Does Ergonomics Mean Only A Chair?

Among various myths about Ergonomics the most popular one possibly is “Ergonomics is nothing but a chair”. People often assume getting an ergonomic chair for the office will solve all the workplace issues like (low) back pain, RSI (Repetitive strain injury), and any form of MSD (Musculo skeletal discomfort). In reality it is far from truth.

Even I have come across HR professionals who shared that when they had employees reporting back pain they thought in the same line. So they went ahead to procure so called “ergonomic chair” available in the market prior to consulting an Ergonomist. It did not end there they reported that the problem not only remained as it is, it got worse in some cases.  These kind of incidents definitely affect the users negatively. They tend to become more and more doubtful about the problem solving capability of ergonomics claimed by the researchers and professionals.

I am not denying that ergonomically designed chairs are definitely useful and effective to provide support to the user. However, one has to understand when we have an incident like “back pain”, it is not a single problem but manifestation of multiple problems together. So it is quite obvious that a single such solution, (e.g. getting an ergonomic chair), cannot solve the multi-faceted problem.

To start with we have to focus and work on to identify the root cause behind such problems. Ergonomics and human factors specialists are the one who play a key role to find the clear picture and the root cause behind this.

It might be the case that after analyzing the workplace situations, interacting with the employees and managers, a detailed root cause analysis; employer need not to invest on the new equipment like ergonomic chair. It might turn out that nominal changes in the workstation and few cost effective solutions like training and bringing more awareness could solve the problem.  At times some low cost ergonomic attachments with existing workstations might work perfectly.

In a nutshell not involving Ergonomics and human factors specialist from an early stage of office design / space design not only cost you more but the productivity also goes down, which in turn affects business outcome. So next time if you decide to buy chairs or equipment for your office or even thinking of designing a new office/retail space/shop floors/ any facility involve Ergonomist from an early stage to have a cost effective solution.