Ergonomics, legislation and the workplace

There are good reasons why an ergonomic workplace must be on every company’s agenda.

Apart from the fact that it is required to meet various workplace health and safety requirements, it’s very much about taking a proactive approach to protecting the wellbeing of your employees. With the right ergonomics (the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment), you can limit the risk of your people experiencing work-related injuries or health concerns like eye strain, back/neck pain and headaches. Naturally, this has a positive spinoff for employers in terms of better productivity and retention rates, and less sick days because of these health issues. A safe and comfortable place to work means enhanced job satisfaction and a happy place to be.

The legislation speaks to employers identifying and managing physical and cognitive ergonomics in their workplaces. So what does this mean and why should we care?

Let’s get physical

Physical ergonomics focus on our bodies. In a workplace, this refers to the tangible layout of the office space. The goal here is to design a space that creates a comfortable working environment that maximises productivity and efficiency and limits fatigue and physical discomfort. The right chair and desk have a big role to play. Even though the modern office is a more flexible place with emphasis on mobility, whether you are sitting at a workstation looking at a laptop screen or collaborating in a huddle, appropriate furniture with adaptable positioning is critical. With people comfort a priority in the human-centric office, design features focused on ease of use and wellbeing are an imperative. While this can mean a substantial capital investment, the positive impact on your employee value proposition is significant if your people know you care. 

Tell me how you’re feeling

Cognitive ergonomics address what’s going on in our brains and how we perceive and approach our surroundings. At work, this refers to how well we work and how happy we are in our office environment. A staff member who must sit in a badly lit, draughty office all day will not be productive. Design considerations here include everything from managing the ambient office climate (air temperature, humidity and movement), lighting and noise. In a modern office, biophilic features are becoming increasingly important to workspace philosophy for their physical and physiological benefits. This places emphasis on natural light and external views, incorporating plants and living walls as well as natural products and materials to help connect employees with nature.

Well-considered ergonomic workplace design not only creates offices that are free of health and safety risks and meet your occupational regulatory responsibilities but can also strength your company’s ability to attract and retain employees.

Does your office environment support productivity, collaboration and general wellbeing and happiness?

Emma Luyt is the Managing Director at Tétris South Africa.

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