The 5 Steps to Thinking Like an Ergonomist

The word ergonomics was coined in 1949 by a British scientist, who put it together from the Greek words ergon (meaning work) and nomos (meaning law). In general, ergonomists use knowledge of anatomy, physiology and psychology to study how individuals engage in work. While occupational settings have always been a major area of interest for ergonomists, their knowledge of human capabilities and constraints is also helpful in design of everyday tools. Ergonomists have two major goals: 1. to ensure that individuals doing the work and those affected by the results are safe and 2. to improve and maintain high levels of work performance.

In order to practice thinking like an ergonomist, think of a job and ask yourself:

  1. WHAT does the job entail? Make a list of bodily movements and also mental processes that are needed to perform the job. For instance, writing this article required me to think about the topic, decide what exactly I should write about and come up with a mental outline. It also required typing with my fingers while sitting behind my desk and looking at my screen for almost 1 hour.
  2. WHO does this job? Make a list of requirements for the individual who does the job and also those affected by it. Following up with my example, the person who writes this article should know about ergonomics (prior knowledge and experience is needed) and she should also be able to see the screen and type on a keyboard (because these are the only tools currently available to her). Those affected are the readers, they should also be able to see, read and comprehend English.
  3. WHERE does the job take place? Is the temperature, lighting, noise level and overall work environment supportive? There are currently some renovation projects running in our office and it was hard for me to concentrate because of all the noise the construction guys were making in the hallway.
  4. HOW is the job being done? What are the available tools and methods? Clearly there should be a match between the job expectations and the tools available. If I was tasked with writing this article, but the only tool I had was a mouse and not a keyboard, I could still do the job, but it would have taken me much longer and my job satisfaction would have significantly decreased. Also my job would have been different if I was just following certain sets of rules, rather than thinking and coming up with an idea.
  5. WHY is it necessary to do the job? This may seem trivial, but imagine that you all already knew what ergonomics is and what questions ergonomists asks themselves, then it was not really needed for me to write about it, right? Asking this question helps capturing redundant jobs or find alternatives that may be as good while using less resources. For instance I could instead refer you all to this link, or this one, or even this.

Now that you know what ergonomics is all about, comment on this blog post with which of these 5 ergonomics questions you think is the hardest to answer and why for a chance to win oneĀ of ten $10 Amazon gift cards. Make sure to include the name and location of your high school in the comment.

NOTE: Contest closed on October 31, 2016.