Debunking Ergonomic Myths: Ergonomics Doesn’t Impact Performance

We’ve come to the end of our National Ergonomics Month myth series – we hope you’ve learned something new about this important field! And with that, here’s our final myth to debunk.

MYTH: Ergonomics doesn’t impact performance.

Here’s where we stand:

Ergonomics ensures a good fit between employees and how they complete their work. Through product engineering, administrative policies and workplace habits,[1] ergonomics, at its most basic level, aims to positively impact performance. Examples of this proven connection exist outside the office, too. Improve the ergonomics of a golf club, and you improve the chance of a better round. Design a better knife handle, and you can chop vegetables quicker and with less effort.

In the workplace, a dose of ergonomics helps get the job finished faster, while mitigating lost productivity due to fatigue, discomfort or injury. If employees aren’t interrupted by these symptoms, they are less likely to feel distracted from their work, which can cause delays and mistakes.[2]

The most recent figures from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics from 2014 show that of the 131 million working days lost to sickness, the largest contributing factor for about 25 percent of those days is back, neck and muscle pain. Stress, anxiety and depression are also large contributors, representing about 12 percent of lost days. Along with job dissatisfaction, these mood disorders contribute to “presenteeism”[3] where employees are physically at work but not productive. This can quickly eat away at a company’s bottom line.

Office back painBut organizations can counteract lost productivity with ergonomic solutions. Studies in office ergonomics show productivity increases 12% to 18% when employees use well-designed ergonomic furniture.[4][5] Research also shows that increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior positively impacts symptoms related to stress, anxiety and depression. This can make a significant impact across your entire employee base.

Independent researchers using Ergotron sit-stand workstations consistently report positive outcomes when employees reduce sedentary time. A Stanford University study found those who used WorkFit® sit-stand workstations were 78% more likely to report a pain-free day. Participants reported significant reduction in current low back, neck and upper back pain, noting that their pain interfered less with general activity and their ability to concentrate.[6]

In a separate project, Dr. Nico Pronk,[7] Chief Science Officer at HealthPartners, noted that when office workers switched to a WorkFit solution, they experienced heightened mood states. A similar study at a S.C. Johnson facility found that participants had a high level of satisfaction with sit-stand workstations–96% chose to use them permanently and many said that when using the WorkFit workstations, they increased face-to-face interaction with coworkers. Participants experienced greater energy, greater alertness at work with no perception of decreased productivity.[8]

Now think about your own experience. When battling a bad cold or feeling blue, do you work productively and effectively at your job? Realistically, we aren’t as productive or successful if we don’t feel well physically or mentally. But incorporating ergonomics into the workplace supports holistic well-being, including mood, metabolism, mental function and more. Fostering your best self helps you bring your best self to work where you can be more productive and successful, allowing your teams to do the same.

[1] Danielle Barzoloski, PT, CPE, The Back School
[2] Mark G, Gudith D, Klocke U. The cost of interrupted work. Proceeding of the twenty-sixth annual CHI conference on Human factors in computing systems – CHI ’08 2008. Available here.
[3] Aronsson, G., Gustafsson, K., & Dallner, M. (2000). Sick but yet at work. An empirical study of sickness presenteeism. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health’, 54, 502–509. doi:10.1136/jech.54.7.502
[4] Examples of costs and benefits of ergonomics, Washington State Department of Labor & Industries
[5] DeRango, Kelly, Benjamin C. Amick, Michelle Robertson, and Ted Rooney, et al. 2003. “The Productivity Consequences of Two Ergonomic Interventions.” Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 03-95. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
[6] Impact of a Sit-Stand Workstation on Chronic Low Back Pain Results of a Randomized Trial, Journal of Oocupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), Stanford University Study, 2016
[7] Reducing Occupational Sitting Time and Improving Worker Health: The Take-a-Stand Project, 2011, Pronk, Prevention Chronic Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2012
[8] Using Sit-Stand Workstations to Decrease Sedentary Time in Office Workers: A Randomized Crossover Trial, Dutta, Nirjhar, et al. Internationa Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH), 2014