When many people consider ergonomics, they tend to think about immediate effects on an individual. For example, a warehouse employee lifting a heavy box might twist incorrectly, creating a sudden injury.
While it’s important to prevent moments like that, what about the thousand other moments happening across an operation every day? And what happens when poor ergonomics build up over time, creating a long-term issue?
Poor ergonomics extends far beyond individual employees. Think of it as a ripple effect that can lead to a tidal wave of problems, negatively impacting productivity in a way that is significant and lasting.
Here are four ways that ergonomics-related injuries and issues can bring productivity down:
1. Absenteeism: Even seemingly minor injuries or nagging physical issues can cause employees to maximize their sick time. As organizations know, sick days can cause major disruption because it usually means other employees have to fill in or change processes to accommodate the absence.
2. Presenteeism: Workers may show up, but they put in far less effort than before, meeting only the minimum requirements of a job. This is particularly the case with employees who have no more sick time left, or want to “save” their days for more serious health issues.
3. Lowered morale: When absenteeism and presenteeism are at play, it can affect an entire workforce. Other employees may feel resentful at having to take on extra work or shift their priorities to make up for an injured employee’s absence or lower work output.
4. Higher turnover: When morale suffers, so does an operation, because employees will bolt whenever they find a new opportunity. High turnover is a productivity killer, because of the training time involved and the potential for hiring employees who aren’t a cultural fit.
To keep productivity levels high instead, consider putting strategies in place that will prevent problems, not address them when they may be considerably advanced already. By being proactive with an ergonomics assessment, an organization can prevent the kinds of serious repercussions that come with workplace-related injuries.
Dr. James Rethaber, Ph.D., CPE is currently the Director of Ergonomics at Fit For Work. Dr. Rethaber has completed over 4,000 physical demands analyses/ergonomic risk assessments and is responsible for developing engineering and non-engineering initiatives that reduce injury while also improving productivity (lean ergonomics). He has worked in the fields of orthopedic sports medicine, biomechanics, and ergonomics for over 15 years, and is a published researcher and a national speaker on ergonomics and injury prevention.
Have a question for James? Send an email to jamesrethaber@