The concept of ergonomics is applied in many places, whether it's in the workplace or in
products like chairs, desks, keyboards, mice, and more. "This is an ergonomic space" or "
This is an ergonomic office chair" – these familiar phrases have any issues? Yes, they do!
1. Promoting "Ergonomically Designed"
Requires a Premise
The term "ergonomics" carries a specific meaning. The English word "Ergonomics" originates
from the Greek words "Ergos" (meaning work or labor) and "Nomos" (meaning natural law)
and refers to a discipline that optimizes individual comfort and work efficiency through design
and arrangement. Therefore, it's context-dependent—nothing can be called "ergonomically
designed" until it is placed in a setting that suits individuals and the tasks they are performing.
Ergonomically designed products must consider users' body dimensions, including their height,
weight, and measurements of different body parts during their design. Additionally, the context
in which these products will be used must be taken into account. For instance, a chair may work
perfectly fine for dining at a table, but it may not meet ergonomic requirements when the body's
posture or usage changes, such as when working at a desk or gaming, potentially causing
discomfort in the neck and shoulders. Thus, it cannot be labeled as an "ergonomic chair"
without specifying the particular usage scenario. Similarly, shaping a desktop differently from
a rectangle does not automatically make it ergonomic.
2. Misuse and Abuse of the Ergonomics Definition
Can Be Harmful
Some may argue that this is merely a matter of semantics, but misusing and misunderstanding
this term is a "crime" in itself. Some may question whether there are actual victims when
marketers use this term to serve their sales purposes. Indeed, there are—those who may suffer
real harm are the customers, the end-users of these so-called "ergonomically designed" products.
The public needs to have a better understanding of ergonomics; it's a serious issue. If we are
unclear in our use of this definition, we confuse the public and hinder their understanding.
Misusing a word can dilute or erase its true meaning, and this is crucial, especially in the
context of "ergonomics."
Defining spaces or products as "ergonomic" must be precise, aiding in proper consideration of
how work environments, office furniture, and task completion interact. However, due to careless
definitions and misuse of this term, people are misled into thinking that spending money on
devices and furniture that are supposed to help them is worthwhile when these products may
offer no benefits to their physical health and, in fact, may even have adverse effects.
When we see lists of the "best chairs for office workers" on well-known websites, we sometimes
find chairs lacking even basic adjustability features. So, the question arises: who is this chair
suitable for? What's called an "ergonomically designed chair" might be perfect for someone of
a certain height but could be torturous for someone of a different height.
If people do not have a correct understanding of ergonomics, particularly in the era of remote
work, many households' office equipment and furniture designs will have glaring issues that
could negatively impact users' physical and mental health and even lead to certain health
3. Proper Understanding of "Ergonomics" Is Crucial
As hybrid work arrangements become the new normal, countless remote workers place their
"ergonomically designed" laptops on kitchen or balcony tables and spend extended hours working.
Though the exact number is unknown, some companies have started evaluating home office
and remote work setups, and some even provide education and training on effective office
Many remote workers look for "ergonomically designed" office desks and chairs in furniture stores
or online shops, but they often fail to consider whether these products suit their home environment.
The primary reason for this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the term "ergonomics." They miss
crucial steps in personalizing settings and adjustments, resulting in little improvement in the back,
neck, and shoulder pain that continues to plague them, despite moving away from the kitchen table.
If employees use these so-called "ergonomically designed" products without a proper understanding,
companies bear an undeniable responsibility. Ergonomics is about making tools fit as naturally as
possible with the human form, so users don't have to actively adapt their bodies, minimizing fatigue
caused by tool usage. Companies of all sizes should invest in education and training to ensure their
employees have a correct understanding of the term "ergonomics" and can use these products
appropriately, thereby helping create a healthy work environment.