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What is Workplace Ergonomics?
Workplace ergonomics refers to the "study of work." It involves the study of the many factors associated with a workplace aiming at reducing both physical and mental stress faced by employees. Studying workplace ergonomics helps in increasing the level of employee comfort, which in turn, leads to increased employee productivity.
In other words, ergonomics is the study of improving productivity of a worker by studying the physical and psychological factors involved with his/her workplace. Ergonomics is further divided into two categories: physical aspects of work (postures and equipment) and logical aspects (decision-making and stress handling). The next section takes a look at how ergonomics helps in increasing business productivity.
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Ergonomics In Both Corporate Home Businesses
A stressful environment directly affects the productivity of any organization, irrespective of the number of people involved. Even if it is a home business handled by a single person and the environment is poor, the productivity is bound to degrade and the person may also suffer physical and psychological ailments.
Workplace ergonomics helps businesses of any level with re-engineering their office, processes, and process tools so as to reduce stress while increasing the productivity of each individual associated with the place. As mentioned in the above section, both the physical and logical aspects are studied to design a plan that helps in increasing comfort level for each employee and thereby the entire team - for maximum productivity. This is applicable to both corporate houses and a home based business handled by a single person.
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Benefits and Implementation
The main aim of ergonomics is to help reduce injuries and occupational hazards while concentrating on how to make people enjoy their work. If the employees feel comfortable at their workplace, absenteeism and frequent breaks go down. Reduced hazards bring down the medical expenses while a healthy environment reduces chances of managers and employees turning in sick. All these contribute to enhanced throughput of the business.
The first step towards a healthy and comfortable workplace is to study the current risks: tools being used, location of the office, atmosphere in the office (too congested, cluttered, and air circulation), the seating of employees (example: keyboard to palm ratio and backrest while typing or writing); managing workflow (to reduce stress); and much more.
Once these risks are identified, one has to work out on a plan that corrects or reduces the risks that affect employees in both long term and short term. Normally, this assessment is done by professionals in the field of workplace ergonomics. These professionals carry degrees or diplomas in the field of ergonomics.
Several universities across the US offer small term courses in ergonomics so that even managers can attend these courses. Apart from university courses, there are seminars on workplace ergonomics that help a manager in implementing more comfortable and healthy working conditions. One can also find several books on workplace ergonomics from recognized societies such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
ISO on Workplace Ergonomics
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) based at US has several recommendations for healthy and comfortable workplace. These recommendations include everything from comfortable atmosphere to computer related work. The ISO standards for computer related work are documented under ISO 9241.
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Economical "Systems Re-engineering"
It is not necessary to spend a fortune to implement ergonomics in your workplace. The overall aim of ergonomics is to make your workplace more healthy and comfortable; though many may immediately think of expensive office furniture, many small, and inexpensive steps can go a long way in achieving a better work area. I would recommend green project management as far as possible. This increases the workplace efficiency without extra expenses.
You need not go for traditional offices with great woodwork and glass. Lower divisions are much better. They offer you privacy without isolating you with rest of the world. If possible, get more windows and plants for fresh air circulation. This will also save your expenses on air conditioners. Among other things to consider is regular sanitization of the workplace – drinking water and restrooms etc.
One last step is to divide a process among different people by creating different smaller teams: In other words, a system of teams within a team. This also makes people more active within the organization while instilling further faith in the management.
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Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons