One of the biggest misconceptions about office ergonomics is that it is only viable for large businesses with big numbers and big budgets. Well, let me be the first person to address this vicious rumour and say that this is not true at all. By no means does ergonomics need to be an expensive process. Ergonomics and the overall health of your workforce is just as important for small businesses as it is for large businesses. In much the same way that small businesses get started by bootstrapping their operations, the same can be done with ergonomics. And there’s good reason to do so; it can bring big value and save a lot of resources for small businesses. Interested in simple ways to incorporate ergonomics into your small business? Check out our free e-book all about simple ways to get started with a solid ergonomic set-up you and your colleagues’ workstations. If you are still on the fence about the value of ergonomics specifically for a small business, then you should be checking out our 4 reasons below…
4 Reasons Why Every Small Business Needs To Start Caring About Ergonomics.
Bootstrapping in small business can save serious resources and get your company off the ground running with a viable product or service quickly and efficiently. Here’s something to think about: as your company quickly expands, have you considered the ergonomic set-ups of your staff? I would wager that many small businesses never give ergonomics a second thought and ‘check the ergonomics box’ by buying ‘fancy’ chairs or sit-stand desks. Don’t get me wrong, that is an excellent start that many companies would be envious of, but in terms of optimizing the entire system for staff, more could definitely be done! As your company grows and matures, ergonomics can be the cost savings that many start-ups need.
Work-related ergonomics-type injuries aka musculoskeletal injuries (injuries to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc… think carpal tunnel or a sprained wrist) many times can be prevented with proper awareness through training, proper equipment, and ergonomic set-up. Research lists a number of benefits of ergonomics programs that are quite hard to turn a blind eye to. Major cost savings can be seen by reducing costs associated with workplace injuries. And I can say this with authority because in my past I have had the privilege to manage both short and long term disability claims. Injury claim costs would shock you, especially those related to Workers’ Compensation and when an injury results in a staff member missing work. Yet, despite the hefty price tags for these work injuries, many times they are simply thought as the ‘price of doing business’ for many companies. For small businesses this can truly be devastating for their bottomline. Not surprisingly many companies do not look at ergonomics as a method to lower their Workers’ Compensation costs, and this can readily be done from both the reactive (return-to-work) and proactive (preventative) standpoints. A thorough ergonomics program is always a sound investment in your workers and financial well-being of your small business.
No one wants to work with equipment that just doesn’t fit right. Not only can it lead to pain and discomfort overtime but it also just wears on even the most engaged employee. Keeping star employees engaged and motivated is key for building a strong foundation to any company. This is especially true for small businesses since it can be much too costly to search for, interview, and hire another employee to replace your star employee – if that is even possible. There is a direct relationship between job satisfaction and employee retention; if you can keep your staff happy it is very unlikely that they will leave the company. Research has found that proactive ergonomics programs including ergonomic workstations, group training, and one-on-one consultations reduced musculoskeletal and visual discomfort and brought higher levels of job satisfaction and happiness. Happy employees tend to be more loyal to their companies. A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12 percent spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10 percent less productive. This may get a lot of attention from those in management positions. When ergonomic programs improve the quality of work life, it is not uncommon to see a reduction in turnover rate, which can represent a significant financial benefit.
Not only does this strategy help with retention, it also helps with recruitment. In a number of job descriptions for small businesses they will list that they have ergonomic workstations as a ploy to target star employees. And, from word-of-mouth I can confidently say that this ploy has at least enhanced that company’s reputation for caring for employees.
There is a lot of support that an ergonomics program in any work environment will help to improve employee moral and productivity. Employees who are less fatigued are able to work without discomfort are more productive, more alert and happier overall. From a practical approach we all know that this is true: a ergonomically designed job will be more comfortable overall for everyone. No doubt that this enhances employee performance. And, there is research to support that staff’s development of ergonomic skills (via training sessions) allows them to make appropriate changes to reduce musculoskeletal risk and discomfort associated with computer work. That way they can change their workstations to make sure that they are as comfortable as possible throughout their workday. What about those affects from a reduction of absenteeism that an ergonomics program brings? Well, reduced absenteeism can also result in a productivity improvements since there is less disruption of the work system and/or less work being done by replacement personnel who are typically less experienced and skilled for that specific task.
Working from home is a desirable perk of a job for many people. It can definitely be lucrative for small businesses to attract quality staff, perhaps from all over the world, especially if they lack office space or are quickly expanding. We’ve written quite extensively about telecommuters before – you can find Part 1 and Part 2 to see typical ergonomic risks present in their day to day lives. Equipment is always king when it comes to outfitting your staff and it’s much better to not scrimp on the details. You need to nail the equipment for telecommuters. Seriously. If a working environment or the accessories and equipment to do the job are poor then this can lead to frustrated staff. If a job is too physically and/or mentally draining for a person, they may become disengaged, develop discomfort symptoms, be less productive, or worst of all actually leave the job. To work ergonomically you’ll likely need a combination of the following for your staff: laptop stand or external monitor, external keyboard, and external mouse. Additionally some sort of online training to mobile staff on proper workstation set-up would also be considered to be a value-add.
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