Ergonomics is the science of interaction between humans and the system that we work in. At the office, the system is mostly characterized by the computer workstation and the office/work environment. Proper ergonomic training and practices ensure that the needs and capacities of each working individual are catered for, which reduces absenteeism from work-related injuries and reduces presenteeism (being unproductive at work) due to musculoskeletal pain and discomfort while improving comfort, productivity at doing cognitive tasks, and engagement within the organization.
Ergonomic training is a crucial part of occupational health and safety training. In the office setting and for white laborers (office workers), it constitutes most of the non-emergency health and safety training. However, the global trends in organizational wellbeing practices and programs reveal a significant lack in ergonomic training and interventions, while musculoskeletal injuries such as lower back and neck pain remain the leading sources of disability worldwide and in almost most countries.
Global status quo of ergonomic awareness
Lower back pain, neck pain, and other musculoskeletal disorders have been the leading sources of disability and years lived with disability ever since the Global Burden of Disease reports started publishing in 1991. The highest risk factor associated with these injuries and disability is work-related factors, which refers to occupational health, represented by ergonomic training and awareness for the most part in the office.
Unfortunately, looking at the corporate and organizational wellbeing programs being implemented in most leading countries globally (ex: USA, UK, UAE), ergonomic training and interventions are far from being the leading programs or close to being the most invested in. This contradiction between the need for ergonomic awareness and the application is not completely a mystery, and there are several factors that can be associated with the finding.
What makes ergonomic training unpopular?
1- Older guidelines and ergonomic recommendations have been shown to be impractical and inefficient by more recent scientific studies and reviews. However, the same rhetoric of sitting straight and fixing a posture unnecessarily are still propagated across most platforms, giving the delusion that we know what ergonomic training consists of, and the assumption that it doesn’t work.
2- Ergonomic training isn’t trendy at the moment. Many corporate workers don’t know what it means or have a false idea of what it entails. Moreover, the pandemic and recent global events shifted the corporate investments into mental health awareness and programs. The unfortunate reality is that many mental health awareness programs provided by corporates can be merely publicity stunts of the management saying that they care about their employees’ mental health, while continuing to overload them with tasks and maintaining a high employee turnover rate that creates fear of being released at any moment, diluting any effect of the mentioned mental health awareness sessions.
3- Ergonomic training can easily fail without follow ups and sustainable practices. The failure of ergonomic programs in the past when many recommendations weren’t strongly supported by evidence also contributed to HR professionals refraining from spending company budget on such risky programs.
4- “Ergonomic” can be a scary term financially, as most items labelled as such are usually more expensive. Such financial burden assumed by decision makers scare them away from implementing ergonomic solutions.
How to implement ergonomic training in the workplace?
The four listed concerns mentioned above are all valid and they all come from legitimate perspectives. The good news is that all these concerns can be addressed and solved. At WellFit Consultancy, we went even further to address any potential concern that may arise when considering an ergonomic approach to the workplace as seen in the table below.
The solutions that we provide are not new. They do not “shock” healthcare and medical professionals like most marketing article like to say. They are not reinventing the wheel. Our entire approach is based on the most recent and best available evidence, our expertise and experience in what works and what doesn’t, and our awareness of what is practical and comfortable for the end user, which in itself is the essence of ergonomic practice.
To apply the following solutions in a structured and valid manner, we follow the process illustrated in the figure below:
In light of the current evidence and the scientific studies that reshaped ergonomic practices, we can confidently say that ergonomic training can be an asset rather than a liability. The application of evidence-based ergonomic training and interventions can save healthcare costs, reduce absenteeism and presenteeism, and improve morale within the workforce, knowing that their organization and management cares about their physical health and wellbeing by empowering them with the right tools to take control over their health at work. If you wish to know more about our approach, you can book a free consultation session here.