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What is Ergonomic Software?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett

Ergonomic software is a type of computer software that promotes awareness of one's body and encourages micro breaks. It is not a tool that actually improves ergonomic design, but rather a tool that reminds workers to act in an ergonomic fashion. Some features of ergonomic software do change the way that users work on computers, such as reducing the need for clicking by automatically clicking the mouse when it is left stationary for a period of time, but these features can be confusing and unpopular among workers. These tools can be useful for corporations attempting to reduce injuries due to repetitive actions and for those who require data about how their employees work, as many pieces of ergonomic software also record data about users.

While ergonomic design of furniture and work tools can promote better work practices and reduce injuries, users must also use the furniture and tools correctly in order for it to be effective. Taking breaks, stretching, and sitting correctly are all essential to maximizing how ergonomic an office can be. Ergonomic software works by reminding users automatically to conform to ergonomic practices. It also may provide supervisors with a method for reprimanding workers who do not obey ergonomic protocol, as many programs include a monitoring device. Monitoring the work habits of users not only allows the company to collect data about users individually, but also allows the company to see where productivity can be improved overall.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Some basic tasks commonly performed by ergonomic software include regular break reminders, stretching instructions, and alertness reminders. Taking micro breaks is known to improve productivity in workers and help maintain focus. During those breaks, workers can be instructed by animations from the computer to stretch or otherwise keep themselves in top working order. Alertness reminders can be used to draw the attention of the computer user to the state of his or her body, reinforcing the idea that one needs to maintain appropriate posture in order to be an effective worker.

Ergonomic software can also be used for more complex functions, such as changing the way that the computer integrates with the user in order to promote productivity. For instance, some programs change the way a user opens documents and clicks on other items by activating the click whenever the mouse stops moving. Also, making complex motions happen automatically when a person holds down a particularly key can improve the worker's productivity. These changes often make it difficult for well-seasoned computer users to use the computer, so they are usually optional.

It is not possible to fully enforce ergonomic behavior on users without constant monitoring by humans. Ergonomic software can be used as a gentle reminder to work efficiently, but it cannot actually force a worker to obey. For more aggressive enforcement of ergonomics, a full-time human manager is likely the only option.

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