Raise Your Productivity
- By Dana Perkins
- Mar 01, 2010
During the 1990s at the height of the tech-heavy
"dot com" era, the buzz around carpal tunnel
syndrome initiated a great deal of attention
on ergonomics and ushered in a new way of
thinking: It is more cost effective to implement solutions
that help avoid workplace injuries than to suffer the high
cost of worker's compensation and lost time. The result
was a surge of companies providing employees with wrist
rests for their keyboards. Was this enough to ensure the
ongoing well-being and resulting productivity of the
workforce? The resounding answer is that we need to do
far more, and the stakes are very high.
With the advent of computers, personal digital assistants
(PDAs), "texting" via cellphones, and the BlackBerry
phenomenon, most businesses are forced into addressing
all matters in "real time" to compete in the marketplace.
Today's office environment is more diverse and puts more
demand on workers' time, resulting in longer work hours
and more stress in our lives and upon our bodies. With
the increasing amount of time employees are spending on
the job, the need for ergonomic office solutions has never
been more apparent than it is today.
According to a recent study on the U.S. workplace,
better office design can lead to increased productivity and
bigger profits. But employees think corporate America is
too focused on design costs, rather than long-term value.
The research indicates an overwhelming 90 percent of U.S.
office workers believe better design leads to better overall
performance. Respondents said, on average, they could
increase their work output by 21 percent if their office
environments were better designed. Moreover, nearly half
of the respondents noted better workplace design would
make them amenable to longer workdays.
The results, however, indicate a disconnect. According
to the survey, employers understand the connection
between office environments and company performance
better than employees give them credit for: Nearly 90 percent
of top executives stated there is indeed a connection
between better office environment and a better bottom
line. Companies are seeing that the benefits of creating a
truly ergonomic office environment are twofold. Investing
in the health and well-being of employees boosts morale,
which, in turn, leads to increased productivity.
Recently, one of the largest providers of digital mapping
systems--and the worldwide leader in its industry-
-was faced with a major dilemma. The company was
dropped by its worker's compensation insurance carrier
for submitting too many claims: Nearly 200 employees
reported injuries. Repetitive motion disorders and back
problems, common in today's workplace where many employees
spend a significant portion of their day sitting at
their desk working at a computer, were reported in excessive
Further complicating the situation, the company operates
two work shift s, significantly increasing the challenges
of configuring shared workstations to make them comfortable
for all. Additionally, as the business grew, many
employees began working longer hours to accommodate
the increased workload.
This "wake up call" from the insurance company has
motivated many similarly challenged companies to adopt
a long-term strategy for improving employee wellness and
productivity while reducing worker's comp costs.
By bringing together members from human resources,
operations, facilities, and information technology departments;
securing strong support from senior management;
and utilizing outside resources, including occupational
and physical therapists, ergonomic evaluation specialists,
and occupational health physicians, an organization
can more easily identify the top worker's comp issues. A
comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to employee wellness
will result not only in a dramatic decrease in worker's
comp claims, but also in decreased absenteeism and increased
Bringing Ergonomics to Life
A key component of the program implemented by this
digital mapping company was the installation of heightadjustable
workstations, which give employees the ability
to easily adjust their work centers as needed during the day
and as they arrive for each shift . Adjustable work centers
are especially effective in multiple-shift operations because
fl exibility of the work surface height allows for comfortable
and efficient posture of the upper arms, forearms, and
hands and even allows for standing work.
Properly addressing the problem of employee injuries
in today's workplace requires a company-wide collaborative
effort. Ergonomics continues to evolve, and
companies must look at it as a long-term commitment.
The investment in the health and well-being of employees
will, in the long run, guarantee a strong return on
This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.