Types of Ergonomics in the Workplace

When you think “ergonomics” you likely think about good posture, a well-adjusted office chair, and a comfortable mouse. Many people don’t know that there are three specific fields of ergonomics, and they all play a role in how well (or poorly) a workplace operates. Let’s explore the three diverse fields of ergonomics and how adjusting them can improve workplace communication, productivity, and morale. 

What are the Types of Ergonomics?

Here are the three types of workplace ergonomics.

  • Physical ergonomics

The type of ergonomics you’re likely most familiar with is physical ergonomics. This field studies how workers relate to their environment and create tools that support physical efficiency.

  • Cognitive ergonomics

This field studies how workers relate to data, including the mind’s ability to process and remember information. How we retain data is a crucial area of study for cognitive ergonomics.

  • Organizational ergonomics

This type of ergonomics studies the entire workplace environment, including relational and communication elements, and looks for ways to optimize the entire workplace through these elements. Teamwork is often studied in organizational ergonomics. 

Physical Ergonomics

Physical ergonomics is the most well-known and widely used type of ergonomics. And it’s no wonder, with poor ergonomics being a direct cause of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The cost of MSDs is high both in terms of finances and human suffering. Poor posture and strain from repetitive motions, force, or vibrations lead to poor ergonomics and injury. Physical ergonomics impacts workers of all types, from the board room to the construction site to the loading dock. 

According to the National Business Group on Health, workplace injuries affect 1 out of 100 U.S. employees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 33% of lost workdays are due to ergonomically related injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workers’ compensation claims due to poor physical ergonomics cost 18 billion annually. Workers also face long-term health consequences like advanced spinal degradation, increased risk of further injury, lowered metabolic rate, and respiratory dysfunction. Proper physical ergonomics offer many simple yet effective solutions to this problem. 

Cognitive Ergonomics

Cognitive ergonomics is a very literal term for a field that focuses on how workers relate to information; this includes how they process information, interact with it, and retain data. This study is usually applied to improve working conditions, general workflow, overall worker well-being, and productivity. 

Since cognitive ergonomics pertains to how workers interact with data, interruptions and an overload of information are commonly studied. A working environment that is rich in interruptions and distractions will negatively impact cognitive ergonomics and can cause cognitive strain. Similar to the physical pressures mitigated by physical ergonomics, cognitive ergonomics strives to relieve cognitive strain and support the performance of cognitively intense tasks. 

Organizational Ergonomics

While the most ephemeral of the ergonomic types, organizational ergonomics offers concrete results regarding workplace efficiency, productivity, and quality. With organizational ergonomics, the workplace is examined as a whole to optimize function fully. Organizational ergonomics examines how employees work as a team and the way everyone in the workplace communicates. Highly dysfunctional workplaces can benefit from organizational ergonomics, as pain points are identified and resolved in a way that supports every employee and the workplace as a whole. The other types of ergonomics can be granular in their focus, and while organizational ergonomics can have detailed aspects when it comes to action, its overall focus is very broad. 

This type of ergonomics focuses on an organization’s social and technical systems. It includes communication styles, the management structure, how resources are managed, how work projects are organized, and organizational culture. An excellent example of a shift brought about by good organizational ergonomics is management changing focus from being results orientated to being focused on creating sustainable results. Organizational ergonomics can significantly impact the emotional and mental well-being of a workplace, resulting in greater productivity and higher-quality deliverables. 

Workplace Ergonomics with BioFunctional Health Solutions (BHS)

BHS is an expert in workplace ergonomic solutions and can help your business save money on healthcare and workers’ compensation claims, all while reducing your employee’s pain, preventing MSD injuries, and increasing morale and productivity. Sound like a tall order? Not for BHS! They have been partnering with workplaces large and small to improve physical ergonomics and have seen firsthand, time and time again, how minor adjustments make a huge difference. With more than a decade of experience, BHS can customize an ergonomic action plan for your workplace that offers an ROI of $4.41 for every $1 spent. Reach out to BHS with any questions or to get started today!

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