Mario Espinosa
VP Americas & The Caribbean
Herman Miller
/
Expert Contributor

The Benefits of Ergonomic Furniture for any Company

By Mario Espinosa | Mon, 12/06/2021 - 14:59

When we think about opening a company, one of the factors we always take into account are the facilities: in which area of the city are they going to be located, would it be better to buy a specific property or rent one, what services are close by to make work more comfortable for our associates. But when it comes to the furniture that we are going to need, we rarely think about the needs of the people who are going to use it. There will be those who base their decision on cost factors or how long the furniture is expected to last, but have you ever thought about all the benefits of choosing ergonomic furniture for our workers?

Can an ergonomic chair make a difference?

Herman Miller and the Texas A&M Ergonomics Center conducted research in which they measured heart rate variability (HRV) and blood flow in the frontal lobe of the brain, where creativity and decision-making take place. Not only did they study how comfortable a person might be in a chair specially designed for the workday, they also included the cognitive impact that the right furniture can have on employees.

The results of the study showed that those who were in an automatically adjustable chair had a much lower HRV, which represents lower stress and translates into better short-term memory, as well as greater cognitive flexibility and the ability to stay focused despite the annoying office distractions that are inevitable in today's collaborative work world. The result: less stressed, more focused and creative — and, therefore, more productive — employees.

Investment, Not Expenditure

Given the results presented by the study, it is necessary to rethink the needs of office furniture and see it as an investment, not as an expense. We need to consider how much it costs to have stressed workers, even how much back injuries or bad posture cost. The cost of incapacity or absenteeism impacts any company, no matter the line of business or its size. It is better to invest in the care of our employees than to be reactive to occupational health issues.

In fact, Mexico’s approval of NOM 035 monitors mental health in companies. The Labor Ministry (STPS) estimates that 11 percent of spending on work-related disabilities is related to mental disorders. In addition, failure to address psychosocial risk factors in the world of work costs companies around MX$16 billion (US$746 million) annually.

We are entering the stage that has been called "the new normal" after many people spent a period of almost two years in home office. Companies are debating whether to return completely to the corporate office or implement a hybrid format for working hours, but for many people, the time spent working at home was very difficult, as they did not have the space, much less the right furniture to perform their tasks. Now, there will be a number of new factors that will stress employees. To help reduce these pressures, ideally, we can provide different solutions, and certainly one of them is suitable furniture.

Many people miss their workplaces. Being at home has great advantages. People can stay in their pijamas or organize schedules in a way that makes them more productive. But, in the office, there are personal bonds that videocalls cannot replace. Being face-to-face with colleagues can accelerate a real bond and sense of belonging to the company.

Spaces and furniture make up that environment that should be favorable for the full development of work skills. Regardless of the area in which we work, it will always be necessary to have a low level of stress, greater cognitive flexibility and a great capacity to innovate in our work. No matter whether you are in an administrative or creative area, taking care of people's physical and mental health should be paramount, especially when there is a direct link between well-being at work and productivity.

All of the above is not limited to the size of the organization or what industry it belongs to. Whether it is an SME or a transnational, the mental and physical health of people must be considered, especially if there is already an Official Standard that regulates the different aspects of an employee’s mental health and if it is not complied with, employers could be hit with a series of fines. The use of ergonomic furniture can make a big difference in occupational health, productivity and creativity. Will you continue to see furniture as an expense or as an investment?

Photo by:   Mario Espinosa

MORE BY THE AUTHOR