What to wear? Can a uniform be “ergonomic”?

I would argue that our Taylor’d Ergo uniforms are “ergonomic”….why? How could an item of clothing help us to fit work to our people? What other benefits do the uniforms offer?

For over 20 years, Taylor’d Ergonomics has provided “uniform” shirts to our ergonomists. We call it our “non-uniform uniform”. We each choose our own navy and white shirts, and we take them to our embroiderer to have our logo stitched on. As our fall shopping day approaches, I’ve been thinking about the costs and benefits of this small “perk”.

Clients and friends have asked why we wear uniforms.  Here’s the full reasoning:

  1. We want to project a professional image. Our uniforms are selected to meet criteria that are outlined in our employee handbook. We can still “dress up” for a more formal work environment, choose a cotton shirt to assess a welding job, choose a navy shirt if we’ll be working in a dusty workplace, or layer-up in a refrigerated environment. We have choices, but we always represent Taylor’d Ergo professionally.
  2. Our ergonomists are easily recognized at client sites. People recognize the logo, even if the face is new. When employees know what our ergonomists “look like”, we are easier to identify and flag down for a conversation. Consistency also makes a project easier to transfer between ergonomists. Stakeholders at our client locations relate to the next ergonomist better when there is a sense of continuity. Uniforms are only one small part of providing a consistent service, but they do help.
  3. Our team feels more cohesive on our “in uniform” team meeting days. Even the wait staff at our lunch hangout can identify us as a team! We do have “casual” meeting days occasionally, so we can express our individuality. Shopping for uniforms is a twice-annual teambuilding exercise. On a Friday afternoon, new team members enjoy a crash course in power-shopping from more seasoned team members!
  4. Supplied clothing is a small “perk” that we can offer to our employees. In addition to the value of the garments, the uniform saves at least 2 minutes every morning, deciding “what-to-wear”! Who doesn’t want to save time in their morning routine?
  5. Perhaps most importantly, a uniform offers an “ergonomic” advantage. Have you ever tried to measure the force to handle a greasy part while wearing your favourite shirt? The process is decidedly un-ergonomic….keeping dirty or wet parts away from your body means more effort for your back and shoulder muscles. And once your hands are dirty, it’s only a matter of time before your shirt is stained.

Our ergonomists don’t have to worry about ruining their own clothing. We can hold items against to our bodies, lean against a wall or bin to stabilize our hands while taking photos, and crawl under a desk to position a footrest or cable.

Lab coats, aprons, and coveralls serve this purpose in other workplaces. If your workplace is considering the costs and benefits of protective clothing, ask whether these items might influence body mechanics. There are many reasons to provide uniforms, but for ergonomists, ergonomics is the most important!

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