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Guest Post: Ergonomics: Essential Component of Organizational Psychology

  • Ergonomics furthers I-O psychology’s goals of improving the productivity, satisfaction, safety, health and well-being of employees
  • Startups who implement organizational psychology and ergonomic principles from the start see great efficiency and effectiveness
  • Creating a corporate culture of caring for employees encourages employees to care for the company and its customers

As startups, and business-people in general, one of our greatest assets is our staff. It is our responsibility to care for their health, well-being, and happiness. Industrial and organizational psychology, I-O Psychology, can further that goal.

I-O psychology focuses on increasing workplace productivity and health, both physical and mental, of employees. Granted, productivity and employee’s well-being encompass many factors (i.e., organizational structures, leadership ability and training, personnel psychology, and many more), but proper ergonomics in an organization can have positive effects on our staff’s vitality as well as their work effectiveness. Embracing proper ergonomics in the workplace should be a fundamental part of organizational psychology assessments and plans.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Industrial and organizational psychologists . . . improve the productivity, satisfaction, safety, health and well-being of those within the workplace environment.”

Startups and Organizational Psychology

Startup businesses are wise to implement the philosophies of organizational psychology to care for their employees and set up their businesses for success from the start. Whether working with an in-house professional, on a project basis with a consultant, or wanting to implement concepts of I-O psychology and ergonomics on your own, examine how ergonomics fits into the goals of organizational psychology.

Setting up a corporate environment in which employees feel cared for has been shown to improve employee commitment, reduce costs relating to injuries, and improve the overall well-being of the employees and the company as a whole.

It goes without saying that employee productivity contributes to greater quality and quantity of output and thereby increases profit margins. But, the other factors, employee satisfaction, on-the-job safety, and the lifelong health and well-being of staff, also contribute to your startup’s bottom line.

Let’s examine how ergonomics furthers each of these goals.

Ergonomics and Health & Well-Being

Startup employees and managers share the goal of lifelong health and well-being. The principles of ergonomics enable startups to provide the healthiest possible environment as they have been shown to reduce stress and eliminate injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repeated tasks.

A comprehensive ergonomics program at Johns Hopkins Hospital resulted in an 80% reduction in MSDs over a 6-year period. Intel reported a 72% reduction in MSDs over a 4-year period after implementing an ergonomics program.

Organizational psychology in general, and ergonomic principles in particular, make positive changes in the health and well-being of employees.

Ergonomics and Satisfaction

Ergonomics increases employee engagement and reduces turnover. Because of its positive effects on transforming the workplace to reduce fatigue and discomfort for employees, it decreases absenteeism, and improves morale. In a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, hospital orderlies in St. Louis working with an ergonomics team showed “statistically significant improvements in job satisfaction, perceived psychosocial stressors, and social support among the orderlies.”

Improving employee satisfaction can come from supplying them with the proper tools they need to do their work. Ergonomic chairs for those who spend long periods sitting, anti-fatigue mats for those who stand, computer peripherals that promote good posture are all great additions to any startup. Of course, offering employees training about the importance of ergonomics goes a long way too.

Ergonomics and Safety

Healthy employees are a valuable asset for any company. Investing in ergonomics proves a startup’s commitment to the health and safety of employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, states that “work related Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “387,820 MSD cases accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases in 2011.”

Further, OSHA says, “implementing an ergonomic process has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of developing MSDs in industries as diverse as construction, food processing, office jobs, healthcare, beverage delivery and warehousing.”

By introducing ergonomics to the workplace, safety of workers increases.

Ergonomics and Productivity

The case studies speak for themselves: implementing ergonomics in companies increases productivity. For example, Applied Materials, a company that supplies the silicon chip industry made ergonomic improvements that resulted in a 400% increase in productivity, in terms of man-hour reduction. A telecommunication plant, by redesigning four workstations, increased production, reduced data entry error rates and improved job satisfaction.

With ergonomics, processes are improved, workers feel cared for, injuries lessen, and productivity increases.

How much would improving employee’s productivity increase your bottom line?

Some simple and inexpensive ergonomic adjustments can make a big difference. For example, raising or lowering the monitor height and adding a foot rest to avoid dangling feet or setting up workstations to not face each other can reduce noise and distractions and improve productivity.

I-O Psychology and Ergonomics

ABC News reports that I-O Psychology is the fastest growing occupation. Whether your startup will be hiring an I-O psychologist or not, this fact proves that their services are sought-after. To implement their principles in a young startup is to set it up for success by creating a nurturing, caring environment for your staff.

Startups must continually add tools and theories that advance the cause of fostering happy and healthy employees. Because they are committed to improving the productivity, satisfaction, safety, health and well-being of employees, I-O psychologists would advise you to implement ergonomic improvements to the workplace. Studies have explored the links and results prove that integrating ergonomic principals have positive effects on all of these factors.

Startups need profits to succeed. Profits come from happy customers. Happy customers are usually the result of employees that do their jobs well (and often go above and beyond). The employees that do so are the ones who feel a stake in the company – the ones who feel that the company takes care of them. A great way to take care of your employees is through ergonomics. It’s as simple as that.

Karen Burke is founder and president of Kare Products, specializing in active ergonomic solutions, products and office ergonomic consultations, since 1982.

Image credit: tpsdave

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