“Maybe it was the landmark of hitting 30 years old, maybe it was the increase in work hours at the computer. Whatever it was, my body started complaining and it became more difficult to sit at a computer for 8-10 hours. My discomfort started affecting my ability to sit still and concentrate,” writes Sam Shefrin, cofounder of Ergonomic Office Designs, which sells user-friendly office furniture and accessories.

Shefrin is not alone in finding that a lack of ergonomically designed office space can create lapses in worker productivity. In 2001,the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine estimated that over 1 million people in the United States suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders that resulted in lost time from work. Along with time lost working, these disorders cost an average of 45-54 billion dollars annually.

Poor alignment in the office leads to common health problems such as carpal tunnel, back and neck problems. According to Shefrin, even standing at a higher desk, as opposed to sitting, can alleviate lower back stiffness, improve balance, leg muscle strength, and alleviate feelings of drowsiness. When people sit for extended periods of time, not only does it lead to increased cases of obesity, but it also restricts blood flow, which increases the risk for blood clots.

Aside from reducing lost time and money due to injury and healthcare costs, ergonomic office spaces have also demonstrated an increase in worker productivity overall.

In 2003 the University of Texas, the Upjohn Research Institute, York University and Health and Work Outcomes, conducted a joint study to measure the effectiveness of ergonomic office spaces on employee productivity. The study divided 319 employees into three test groups. One group served as a control group and continued to use their regular office equipment. The second group received a 90-minute training about office ergonomics. The third group received a highly adjustable chair in conjunction with a 90-minute training.

The ergonomic chair included features such as adjustable armrests, a flexible back support that conformed to the movement and shape of the user, and a seat that slid forward when the chair reclined. Over a sixteen month test period, the study found that employees who received both the ergonomic chair and the ergonomic office training experienced a lower level of negative symptom growth throughout the day and an increase in total productivity of %17.7.

While some people may argue that ergonomics is a fancy word for unnecessary items, the numbers show a different truth; that happy and healthy employees mean an increase in overall productivity and profit.