"Best Standing Desk" - Techradar, for 3 Years Running | Free Shipping | 30 Day Free Returns

A Path to Sustainable Ergonomics Through Participatory Ergonomics

05 July 2024

Gone are the days when employers could retain their employees simply by offering attractive salary packages. While money is an important factor that plays a key role in employee retention, it's not the only one. Today, employees are more inclined to work for employers who would put their employees' well-being first.

If you fail to provide your employees with a comfortable work environment, the chances that your employees will stick to your company are rather slim. An increasing number of companies are working on improving workplace ergonomics, and they're marketing themselves as employee-centric companies. It shouldn't surprise you when your employees start leaving to join your rivals who are more considerate about their employees' comfort, health, and safety.

You should understand that if you want your employees to stick around and work to the best of their potential, you've got to invest in their comfort. The more comfortable your employees are at work, the better they'll feel about their job and perform better. This is why implementing an effective workplace ergonomics strategy today shouldn't be an option but a basic requirement when you're designing your office space.

Why Most Ergonomics Programs Fail?

Despite the employers actively implementing ergonomic measures today, not all of them are able to achieve the desired results. Many employees are working to improve workplace ergonomics, but the success rate isn't all that impressive.

Let's see why most ergonomic programs fail because when you know what's causing failure, only then you'll be able to find your way around them.

Generic Approach

One of the biggest reasons why ergonomics programs fail is that employers follow a generic approach. Ergonomics is never a one-size-fits-all solution. If an ergonomic strategy worked for one company, it wouldn't necessarily work for you. If you follow a generic approach, your ergonomic strategy will fail. To make your ergonomics program a success, you've got to design it specifically for your workplace, in light of your processes and employees.

Zero Involvement of Employees

Another reason most ergonomics programs fail is the lack of employers to involve employees in the process. The management works with ergonomics specialists to design an ergonomics program for their workplace, and once its design is completed, it's implemented, or should we say imposed on the employees. The ergonomics plan isn't always what would suit the employees, and the result is a failure, of course. This is where Participatory Ergonomics (PE) comes into play.

Understanding Participatory Ergonomics

Participatory Ergonomics (PE) is a newer concept in the field of ergonomics. As you can tell by the name, it involves the active participation of all the stakeholders, including the end-users, which are your employees. Participatory Ergonomics requires the active involvement of all the workers in the workplace design process to make it more ergonomics-friendly.

While many employers don't like involving employees in something only the management should have a say in, those who follow this approach get to reap excellent results. And once you know the numerous benefits of implementing Participatory Ergonomics, you'll know why exactly.

Sustainable Ergonomics Through Participatory Ergonomics

The primary goal of workplace ergonomics is to ensure the well-being of the employees. Since the employees are at a high risk of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) and Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) due to incorrect posture and practices, only they can tell better what would suit them. Just like a patient can explain their condition best, an employee can identify problems best and suggest what could possibly help them.

This is what Participatory Ergonomics is all about. When the ergonomics program is designed based on actual problems that employees face and it offers solutions that suit the employees, the employees would accept and practice it with more dedication. Dedication to an ergonomics program is the key to sustainability.

Let's see how you can achieve sustainable ergonomics through Participatory Ergonomics at your workplace.

Accurate Identification of Workplace Problems and Solutions

You may only be able to look at one side of the picture (not getting your desired outcomes from the employees), but it's your employees that are on the other side (execution process). Your employees are your best source to reach out to when you're trying to identify the problems that are affecting their productivity and efficiency.

Your employees will tell you best what problems they're having at work that affect them and how they think those problems can be solved. Taking in employees' input when designing an ergonomics program will ensure that the ergonomics solutions are designed to suit your employees perfectly because they're the ones who suggested them!

Greater Acceptance

It's human nature to feel revolted against anything that's imposed. When you allow your employees to participate in designing the ergonomics program, they'll accept the solutions more readily than they would if they weren't made part of the process. The transition to ergonomic practices will be faster, and you'll start to get results much more quickly.

Higher Employee Satisfaction

Your employees will feel satisfied with the solutions. They'll feel like they're an important part of the organization and they'll feel obliged to follow the solutions that you were thoughtful enough to design for them. With a higher satisfaction level, the employees' commitment and dedication to ensuring correct workplace ergonomics will be higher, and this will help you achieve sustainability.

You won't have to ask the employees to follow certain practices. You'll notice a natural inclination in employees to follow the ergonomic solutions that you designed together for their benefit.

The foundation of Participatory Ergonomics is simple - joint effort. This is what leads to sustained ergonomics and benefits for everyone!

Tips for Building a Participatory Ergonomics Program

You can't deny the fact that Participatory Ergonomics (PE) stirs all the right strings. It makes the employees feel important, involved, and responsible for ensuring everything's being followed and practiced correctly.

Below are some tips to help you build a successful Participatory Ergonomics program for your workplace.

Remember the Core Elements

A successful Participatory Ergonomics program is based on 6 core elements which are:

Engagement of all stakeholders

Identification of workplace hazards

Prevention of workplace hazards

Ongoing training

Management of medical resources

Continuous evaluation and improvement

The first and the most important tip when building a Participatory Ergonomics program is to ensure all the core elements are present. Even if a single element is missing, the foundation of your ergonomics program won't be strong.

Share a Written Plan

Bring it in writing what you hope to achieve through the ergonomics plan, how the management is committed to providing the employees better working conditions, and how the employees will be held accountable if the program isn't followed as well as it should. Share the written plan with all stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Analyze the Job Hazards

After the job hazards have been identified (with the help of employees, of course), have experts analyze each of them. Work with ergonomics experts to see how these hazards can be avoided and what possible solutions can keep the employees safe from them.

Implement the Right Hazard Prevention Controls

Hazard prevention controls are usually achieved through engineering, work practice, administrative, and personal protective equipment. Make sure you're using the right prevention controls in the right place.

Train the Employees

Provide continuous training to the employees to make them understand how their practices can put them at the risk of developing dangerous health conditions. Train them about the right ways to do their job that would reduce the risk of them getting sick. If employees don't know how their practices are affecting them and what's the right way to do a certain task, there's no way they'll be able to do it right.

For example, they may not know how to use the Premium Ergonomic Office Chair (C7) that you purchased for them. If you don't train them how to use it, they may not be able to reap the benefits of this fine ergonomic office chair. Continuous training is one of the most important tips that you should follow when building a Participatory Ergonomics program for your workplace.

Offer Medical Assistance

Ensure your employees have access to medical experts to whom they can reach out if they observe any symptoms indicating they've got a MSD. This would ensure that your employees receive timely medical attention before their ailment worsens. If they don't have easy access to medical advice, they won't be able to identify what they're suffering as early symptoms of MSD and RSI.

Evaluate the Results

Don't just leave your ergonomics program as is once you've implemented it. Record metrics and evaluate them regularly so that you know exactly how successful the program is and if there's any room for improvement.

Participatory Ergonomics is a holistic approach to ensuring the sustainability of workplace ergonomics where everyone is fully involved. Everyone knows the objectives, from the management to the workers, and is equally committed to making things right. This is what makes Participatory Ergonomics such a valuable approach in the field of workplace ergonomics.