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How Does Ergonomics Affect the Design of a Product?

How Does Ergonomics Affect the Design of a Product?

Ergonomic design ensures that products complement user characteristics by maximizing their strengths and capabilities and reducing their limitations.

It is all about fitting workplaces and systems to the user’s needs. It focuses on reducing discomfort and increasing productivity based on anatomy, physiology, psychology, engineering, and statics, among others.

The three categories of ergonomics (physical, cognitive, and organizational) are considered in the design process to remove functions that pose risks and hazards, such as:

  • Repetitive movement
  • Awkward and bad posture
  • Contact stress

This article will discuss how ergonomics affects the design and why it’s important.

What Is Ergonomic Design?

An Ergonomic office

Ergonomic design is a multidisciplinary science that strives to decrease user discomfort to increase productivity.

Ergonomics in design ensures a good fit between people and the items and environment they interact with.

The science of ergonomic design should be heavily backed by anthropometry, physiology, anatomy, mental processes, and organizational structures.

Categories of Ergonomics

An office has an Ergonomic design

To achieve successful ergonomic design, it’s necessary to look into the three areas of ergonomics:

  • Physical: deals with biomechanical characteristics that relate to physical activities.
  • Cognitive: studies mental processes (cognition, decision-making, reasoning, memory, perception) and how people interact with products, environments, and systems.
  • Organizational: deals with optimizing organizational structures, processes, and policies to improve management, communication, work design, and culture.

Characteristics of Ergonomics Design

An office has an Ergonomic setup

In the design process, ergonomics uses anthropometric data to find optimum shapes, sizes, and product forms.

An ergonomic design looks into these user characteristics and limitations to create a user-centered product:

  • Body shape and size
  • Strength
  • Sensory abilities
  • Mental abilities
  • Mobility and movement
  • Workplace environment and layout
  • Experiences
  • Emotions
  • Stress
  • Motivation
  • Attitudes
  • Communication
  • Training
  • Culture
  • Human reliability
  • Human-computer interactions

Why Is Ergonomics in Design Important?

Ergonomics in design is important because ignoring its principles will likely result in commercial failure.

Frustrated and fatigued workers who are eaten away by physically taxing jobs, high task repetition, and poor working conditions are not likely to produce high-quality work.

Failure to apply ergonomic design means that workers will not perform their job as they were trained to do, leading to poor product quality and underwhelming results.

A woman's hand is hurt because of typing

On the other hand, finding ways to address ergonomic risk factors and hazards with the right administrative and engineering measures will allow workers to consistently produce great results.

Ergonomics in the Workplace and Office Design

Close-up image of ergonomic mouse and keyboard

The modern workplace is reliant on computers and rapidly changing technology. Because of this, the need for ergonomics has changed dramatically in the last few years.

There is now a significant need for ergonomic office equipment that will help workers be productive and reduce the risk of injuries and chronic illnesses.

When designing an ergonomic workplace, one must look into office chairs, desks, mouse and keyboards, and lighting.

Ergonomics design doesn’t end with creating the right product –– it should also extend to designing and rearranging workspace layout. With this, ergonomic design considers a human’s need for movement throughout the day.

Traditionally, office equipment encouraged minimal movement and rigid postures. In recent years, we’ve seen more products that encourage mobility, such as rocking stools  and height-adjustable desks .

Here are the top considerations for ergonomic design for the workplace:

Reducing Repetitive Movement

A Man using Ergonomic Keyboard

Repetitive stress occurs when users repeatedly perform the same or similar motions over some time. This can result in repetitive strain injuries (RSI) or pain that can be felt in the nerves, muscles, or tendons.

The most common repetitive strain injuries concern the neck, back, wrists, shoulders, and hips.

One example is when office workers slouch over desks for long periods at a time.

This can be solved by incorporating adjustable chairs, tables, and keyboard holders into the workplace. Some computer monitors can be tilted 10 to 20 degrees to allow movement of the neck.

A common repetitive strain injury is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), caused by an improper desk or keyboard height. Desks that prevent the wrist’s repeated or prolonged flexion or torsion can prevent CTS.

An ergonomic keyboard  is designed to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by reducing the pressure on the hands and wrists. They are usually curved or split type keyboards, have a low profile, and a slight negative tilt to prevent the wrists from extending too much.

Addressing Awkward and Bad Posture

Woman sitting in good posture using footrest

Most ergonomic products focus on shifting awkward postures to a more neutral posture.

Maintaining an awkward posture for a prolonged period puts a lot of stress on the body, leading to more serious musculoskeletal disorders.

Meanwhile, a more neutral posture keeps the body balanced and aligned while sitting or standing, keeping muscles and tendons relaxed and joints aligned.

An ergonomic office chair is a perfect example of an ergonomic product that aims to replicate a neutral posture. Good ergonomic chairs are designed to have multiple adjustable features that suit most body sizes and body shapes.

For the best office chairs, check out Steelcase.

The brand offers the most adjustable features, including seat depth, lumbar support, pneumatic seat height, pneumatic tension, and adjustable arms.

All these features work to achieve a neutral position.

Reducing High Contact Stress

A woman is suffering from stress

High contact stress is when force is concentrated on one area of the body, inhibiting nerve function, blood flow, and tendon and muscle movement.

Reducing contact stress with ergonomic tools is critical to preventing worker fatigue and musculoskeletal disorders.

Cushioned mats or footrests help relieve stress on the knees and feet. For workers who stand on the job, padded wrist or armrests can help relieve contact stress.

Conclusion

A man working effectively

To achieve productivity, safety, and comfort, ergonomic design should be applied in all products, environments, and systems.

Ergonomics affects designs to limit discomfort and pain leading to injury and illnesses. This is done by reducing repetitive movement, bad posture, and contact stress.

Incorporating ergonomic design into the workplace will increase job satisfaction and allow workers to apply their skills and training without any barriers.