Good ergonomics = good economics
Expect significant benefits
Ergonomics and economics are linked to each other, as one always affects the other. The economic benefits of having healthy employees who can perform well at work are clearly obvious to most business leaders and managers, but the strong link to ergonomics is less obvious. When people feel well thanks to a well-considered ergonomic solution, whether in an office, a school or a healthcare environment, something happens in tangible terms, both in day-to-day operations and on the bottom line.
It is a fact that a holistic ergonomic perspective makes people more productive and efficient. Daily tasks become easier, more convenient and healthier to perform, reducing sick leave at the same time. A well-functioning space in which people feel happy and perform better also makes it easier to retain employees and recruit new talents.
Money and time ticking away
Imagine you’re managing a company with 100 employees. Every week, your employees spend 15 minutes finding suitable meeting rooms. The average salary is EUR 3610. In one year, you’ll spend more than ninety thousand euro on getting your staff to find a suitable place to meet. In other words, seemingly small problems can have major economic consequences. If you view ergonomics from a holistic perspective, you can spend your money on more important things instead.
Reduce sick leave
A good physical environment that also works well, both organisationally and socially, results in less sick leave and fewer work-related injuries. That’s a fact. Good conditions and prerequisites at the workplace, both soft and hard, also mean that healthy people perform better when they are at work. Virtually all available research suggests the same thing, as we humans work in the same way, regardless of country or occupation. According to studies by Eurofound, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, people are absent from work for somewhere between 3% and 6% of working hours. Absence can be caused by a number of different factors, but it is estimated that absence, including sick leave, costs each Member State an average of around 2.5% of the country’s GDP every year. This is an estimate, and it’s a complicated calculation, but it is evident that absence from work, for whatever reason, costs society a huge amount of money.
Better health means better returns
In a survey from McKinsey and Company, based on companies in the S&P 500, 8 out of 10 companies that invest in well-being and health achieve results within 6-12 months. They confirm that virtually all companies benefit economically from investing consciously in health and well-being. The survey also shows that levels of turnover can rise significantly, by up to 18% in some cases.
5 keys to holistic ergonomics
Use a workplace analysis to identify, map and analyse the business’s actual needs with regard to the design of the physical environment, linked to the vision and way of working.
Inform and involve staff in the design of the office environments in a well-planned and well-considered way.
When designing new or existing work environments, plan for the implementation of working methods, environments, zones and products with important functions. This means that all members of staff understand the opportunities available and how the office can be utilised in an ergonomic and optimised way.
Create a Playbook with common guidelines and rules of play for the office. It explains how the workplace should function and helps to maintain the organisation’s vision. A Playbook also makes it easy to introduce new staff.
Follow up regularly on how the office is working, not just when new office environments have been designed. This means that adjustments can be made quickly when needs shift or the organisation changes.
Flexibility and well-being for the people
Research and market surveys show that people view flexibility and well-being as being two key ingredients in their working life, which in turn is a tangible result that you can achieve through holistic ergonomics. Greater flexibility and enhanced well-being are particularly important to bear in mind at a time when virtually the entire business community is considering what the office of the future will look like and how it will function. At the same time, many employers are now demanding that employees be reliable, responsible, disciplined, resilient, stress-resistant, social, adaptable, engaged and problem-solvers. If the equation falters somewhere along the way because of poor ergonomics, it can result in problems that you may not have considered. A poor chair can cause back problems, resulting in increased stress, an overly high noise level can prevent someone from concentrating and developing a headache, and a toxic culture can mean that someone chooses to take a sick day instead of going in to work. The list can be a long one, as one factor always affects something else in the holistic whole.
The right environment boosts health
The most commonly perceived health problems that have a negative impact on people are aches and pain in the back, muscle and neck. Headache and eye strain are also common problems. There are major differences between occupational and age groups, but it is evident that virtually all health problems are strongly linked to the physical and social environment. Holistic ergonomics is not the whole solution, but it can demonstrably promote people’s well-being. Something that has a major impact on issues such as general health, engagement, creativity, energy and productivity.
Different kinds of interruptions to work are a major problem at many workplaces, with efficiency suffering as a consequence. It may be as simple as starting to talk to someone who is deeply focused at their desk. Research shows that the person who has been disturbed would have been up to four times more efficient without an interruption. The same research shows that this takes the form of, for example, less clear and less pleasant emails, combined with a doubling of the number of mistakes in general. The reason is that we humans try to compensate for interruptions, which results in increased stress, frustration and time pressure. If this is a constant problem, it can result in anything from burnout to a poorer culture at work. So it’s important to adapt your ergonomic solution and environment to different kinds of people. Some people need peace and quiet, which means anything from the right furniture and colour scheme to the right leadership and culture. And of course it works just the same way in the other direction. People who want and need to maintain a constant dialogue also need to be included in the holistic perspective.
Risks of static sitting
In a global perspective, back pain is the main reason why people are prevented from working and performing everyday activities in the best possible way. Back problems caused by too little movement and too much static sitting in incorrectly designed chairs can result in issues such as lower performance, prolonged depression and sick leave. There is a strong link between prolonged static sitting and a number of health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, slipped discs and some forms of cancer. Static sitting also affects things such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and nerves.
54% can’t find the right staff
Studies show that more than half (54%) of the world’s employers are experiencing difficulties in recruiting the right employees. A figure that has doubled over the past decade. This has been caused by a variety of factors, but it is clear who holds the upper hand, and it is no longer the employers. Wages, flexibility and the sense of being challenged at work are the most important things for people, although these should not be regarded in isolation. This is based in turn on people placing a very high value on team spirit, well-being, culture and leadership. Modern workers are like modern consumers, they want a user experience at work. This is where holistic ergonomics comes into play. Between them, physical, organisational and social factors paint a brighter picture of the future. If you create a foundation for greater individuality and inclusion, you also have better conditions to find the right competence while at the same time enhancing your brand or your organisation as a whole.
Ergonomics is a simple calculation
Kinnarps’ holistic perspective is based on science and the needs of the market, but also on our extensive experience. This provides peace of mind and is an asset for those who work in offices, schools or healthcare environments. In short, we know that ergonomics is significantly enhanced if you place great emphasis on the whole. By investing in your environment from a holistic perspective, you include all the pieces that form part of the ergonomic puzzle. You take care of the physical aspects, such as furniture, layout, air, temperature, light, colour, material, sound and movement. You also have tremendous opportunities to steer organisational and social factors in the desired direction, such as culture, leadership, individuality, inclusiveness, behaviour and etiquette. Things that combine to have a major impact on the overall experience and on the finances. We can guide you!
Explore holistic ergonomics
- “Absence from work”, Eurofound
- “European Company Survey 2019”, Eurofound
- “6th European Working Conditions Survey”, Eurofound
- “Back pain facts and statistics”, American Chiropractic Association
- “What workers want in 2020”, Manpower Group
- “Employment Outlook Survey Q3 2021”, Manpower Group
- “The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress”, University of California
- “Arbetsmiljöns betydelse för ryggproblem” (“The importance of the work environment for back problems”), the Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services
- “Organizational health: A fast track to performance improvement”, McKinsey & Company
- “Prolonged static sitting at work: health effects and good practice advice”, European Work Environment Agency
- “Sittande, stående och gående arbete” (“Sitting, standing and walking work”), Swedish Work Environment Authority