How much money should I be spending on a remote employee's ergonomics?

One of the biggest questions when it comes to remote workers and virtual ergonomics is what a reasonable budget should be.

From a business perspective, it's a question of ROI: How much money will investing in ergonomics actually save in the long run?

At the end of the day, it actually comes down to an employees salary. The more the employee earns in a day, the more it costs you as a company to have them lose productivity and even miss work due to musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs).

We've created this virtual ergonomics ROI calculator to help you estimate how much you should be spending on ergonomics for your remote employees, and how much you could be saving by making that investment.

How much work time does a remote employee lose due to poor ergonomics?

Poor ergonomics leads about a loss of 10 workdays per year, on average. On average, musculoskeletal injuries account for 10 days of work time lost due to the injury itself, as well as the time it takes the employee to undergo rehabilitation.

Because this number is based on MSIs in general, 10 days may actually be a conservative estimate when it comes to remote employees.

Remote employees typically do not have the same high-quality office equipment that most office workers have traditionally benefited from. Without high-quality equipment, remote workers often find themselves working at the kitchen table or on the sofa. This is especially the case when they have recently been shifted to work remotely.

What are the indirect costs of poor ergonomics for remote employees?

One of the major indirect costs of poor ergonomics is loss of productivity. Every time an employee needs to stop to flex their sore wrists, wear a brace for early onset of carpal tunnel syndrome, or twist around in their chair to try and get comfortable, they are losing time when they could have been focused and productive.

How does poor ergonomics impact productivity for remote workers?

On average, a musculoskeletal injury can reduce worker productivity by 12%. This loss in productivity is due to discomfort caused by the injury, the need to step away from work more frequently and for longer periods of time, and the loss in productivity involved in accommodating the injury. This figure is what we've learned in our interviews with industry experts, including physiotherapists and occupational safety experts.

How can an employer calculate the average cost of lost work days?

Assuming a 50-week work year, an employee who loses ten days per year (the average), will cost you their salary, divided by 250 days. Multiply this number by 10, and you have the cost due to lost work days.

If you are considering the cost MSIs present to your company as a whole, you simply use the average salary of your employees as the input (unless you have the total salary budget line handy). 

Once you know the average cost per employee, you multiply that cost by your total number of employees, and you have the estimated annual cost of musculoskeletal injuries across your company.

How do you calculate the average annual cost of poor ergonomics?

Each year, on average, an employee with poor ergonomics will cost you the number of days they lost due to a musculoskeletal injury plus the indirect cost of loss of productivity (around 12%, generally speaking).

How much should you spend on ergonomics per employee?

We recommend a company spend 20% of the potential yearly cost associated with an ergonomically inadequate office setup.

The potential cost of a poor setup is, on average, 10 days of salary plus 12% of salary.

Your ergonomics budget should be based on your employee's salary, the money you stand to lose due to poor office ergonomics, and the number of years you will go before having to make another capital expenditure for better ergonomics.

A new ergonomics setup will usually benefit an employee for 3–4 years before needing adjustments or modifications.

How often do you need to spend money on ergonomics for your employees?

If you budget an ergonomic workspace adjustment for every three to four years, your investment will pay for itself many times over (considering the recommended ergo spend per employee is 20% of the estimated cost of having an ergonomically inadequate workspace).

How much can you save from investing in better ergonomics for your remote employees?

You stand to reduce your exposure to potential costs stemming from MSI injuries by 80% in the year you make an ergonomic investment. For the next 3–4 years, at least, you will likely reduce this cost almost entirely.

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