In the last few years, the working world has changed beyond recognition.
Millions of employees started working remotely from makeshift home offices, often without any ergonomic office equipment or furniture. Kitchen stools replaced office chairs, dining tables became desks, and musculoskeletal (MSK) issues like back pain soared in the new population of remote workers.
Fast forward three years and 40% of us are still taking Zoom calls at the kitchen table, with thousands more companies moving towards a hybrid working model.
Today, rates of pain remain sky-high amongst remote, hybrid and office-based employees - 65% of all desk workers are currently suffering with issues like back pain, most commonly caused by bad posture and poor ergonomics at work.
With hybrid working here to stay, it’s more important than ever for companies and staff to understand how ergonomics affects the workforce.
Many companies think of ergonomics as a workplace luxury or a health and safety tick-box. However, ergonomics can have a significant impact on employee wellbeing, satisfaction and productivity, whilst delivering a substantial return on investment for HR leaders.
Did you know? Deloitte’s 2023 Wellbeing at Work survey revealed that employee wellbeing is at an all time low - most employees reported that their physical and mental health worsened or stayed the same in the last year.
What is ergonomics?
Ergonomics is all about making sure your workplace is designed for office workers, who typically spend several hours a day working at a desk. It covers everything from environmental factors such as temperature and noise, to the physical aspects of a workspace like chairs and screen setup.
Ergonomic practices such as raising your computer screen to eye level, sitting on a chair with back support and using an external keyboard can protect you from developing work-related MSK injuries like neck, back and wrist pain.
Why is ergonomics a smart financial investment for HR leaders?
In today’s challenging HR landscape, ergonomics can deliver valuable benefits for employees and a significant return on investment for companies. Here are three financially compelling reasons why HR leaders should invest in ergonomics:
1. The financial benefits of reducing workplace pain
Desk-related pain is a significant health-related burden for employers - 2.6% of a workforce requires time off each year due to issues like back pain, with an average absence length of 29 days. A company with just 50 people typically spends more on sick pay than the average employee salary.
In the most serious cases, workplace MSK injuries can result in hefty compensations claims and personal injury lawsuits. A freelance journalist claimed £37,500 in compensation for a repetitive strain injury she developed at work, as her employer was negligent in providing a safe working environment.
Even the smallest ergonomic adjustments, such as repositioning screens or using a footstool, can prevent workplace pain and minimise your legal risk as an employer.
2. Cost savings from a more productive workforce
Around a quarter of all desk workers are working at roughly 15% below capacity due to joint and muscle pain. In fact, 60% of all productivity losses in the workplace stem from issues like back pain.
People with pain are much more likely to experience presenteeism – showing up to work, but generally being unproductive due to their pain. For every sick day your team takes off work, you are likely experiencing four non-functional or phantom days with severely reduced productivity.
Studies show that ergonomic setups can lead to a 40% productivity increase and a 56% reduction in error rates amongst employees. Ergonomics can help employees to maintain focus and work more efficiently, resulting in higher quality work for your business.
3. Higher job satisfaction and retention rates
An investment in ergonomics is an investment in your people, especially in today's challenging job market. Employee engagement and morale are more important than ever. A staggering 80% of employees are willing to leave their jobs for opportunities with a greater focus on employee health and wellbeing.
Replacing an employee costs an average of £30,000, with an additional £1,500 for new employee training. Ergonomics demonstrates your commitment to employee wellbeing, leading to higher job satisfaction and retention rates.
Learn more about the financial benefits of ergonomics and how to create a pain-free workplace for remote office and hybrid teams. Download your handbook.
With 65% of employees suffering from desk-related pain, ergonomics is far more than a luxury employee benefit or a health and safety tickbox.
By investing in ergonomic solutions and practices, HR leaders can demonstrate their commitment to employee wellbeing and reap the financial rewards of their investment. In an era where your workforce is your most valuable asset, ergonomics is not just a smart investment - it’s a vital one.
Marisa Dissanayake is content marketing manager at Vitrue Health