How ergonomics contributes to employee wellness

Discomfort and injury can result when work physical demands exceed an employee’s physical capacity.

Physical demands > Physical capacity = Physical injury/discomfort**

In addition to preventing injury, reducing physical demands and increasing physical capacity will reduce discomfort associated with pre-existing medical conditions like arthritis and facilitate recovery from musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and low back pain.

Traditional wellness programs target the physical capacity side of the equation. Ergonomics targets the physical demands side of the equation.

Ergonomics = Reduced Physical Demands

Physical Capacity

Components of physical capacity:
  • Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Strength
Physical capacity can be improved with interventions like:
  • Getting enough exercise
  • Eating well
  • Getting enough rest/sleep
  • Quitting smoking

Physical Demands

Work physical demands are things like:
  • how much force is exerted or how much weight is lifted
  • how frequently are actions repeated
  • how long are activities performed
  • are awkward postures involved
The physical demands of a task can be reduced through ergonomic interventions like:
  • optimizing work stations and the way work is done
  • changing the way work and rest periods are organized
  • improving body mechanics
For more information on how to reduce physical demands, have a look at some of my other posts on general work and computer work.

**Note: If the physical injury is small and given time to heal, increases in physical capacity can result. This is really beyond the scope of this post but is the principle behind strength training and work conditioning.