There has been a tremendous amount of work in the past few years into making our workplaces more efficient places, and indeed, I’ve written a bit recently about the rise of wearable devices that monitor our productivity.
It’s important to strike a balance however, and a recent study highlights the importance of valuing employee wellbeing as highly as we do their productivity.
The study, which was published in Applied Ergonomics, saw the creation of a new tool to assess the ergonomics of a workplace. It measures the perception employees have of their workplace, and in particular the emphasis of its design on their wellbeing and productivity.
The rise of ergonomics
In terms of workplace design, ergonomics is an approach that aims to increase the efficiency of the workforce by specifically designing the job of each employee to ensure minimal risks to their health.
This is usually done by modifying the tasks performed by each employee according to their physical and mental capabilities. These changes can result in what the authors term a ‘positive ergonomics climate’ whereby employees are exposed to reduced strain and risk of injuries at work. What’s more, it also tends to result in improvement in output and quality of work too.
This theory was tested at a large manufacturing plant where the researchers compiled data from employees on how a range of ergonomic features to determine four factors that were central to a positive environment:
- commitment from management
- involvement from employees
- proper job hazard analysis
- training and knowledge
After their analysis, the authors were able to compile 40 questions that they believe provide an accurate insight into any organizations ergonomic situation.
Their analysis revealed that when employers focused equally on wellbeing and productivity, employees reported optimum health levels with a corresponding boost to productivity.
When performance was given emphasis over wellbeing however, the health and productivity of the workforce went down.
“Our study demonstrates that traditional arguments against workplace health and safety policies and practices just aren’t true,” the authors say. “While employee safety and well-being are often seen as an obstacle to increases in productivity, this study demonstrates the importance of aligning these values for a maximum result.”
Wellness programs have seen a distinct rise in popularity in recent years as organizations have come to understand the importance of a healthy workforce. This study reminds us that things such as ergonomics can be useful in both improving the health of the workforce, but also their productivity.
“On a practical level, the Ergonomics Climate Assessment can be used by businesses to assess their values for productivity and well-being, identify areas for improvement, and it acts as a benchmark for improvement goals,” the authors conclude.