Redesigning the physical environment using the science of ergonomics will help in reducing repetitive strain injuries (RSI’s) for workers. But there are other things to consider when implementing new equipment and design that could be detrimental to a happy, productive work environment.
Consider social interaction: Joe has worked next to his buddy, Frank, for 20 years on the assembly line. They have a great time working together and talk constantly. Joe and Frank both have pain and discomfort in their wrists related to their jobs putting small electronic parts together. An ergonomic consultant comes in and suggests job rotation (workers rotate through a number of jobs during the day to reduce the physical and repetitive demands of performing the same job all day). This means that Joe and Frank will not be working beside each other regularly. Instead of productivity increasing, it declines. And Joe and Frank have not reported any relief from their wrist symptoms. What went wrong?
Solution: The ergonomic consultant didn’t consider social interaction or organizational ergonomics when making recommendations. Once the recommendation was made that Joe and Frank rotate through their jobs while working within talking distance of each other, productivity increased and their wrist pain started to improve.
It is always important to consider the social and team aspect of workers when redesigning workstations. They provide support and enjoyment to each other and that should always be encouraged in any new workplace design.
There are many more aspects of organizational ergonomics that can help workplaces. Future posts will look at increasing the potential of workers, streamlining processes, and involving workers in solving problems.