As workplaces evolve and technology advances, ergonomic solutions are becoming increasingly important for businesses looking to create healthy and productive work environments.
What are the latest trends in ergonomics for 2023? They’re not “trends” at all – they’re classics.
Just like in fashion -- there are some staples that never go out of style. The best approach to ergonomics still involves providing comfort, support, and ease of use for employees.
By investing in these solutions, and recognizing they’re never going out of style, organizations can help their teams be as comfortable, safe, and productive as possible while working.
Let's explore some of the benefits of a well-designed ergonomic work environment as well as some of the most innovative ergonomic solutions and resources available.
What Is Ergonomics?
Let’s review: Ergonomics is an interdisciplinary field of science that focuses on improving working conditions and products to optimize user comfort, safety, efficiency, and productivity.
Essentially, ergonomics addresses the physical abilities and limitations of the human body in relation to our tasks, tools, and environments.
Why Is Ergonomics Important?
The purpose of ergonomics in the workplace is mainly to prevent injuries, especially musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).
Soft tissue injuries caused by exposure to repetitive force, motion, and vibration, and poor body positioning. Common MSDs include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Herniated discs
- Trigger finger
To help prevent these injuries, everyone – from team managers to building designers to product engineers – should look at the relationship between our tools, tasks, and environments, and the human body’s abilities and limitations.
Another Factor: A Classic Workforce
Thanks to improvements in health and safety, workers are staying in the job market longer.
Unfortunately, older “classic” workers are more likely to suffer from MSDs (most notably back pain). They also tend to require more intensive treatment for those MSDs such as surgery, hospitalization, and physical therapy. All of that means time off and lost productivity, even potentially losing valuable employees because they’re physically incapable of staying in their positions.
More workplaces view an investment in ergonomics as a way to maintain employee longevity, comfort, and productivity, as the workforce enjoys longer careers than past generations.
Classic Ergonomics: Always on Trend
Ergonomics applies to any workplace, whether administrative, manufacturing, medical, or construction-based. Good ergonomics attempts to focus design on reducing physical stress on workers’ bodies and preventing MSDs with:
- Tools & Equipment
Tools & Equipment
For almost every profession, there are tools and equipment being designed with ergonomics in mind, such as:
- Hand tools (hammers, utility knives, drills, etc.)
- Keyboard trays
- Mouse trays
- Monitor arms
- Computer carts
- Book lifts
- Multi-monitor setups
- Blood draw armrests
- Sit-to-stand kits
Weber Knapp’s History of Ergonomic Innovation
Our journey into ergonomics began four decades ago in the early 1980s. At that time we manufactured one of the first office furniture adjustable keyboard arms. That one keyboard arm was just the beginning for us and has opened up an entirely new world of innovative opportunities for our engineering team throughout the past 40 years.
Healthier, happier employees are more productive, whether they’re sitting, standing, or on the move. One of the benefits of a well-designed ergonomic work environment is having furnishings that directly impact this.
Examples of ergonomic furniture include:
- Height-adjustable desks
- Chairs with armrests
- Rolling filing cabinets
Ergonomics training is a tremendously important piece in creating a more ergonomic workplace. Even with all the ergonomically-designed tools, equipment, and furniture in the world, without proper training, you won’t get back nearly as much as you’ve invested.
The best ergonomics training programs help everyone in a work environment understand:
- The ideas and execution of ergonomic principles
- Proper use of equipment, tools, and machines
- Good lifting techniques
- Warning signs and early symptoms of MSDs
Bringing It All Together
You know what ergonomics is, and why it’s important, and what ergonomically-designed tools, equipment, and furniture are available. Now how do you make it all come together? With something even more classic than ergonomics – a checklist.
Ergonomic assessment checklists help employers evaluate the physical environment of their workplace, including:
- Workstations, tools, and equipment – Are these designed for individual adjustments and best ergonomic practices?
- How employees use them – Have team members been trained to fit their work environment to themselves and not vice versa, i.e. adjusting their workstations to their bodies and not their bodies to their workstations?
- Lighting – Often overlooked, it’s important that lighting be sufficient to prevent eye strain. Mitigate the glare of overhead lighting with task lights.
- Temperature – If your workspace is too hot, it can cause dehydration and fatigue. Too cold: stiff joints and muscle strain.
By conducting regular ergonomic assessments, you can proactively identify potential hazards and make necessary changes.
It’s best to create a comprehensive ergonomics program including:
- Assessing current workplace practices
- Providing training for employees on proper body mechanics
- Creating an ergonomics policy
- Developing an action plan
Think Outside the Box
We’ve covered the classics of ergonomics, but while you’re performing your workplace ergonomic assessment, keep in mind the following features in your work environment that could be causing employee strain:
- Heavy lids
- Heavy doors
- Heavy hinged countertops
Integrating counterbalance hinges with weight mitigation and motion control allows users to safely operate equipment with heavy lids or doors by decreasing the amount of force needed to lift or open them.
Mindful mechanical motion control system integration also reduces the risk of repetitive motion injuries.
See the safety features of our counterbalance hinge motion controls:
Ergonomic Solutions for Your Workspaces
There are a variety of ergonomic solutions available to help create healthier and more productive work environments.
With the right furniture, tools, and training, you can provide your teams with comfortable workspaces that reduce the risk of MSDs and other injuries while promoting productivity.
By investing in these classic ergonomics solutions now, your business will reap the benefits for years to come.
Additional Ergonomic Resources
Need more ergonomic resources? Download our free Manager’s Equipment Guide for more information on making your workplace safer:
This piece was originally published in May 2022 and was recently updated to reflect industry trends.