Ergonomics as a driver of employee engagement
Reducing friction to help co-workers find their workflow.
There is a word which has been ringing in my head since my coworker informed me my keyboard was too high and screen too low: ergonomics. Within any workplace, we come across pain points. For me, it manifests as a sore neck at 2pm. Though physical pain is one aspect of frustration, we also experience pain in the form of unnecessary workplace inefficiencies. Though ergonomics is often interpreted as it applies to the physical environment, the actual definition is not so limited. A Google search for ergonomics yields, "the study of people's efficiency in their working environment." *
Companies are usually "ergonomically conscious" about the physical elements in the workplace, but what about efficiency as it relates to processes, policies, protocols, or procedures?
While an uncomfortable chair at work is quickly replaced, time-consuming or "painful" tasks, often regarded as merely annoyances, go unaddressed. Things like calendar invites that do not include location, or delivery personnel having to switch between order forms and navigation apps because mapping is not integrated. As we started thinking more deeply about ergonomics (efficiency in workplace design) we saw a myriad of opportunities. Processes and common practice inefficiencies viewed through an ergonomic lens become as important to fix (and often as easy) as replacing the chair that causes neck pain.
Employee pain points add up, restrict "flow" and reduce engagement.
One of the reasons it is important to reduce small inefficiencies that annoy workers and cause mental "pain" has to do with the "flow of the workday." All the seemingly innocent yet unnecessary hurdles or minor daily annoyances actually disrupt the ability of your workers to get into a rhythm or workplace "flow". The concept of "flow" was pioneered by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihali, who discovered a level of consciousness in which one reaches an "optimal experience" characterized by creativity, passion, and invested involvement—i.e. engagement!
The most successful people reach their state of flow more often than the average person. Csikszentmihali found that the greatest threats to flow are not contained to obvious and looming difficulties within the workplace. Even tiny pain points lower productivity and reduce engagement for employees. In other words, not being able to locate the document you urgently need or the inability to quickly connect with "the right person" to answer a question leads to workplace "pain" and limits the opportunity to find flow.
For your company to cultivate a more efficient workplace, and benefit from more employees finding their flow, you should work to remove or reduce pain points. In other words, ergonomic improvement leads to higher levels of employee engagement. Potential improvements are all around us. Voice-activated assistants have begun an assault on our homes but seem to be missing from work. What if we could simply ask our voice-activated device, "Find me that document, or set appointment for 1:00 pm, or how long will it take me to get home tonight". Yes, all this information can be accessed in other ways, but why not make it painless? Just like the ergonomic chair or stand-up desk reduces physical discomfort, removing mental pain points also increases efficiency and enhances employee engagement.
Think about how you can better connect the dots of success within your company by leveraging real time information sharing tools, providing quicker access to information, and using crowdsourced validation to make sure the information is accurate. Ergonomic thinking is not new to most companies. It just needs to be expanded to include all aspects of its true meaning, the study of workplace efficiency.
With a little more understanding, focus, and commitment to ergonomic thinking, commonplace workplace pain-points can be dismantled to yield a more connected, engaged and, productive workforce.