What Do We Mean by Ergonomics - Does it Really Increase Productivity?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Ergonomics is the study of efficiency as a way to achieve maximum productivity, so it's of great interest and benefit to all Australian employers. It's a globally-recognised multi-disciplinary science incorporating industrial engineering, computer science, biomechanics, safety engineering and psychology.  

Ergonomics was developed out of the need to improve the performance and safety of military systems such as aircraft, naval ships, and large-scale weapons during World War II. Post-war research expanded into the design of spacecraft and it is now extensively used in the commercial and industrial sectors.

The method is based on extensive research which shows that when all available resources are optimised - including workstations, office design and human resources – the result is maximum productivity.

Enhanced performance

Spacecraft design led to ergonomically designed chairs, tools, positioning of dials, layout and computer workstations arranged to prevent fatigue and muscle strain.  Optimum working conditions remove the risk of common work-related injuries like repetitive strain injury, eye-strain, muscle strain and the ubiquitous back problems that are a major cause of absenteeism.
An ergonomics team can also help organise flexible working hours and healthier shift-work schedules to ensure employees can achieve a good work-life balance.  This greatly raises morale and cuts out the need for workers to take unscheduled days off work to attend to necessary personal matters. When you remove these obstacles to efficiency, job satisfaction improves overnight along with job performance!

Improved health and safety

A workplace health and ergonomics consultancy can also ensure your personnel have the convenience of periodic medical checks at their workplace.  Employer's health initiatives are extremely cost-effective as preventative medicine.  Workers who have previously undiagnosed high blood pressure, high cholesterol/blood fats, high levels of stress and other risk factors for serious diseases can see their doctor for treatment and stay fit and healthy to perform well at work.

An ergonomics consultancy can also provide confidential stress counselling and treatment if required. Work-related stress costs Australian business sector $10.11 million per year and is a major cause of serious illness, absenteeism and poor job performance.  Therefore, bringing in a consultancy that can eradicate the causes of workplace stress is a very sound investment.

Furthermore, ergonomics consultants provide tailor-made safety training through an Injury Prevention Programme and a physiotherapy service to rehabilitate injured workers. Workplace health checks are seen as an attractive job-related benefit by employees and create an important sense of being appreciated which increases staff retention rates.

Assessment and overhaul

During an assessment an ergonomics consultancy team will listen to what employees have to say about the advantages and disadvantages inherent in their working environment.  The same consultant will be involved in all aspects of the appraisal to ensure that all issues affecting productivity are quickly identified and solutions can be recommended without delay.

Ergonomics assessors are experts in communication and cognitive behavioural therapy, which allows them to resolve any sensitive issues with tact and efficiency.  This could include, for example, workplace bullying or poor relations between employers and workers, which the consultants will be able to resolve efficiently.


Ergonomics is a highly cost-effective method of re-vitalising an under-performing operation and bringing it in line with 21st century business practice. In fact, research shows that the typical return on investment is at least $2.00 for every $1.00 spent – which should place it firmly at the top of anyone's planned expenditure list!  

A complete ergonomics overhaul may be exactly what your workplace needs to place you well above your competitors and smugly boasting about your low injury rate - low absenteeism - high staff retention and maximum productivity!

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