Why ergonomic furniture means better productivity


When tight budgets, squeezed resources and lost working days are all big issues for healthcare organisations, procurement can make choices that tackle these challenges.

Workplace furniture and ergonomics is one area where problem-solving choices can be made. By ensuring that the healthcare environment is designed for end user comfort, procurement can help pave the way to improved worker productivity, fewer sick days and better morale.

An ergonomic workplace is much more than a nice-to-have. The NHS loses ten million working days each year due to ill-health absence, with estimates from Public Health England putting the cost to the NHS at £2.4bn a year. This accounts for around £1 in every £40 of the total NHS budget.  This is backed up by Office for National Statistics’ findings of a sickness absence of 2.9% among public sector workers, compared to 1.7% among private sector employees. It is believed that up to a third of the ten million lost working days could be recouped if NHS staff health needs were prioritised.

Badly positioned workstations and equipment can cause problems in people’s lower backs, necks, shoulders or upper limbs. These kind of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) were the second most common reason for work absence, after coughs and colds, across the UK in 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with 30.8 million lost working days, 22.4% of all lost working time, caused by MSDs.

Cost and space-saving arguments may be factors in the procurement of workstations, reception desks, chairs and other equipment, but if ergonomics aren’t given equal weighting, staff health needs are not being prioritised, and the price for any healthcare organisation is likely to continue to be high.

Consider time

It’s important to consider the length of time that clinical and support staff are seated for each day. It may be for longer than you think and it’s possible that their working positions are not optimal. Administrative, reception and corporate services staff are likely to be seated for most of their working days, which brings a whole range of ergonomic challenges, particularly with the increased use of laptops and tablets.

Making a healthcare environment as ergonomically advanced as possible will help to counter these risks. This means fully reviewing all work settings, talking to employees and other end users and specifying the most suitable furniture and other equipment for the organisation’s needs.

Employers have duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, to manage and control the risk of upper limb disorders. Portable equipment such as laptops, tablets and mobile phones are also subject to regulations if people are using them for long periods at work.

Comfort is key

Furniture and related accessories should enable all screens to be placed on a firm surface at a comfortable height, with the user’s eyes level with the top of the screen. Where laptops or tablets are used for long periods, accessories that will ensure these are used safely are vital. These could include laptop risers, wrist supports and separate keyboards.

All office chairs, including the seat, backrest and armrests, should be adjustable, so that workers can sit and work comfortably. When selecting chairs for end users, think about the needs of different people and the likely diversity in height and size of end users. Office chairs with seat slides can offer more leg support for taller people and chairs allowing for a wide range in weight of users will ensure that everyone can be supported appropriately.

Sit-stand desks are one way to help people work ergonomically in a 21st century office environment. Research by pain management specialists PMIR revealed that 87% of workers provided with a sit-stand desk felt more comfortable and energised, 75% felt healthier and 66% felt more productive.

Standing is said to increase calorific expenditure by about 30% compared to sitting, while altering posture, standing up and stretching has been shown to reduce musculoskeletal discomfort, reduce fatigue and stiffness and increase blood flow.

To find the right ergonomic answers, it’s essential that procurement teams work with office furniture suppliers who take the time to understand their organisations’ individual needs and challenges so that the right package can be created for the workplace in question.

If you would like to discuss how to improve your workplace ergonomics please contact Banner on 0845 2264708 or email joinus@BannerUK.com

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For more hints and tips view our free B Guide to Health and Wellbeing.

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