonomic workplace design and fit-out ideas, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.