The true cost of bad ergonomics


Date: 10 April 2014

A poor working positionIf you've ever been unfortunate enough to suffer severe back pain, you were probably too busy trying not to move to worry about how much it was costing your business.

But according to the Work Foundation, back pain costs the UK economy £7bn a year in work-related absence. Yes, you read that correctly: seven BILLION pounds for bad backs.

Your employee comfort matters

That figure starkly illustrates why a few quid spent on decent equipment - plus training so your staff know how to use it - is a very worthwhile investment.

Quite apart from the fact that, as an employer, you have a duty of care to your employees, back pain and other problems can cost your company dearly.

Neck pain, repetitive strain injury and other ailments are worryingly common. Recent research from the Post Office Shop found that 63% of Britain's office workers complain of aches at their workstation.

Even if musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like these aren't enough to force people to take time off, they can sap productivity and damage the atmosphere in your office as your employees (understandably) moan about their aches and pains.

It's not hard to make things better

Ergonomic issues can creep up on your company if you don't stay on top of them - particularly if the people in your business don't like to make a fuss. Getting the basics right is pretty straightforward.

Buy good-quality, fully adjustable office chairs. Make sure monitors can be positioned at an appropriate height, and allow staff to request footrests, additional lumbar support, wrist rests and other ergonomic devices to make themselves comfortable.

Even small things can make an enormous difference. For instance, if someone complains they find their mouse uncomfortable, consider swapping it for an alternative model - or perhaps a trackball. You won't resent the expense if it helps your employee avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.

Teach your staff how to be comfortable

But as well as providing appropriate equipment, you must make sure your staff know how to use it properly.

I've worked in offices where colleagues have hunched over their laptops because they didn't know they could plug in to the external monitors, keyboards and mice provided. (Or perhaps they just couldn't be bothered.)

Either way, you can't take it for granted that everyone knows how to sit at a desk correctly. So make sure you brief new staff appropriately and offer guidance to existing employees.

Health and safety gets a reputation for creating unnecessary rules and pointless box-ticking. But in truth, most of these rules exist for a reason.

They protect your employees - and by extension, they protect your business. Make sure you know what you should be doing.

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