For most companies, human factors and sustainability are seen as two separate threads. The links between them are not always immediately apparent, with sustainability language associated with environmental impact and not the effects the workplace can have on employees. However, it is increasingly being recognised that there are many ways that the two can affect one another.
“The core principles of human factors are - effectiveness, efficiency, health, safety, and usability. These are also closely aligned with sustainable design goals.” says Sukhi Assee, Flokk Senior Ergonomist, who continues; “By taking a combined approach, both your sustainability and ergonomics programs can be improved significantly.”
Lets take a look at some key points to consider.
When purchasing new equipment, make sure you have a plan for getting your employees familiar with the products early on, so that they use them correctly from the beginning.
Often new equipment may be bought that is deemed to meet workplace human factors requirements, but little to no onboarding takes place, which leads to ill-use of equipment. Research indicates that between 25% to 60% of office chairs users have never adjusted them (Underwood 2019).
In these instances, there is a very real chance that the equipment is discarded as the beneficial qualities they possess are not felt, and users return to more basic and less ergonomic designs they are comfortable with. This kind of situation can lead to poor workplace wellbeing affecting overall productivity, as well as increased resource usage increasing a company’s environmental impact and overall expenditure.
On this subject, Flokk Senior Ergonomist Sukhi Assee says; "The cost of manufacturing, shipping and installing a chair to not be used for its life span is just one way that ties both sustainability and ergonomics together. We need to empower employees to familiarise themselves with the tools they have already; this way we steer clear from products being un-used and dumped."
Longevity is a buzzword in both human factors and sustainability. Speaking about their intrinsic links, Sukhi says;
“Sustainability and ergonomics go hand in hand with longevity. It’s about the product life cycle and being able to also consider human resource capacity for a sustainable long term opportunity. What I mean by this is that the workforce is exposed to work-related musculoskeletal risks. With the growing necessity and development of technology, smartphones and tablets for example are now being used extensively from birth; therefore the impact of poor posture starts from a very young age. This inevitably will have an impact on the workforce of the future.”
By adopting a mindset that everything you do should be a viable long-term solution, you are not only setting yourself up for a healthy and productive working environment, but you are also putting yourself in a position to make naturally sustainable choices.
Human factors often feature in workplace sustainability certificate. For example, the LEED rating system (the most widely used green building rating system in the world) has a separate line item credit point specifically for office ergonomics in the indoor environment section. Companies who already have an established ergonomics programme need only to document their efforts to qualify for this point, whilst companies and architects planning a workspace can work towards both sustainability and human factor goals in the same activity. This presents a great opportunity for ergonomists to get involved in the design phase and become more proactive to prevent injuries rather than reactively once injuries are already present.
Additionally, the WELL Certification process ties both factors together, as Sukhi explains;
"The WELL Standard investigates ergonomics as promoting a better understanding of the product for a sustainable environment. Sections V02 and V11 specifically describe the credibility of ergonomics for consideration within sustainability."
The ability for employees to work from home is regularly presented as a central feature of a company’s sustainability program, with remote working shown to reduce an employer’s carbon footprint, whilst simultaneously increasing productivity. And with remote working increasingly popular, ensuring a well thought out ergonomic approach to working from home can ensure that workers continue to thrive in this environment.
As a company’s remote working policies become more structured (and in many cases more permanent) ensuring a thorough ergonomic assessment will likely be more regulated, so getting a headstart now will be beneficial to employers and employees.
If you are looking for new furniture that is both sustainable and with a strong focus on human factors, visit our product catalogue here to find out more.
Alternatively, get in touch with your local sales team today and book an appointment at your nearest showroom
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