Ergonomics is the science of under­standing why that is and then fixing it. The solution, however, can require a deeper analysis than you might think. “A lot of people think that ergonomics is just physical, but it's also about designing work to suit workers' cognitive and psychological characteristics,” says Dr. Judy Village, President-Elect of the Association of Canadian Ergonomists, and Adjunct Professor at UBC. “Ergonomics is a lot more than just office chairs. It applies to absolutely every workplace. It's the application of knowledge about human capabilities and limitations to the design of work in the broadest aspect.”

The most successful companies have already heard the message

Though employee comfort is still sometimes overlooked by employers as a secondary concern, more are waking to the realization that health and comfort are directly linked to productivity and profitability. “The goal of ergonomics is to optimize worker health and satisfaction, but also to optimize workplace productivity and efficiency,” explains Dr. Village. “The more comfortable people are, the more productive they are going to be. It's no surprise that the big-name firms today are going to huge lengths to provide well-designed work environments — they know it pays off.”

That payoff comes not just in the form of productivity but also employee retention, which can represent a huge cost savings. In fact, one of the most significant strengths of ergonomics lies in its ability to extend workplace longevity through both increased job satisfaction and injury reduction  — especially in the context of chronic injuries. “In almost every jurisdiction, back injuries are at least 25 percent of all injuries, and in some sectors like health care, they can be as much as 60 percent,” notes Dr. Village. “Yet these strains and repetitive motion injuries are the least well understood and the least well controlled. Chronic injuries are especially difficult to investigate because you have to look at all the risk factors in the job leading up to the injury. That's why the ergonomics approach of looking at everything as a whole is so important.”

It truly behooves both employers and employees to take a long hard look at the workplace and engage the help of ergonomists to find ways it can be improved. A healthier workplace benefits everyone.

If you do consult an ergonomist for your workplace, make sure they're accredited by the Canadian College of Certified Professional Ergonomists.