Visit Visit
Back to Article Library

Workplace ergonomics: The importance of getting it right

Workplace ergonomics: The importance of getting it right

Giving your employees the training and tools they need to be productive and healthy at work is essential to their well-being – and the well-being of your business. We look at the role workplace ergonomics plays in achieving this.

As huge numbers of the world’s workforce have moved to home or remote offices over the past couple of years, more and more people have started to understand the importance of workplace ergonomics. (If a stiff neck or sore back has become your norm, you’ll know what we mean.)

While for many office workers the right desk and chair set-up might be most relevant, this is really just one element of workplace ergonomics. We take a closer look at what you need you know, and what you can do to improve workplace ergonomics within your organisation. 

What is workplace ergonomics?

Derived from the Greek words ergon (work) and nomos (law), ergonomics is essentially the science of work; it looks at the interaction between humans and other elements of a system, like a workplace. Workplace ergonomics is the science of designing a worksite in order to optimise human well-being and the overall performance of a system. It’s about modifying the work or work environment to fit the worker, not the other way round.

Why does workplace ergonomics matter?

A poorly designed work environment can lead to tired, frustrated and injured workers – which can only have a negative impact on productivity and performance.

According to research from Alexander Forbes Health, the direct effects of poor workplace ergonomics include:

  • Physical discomfort and injuries, like sprains and strains
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Impaired concentration and attention
  • Fatigue
  • Eye strain
  • Respiratory problems

The indirect – but equally significant – impact of poor workplace ergonomics includes:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Longer working hours
  • Low morale and mood
  • Absenteeism
  • An increase in medical costs

Alexander Forbes Health has found that nurses and hospital staff are at extremely high risk of musculoskeletal disorders in particular, which may include lower-back pain, shoulder pain, neck injuries and wrist injuries.

How can you improve workplace ergonomics?

Taking a proactive approach to workplace ergonomics shows your employees that you care about their well-being and helps foster a culture of workplace safety within your organisation.

Getting your workplace ergonomics on track should be a continuous improvement process that aims to remove health and safety risk factors, and enhance workers’ productivity and performance.

Reducing risks to your employees may involve:

  • Elimination: redesigning jobs or removing hazards from the workplace
  • Substitution: replacing risky or hazardous tasks
  • Implementing engineering controls: using computers and equipment that protect individuals collectively
  • Implementing administrative controls: putting new procedures in place so work is carried out safely
  • Enforcing the use of personal protective equipment

An important proactive step is to provide training (including refresher training as needed) to all employees who may be affected or potentially exposed to ergonomic risks. This may include training on:

  • How to sit or stand properly at a desk
  • How to lift heavy objects safely
  • The basics of back and joint protection
  • Suggestions for simple exercises or stretches for alleviating physical discomfort

Make sure your workplace ergonomics training takes place before an employee is placed in their work environment.

To find out about Life Health Solutions integrated well-being services and our Employee Wellness Programme, get in touch on or 011 219 0000.

Share this article

More articles