Ergonomic: 3 reasons this word is overused

August 2016

These days, it rolls off the tongue like “fresh” or “locally sourced”. And we’re all guilty of using it with reckless abandon. I’m talking about the word Ergonomic.

Ergonomic. How many times have you used it or seen it this week already? Plenty, I’m sure.

The trouble is, it’s being used so much and often out of context that it’s in danger of losing its cache. It’s worth. It’s reputation.

Here are three common uses of the word Ergonomic that give it a bad rep.

Ergonomic: An empty marketing slogan

Everywhere you look, products are touting their ergonomic qualities and benefits. Ergonomic slippers. Ergonomic dog baskets. Ergonomic buckets. And of course Ergonomic furniture.

Unfortunately, the claim Ergonomic has no legal standard or guideline. Just because the manufacturer/supplier says its ergonomic doesn’t mean it always is.

The challenge with ergonomics is that no product alone is ergonomic. Who, how and where the product is used are just as important in determining whether a product is ergonomic. This is because ergonomics is about the interactions between humans and their environments.

Ergonomic: Confused with adjustability

Many people believe that “adjustability” and “ergonomic” are terms that can be used interchangeably.

For example, if a chair is adjustable, it doesn’t necessarily make it ergonomic. First up, with all the adjustments conceivable, if the basic support isn’t there then the chair won’t be ergonomic. It won’t reduce stresses on the body and support the sitter. Secondly, if adjustments aren’t easy and obvious to use, then people don’t use them. And if people don’t adjust their chair to fit them (or adjust it badly), they won’t get the benefits of the chair’s support. The chair won’t be ergonomic.

Learn How to choose the right office chair (with one question)

Ergonomic: Without context

Ergonomics is the discipline of arranging the working environment to optimise the comfort and performance of the individual. As such, it is contextual.

So strictly speaking, you can create an ergonomic workstation for yourself and your activities, but a workstation can’t be ergonomic on its own. It needs you to occupy it and make the necessary adjustments to create an ergonomic environment.

Check the fine print

Yes. I’m guilty. I probably use the word Ergonomic a little too freely at times. It’s a simplification of a complex set of variables – the product, the person, the set-up, the tasks, the environment.

So let’s all take a little more care with how we use the term.

And watch out for hollow claims – just because it says its ergonomic doesn’t mean it is ergonomic.

Our mission at Crestline is to help create vibrant and effective workspaces where people love to work. Want to find out more? Give us a call on 07 855 9932 or email info@crestline.co.nz

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