An ergonomically designed workstation does wonders with employee productivity and directly improves business outcome. Now the question to be asked: does the same workstation equipment or design fulfill the need of everyone at the office? Or is it okay to use the same equipment or workstation for graphic designers or for a data entry operator at the same office?
Managers often believe that getting ergonomic equipment for employees is the key to achieve that magic word “productivity” at the workplace. What gets overlooked is that humans always take time to adapt to the “new” – be it in a new situation, a new job or a new workstation! Many times, users might not get accustomed or familiar with the new product at all. The key to introducing new workstation equipment is to ensure that the induction is done in a methodical manner. This could be compared to a situation like introducing a driver used to manual transmission vehicles to drive an automatic transmission vehicle without any introduction.
Another vital area people tend to miss out, is that workstation designs need to be customized and are not implementing ready-made solutions ( whether they are ergonomic or not!). This applies to every task or job in an office where nature/type of jobs are quite different from one another. With the evolution of computers and technology, jobs today have completely changed the work scenario forcing the policy makers, scientists and designers to think differently with respect to job design and workstation designs. Effectively, the vast diversity in work patterns, although using the same computers, demands a different level of physical and mental human capacity. This justifies our initial point that a same workstation design solution does not hold good for everyone involved in different jobs at the same office.
For instance, let’s consider two different office scenarios: an architectural firm vis-a-vis a bank. In the first scenario, the combination of jobs is predominantly designing, drafting and other regular so-called office works like data entry and word processing. In the second scenario, the predominant job functions (e.g., data entry and word processing) are much simpler than the first scenario example. Regardless, in both the cases fundamental office design concepts remain the same. However, in the first scenario as the job characteristics is much complex and varied from one another the design solution cannot be as simple as the bank. If one doesn’t think ergonomically, the office designer can easily be carried away with design conceptualization and visualization while ignoring the need to consider the complexity of task demand and postural variations involved, particularly in the first scenario. The consequences of such designs are not only limited to physiological and biomechanical injuries, but can also lead to psychosocial problems at the workplace. Many studies have suggested that job-specific, ergonomic workstation design contributes to achieve higher “productivity” and elevated morale at the workplace by reducing man-hour lost, compensation cost and overall operation costs.
To conclude, job specific ergonomic office design is one key to productivity. The same office design does not cater to everyone’s need in the office. Ignorance of the job requirement and postural variations while designing any office or workplace is common due to the lack of ergonomic awareness. Managers, policymakers, consultants and designers should work together to bridge this gap. After all, no business can afford to lose money due to ignorance.
(Note: I would like to thanks Era Poddar for the informative guest blog post on workstation design. Era is consulting Ergonomist and author of Workstation Ergonomics – A Different Perspective. Era is located in Dubai and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions or need help with ergonomic issues she is the person to talk to! RDS)
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Photo Credits: Office image courtesy of Era Poddar