With recent productivity jumps indicating that American businesses are getting more bang for their employee buck, it seems like the picture being painted by last quarter’s 6.8 percent productivity increase would be a bright one. But more often than not in the recent weeks, those positive productivity improvements were turned into negatives: employee stress, job burnout, overworked workers.
A report earlier this month on MSNBC noted that Americans are reaching high work-related stress levels. The reason? Layoffs, pay cuts and cut-short vacation time means those employees who remain at a company have to pick up the slack of those who are gone. And Ronald Downey, Kansas State University Professor of Industrial and Occupational Therapy, concurred, telling MSNBC, “As the workforce has shrunk, people are overloaded and stress is the result. If the stress keeps on unending, then they’re in trouble.”
By trouble, Downey was referring to employees who take on more job responsibilities while losing control over work, racking up long work hours and trading in more of their free-time for work time. Stress, it has been found, can lead to physical health problems as well including an increased risk for developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). According to the MSNBC report, the American Psychological Association estimates that absences due to psychological problems cost the workplace over $57 billion annually and health care costs are nearly 50 percent higher for workers reporting high levels of stress.
But productivity doesn’t have to mean more stress on workers. By applying some basic ergonomics principals, workers can be more productive without being more stressed.
It simply comes down to understanding how people work and designing the workplace to best match those characteristics with business objectives. Is it easier to move a box from a shelf to a platform and back to a different shelf when packing it or could the entire process be done in one location? Is it faster for an attorney to dictate a letter that the assistant then listens to and retypes, edits and proofreads or could voice recognition software replace the dictation step?
Saving steps and increasing productivity and quality have long been goals of ergonomics, and these business goals should remain as valuable by-products when ergonomics is applied with a safety and health focus. As businesses look for new ways of solving the problems associated with workforce stress, ergonomics’ productivity-enhancing abilities and its positive impact on a business’ bottom line should be primary reasons to initiate ergonomic improvements.
Contact Ergoweb Inc. to learn more about how we can help your company improve its bottom line.
Sources: Ergoweb Inc., MSNBC.com, ABCNews.com