Ergonomics vs Wellbeing – what's the difference?

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Most people think of ergonomics and wellbeing as one and the same. In reality, there’s a big difference between the two – though they are closely related. While ergonomics is all about making sure your workstation is set up correctly to avoid strain and injury, wellbeing focuses on your overall mental and physical health. 

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between ergonomics and wellbeing and explore how, together, the two can support your team’s health and comfort at work.

What do we mean by ‘ergonomics’?

Stemming from the Greek terms ergon (work) and nomos (laws), ergonomics is the study of how people interact with their environment. Essentially meaning ‘the science of work’, it also explores how to optimise that interaction to reduce injuries and improve performance. 

When it comes to the workplace, ergonomics tends to focus on reducing musculoskeletal injuries by improving the design of tools, equipment, and workstations. Working at a desk brings with it a host of injury risks – from lumbar issues to carpal tunnel syndrome and neck strain. If you and your team spend hours at a desk each day using display screen equipment, it’s essential to look at your workstations and see if there are any ways to improve the ergonomics.

For example, do your employees have ergonomic chairs that support the lower back and are adjustable in height? Do their workstations offer an accessible layout that allows them to move around and perform tasks without excessive reaching or twisting?

Simple but effective ergonomic improvements can reduce the risk of desk injuries and create a more comfortable environment to work in. If you’re unsure about the quality of your office ergonomics, why not arrange a DSE assessment?

Ergonomics are particularly important for workers suffering from backache, WRULD (Work Related Upper Limb Disorder), or other underlying medical issues. An in-depth ergonomic workstation assessment will ensure employees requiring special attention are safe and comfortable, and will help to decrease work-related injuries.

What does ‘wellbeing’ refer to?

A bit of a buzzword in the office these days, wellbeing looks at your overall health and happiness. The UK Department of Health describes wellbeing as “feeling good and functioning well, and comprises each individual’s experience of their life and a comparison of life circumstances with social norms and values”.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound effect on both mental and physical wellbeing and has brought the subject to the forefront of many employers’ minds. And it’s no surprise why – it’s well-established that there is a strong relationship between wellbeing and productivity in the workplace.

Numerous studies have shown that employees who are happy and well-adjusted are more likely to be engaged and productive. At the same time, those who are unhappy and stressed are more likely to be disengaged and less productive. A recent report from Deloitte revealed that poor employee mental health costs businesses £53 to £56 billion per year, indicating that workplace wellbeing is a vital investment.

Wellbeing in the workplace

Many different factors contribute to wellbeing in the workplace, including:

  • Job satisfaction
  • Work/life balance
  • Socialisation
  • Physical health
  • Mental wellbeing and stress levels

When all of these factors align, employees are more likely to be successful both personally and professionally. However, when any element is out of balance, it can lead to decreased productivity and engagement. 

As such, it is important to create an environment that promotes wellbeing for all employees. You might want to consider:

  • Offering flexible work arrangements
  • Providing access to exercise and wellness programs, such as yoga and meditation
  • Offering mindfulness workshops
  • Arranging desk massage sessions
  • Promoting a healthy work/life balance
  • Encouraging a healthy diet and lifestyle

How ergonomics and wellbeing interconnect

While wellbeing and ergonomics refer to separate areas of health, they are also interconnected. 

For a start, poor ergonomics can lead to lowered wellbeing. If you’ve ever sat in an uncomfortable chair all day, you’ll know that it can lead to back pain and fatigue, which, in turn, can make you feel unhappy and unproductive.

Conversely, a well-designed workstation with a focus on ergonomics can help you feel more comfortable, energised, and productive. Higher productivity may lead to more success and increased motivation – initiating a positive spiral.

Improving workplace wellbeing with ergonomics

As you can see, ergonomics and workplace wellbeing are closely linked. By investing in ergonomic workstations, the right equipment, and suitable furniture, you can promote better health and wellbeing for your team.

A venn diagram of wellbeing off ergonomics and wellbeing. With a woman at an ergonomic desk in the left circle and a man meditating in the right circle. The overlap of the 2 circles in the venn diagram is the Workhappy Brand.

A great place to start is to arrange a DSE assessment. These evaluations look at your workstation and display screen equipment (DSE) setup and highlight any areas of improvement. 

Combine an optimised workstation with other measures to maximise staff wellbeing and happiness, and your team will be unstoppable!

Get in touch with Workhappy to learn more about our DSE assessment options and workplace wellbeing services.