Ergonomics is the science involved in ensuring the best possible fit between people and machines. It encompasses all elements in the workplace – desks, chairs, monitors, keyboards and even lighting.
The objectives of ergonomic office design include enhanced comfort, improved health and safety and increased productivity.
The 1940s notion of user-friendly machines
The notion of user-friendly machines and equipment first gained traction in the 1940s. Prior to that, workers were more often expected just to grin and bear whatever discomforts were caused by the equipment they had to operate.
The link between a happy and healthy workforce and increased productivity began to hit home. At least gradually, employers started focusing on better workplace organisation and design as a way to bolster the bottom line.
The experiences of World War II further strengthened these ideas. Dissonance between operators and their machines was recognised as a significant cause of poor performance and human error.
The term ergonomics is coined
By this time, psychologists and physiologists in the UK were formally exploring the relationship between people, tools and their environment. At a meeting at the Admiralty in 1946, the term “ergonomics” – derived from the Greek for ergon (work) and nomos (laws) – was coined for the first time.
Since then, the concept has spawned a recognised scientific discipline, along with a number of professional societies. In the UK, for instance, there’s the Ergonomic Society and Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors – and in the United States and Canada, there’s the Human Factors and Ergonomic Society.
In fact, South Africa has its own ergonomic society – The Ergonomics Society of South Africa (ESSA). Among other tasks, it’s responsible for setting the “minimum learning standards and qualifications for the recognition of competency in ergonomics”.
Modern offices designed with the human element in mind
Thanks to broad acceptance of certain principles of ergonomics, modern offices and factory floors are designed with the human element in mind.
For example, desk configurations are planned to harness natural light, and office furniture is designed to support the body’s natural proportions and movements. And when engineers design machines or equipment, considerations like comfort and ease of use are no longer considered secondary.
Among the benefits are fewer injuries and less ill health (along with lower health-related costs for employers), lower absenteeism, improved productivity, better quality of work and, overall, a happier, healthier staff.
Opt for ergonomic office chairs
Reconfiguring your work environment with ergonomics in mind can help streamline output, enhance your relationship with your staff and slash absenteeism.
A great start is to integrate ergonomically manufactured office chairs, like those we specialise in making at K-Mark.
Ergonomic office chairs are easy to adjust for different body heights and shapes. They should include:
- sculpted, height-adjustable shells for optimum back support
- padded moulded foam seats with waterfall edges to take the pressure off the thighs
- adjustable height, tilt and tension mechanisms.