HR Indaba Africa 2018: Formfunc uses ergonomics to improve employee wellness and productivity 

Formfunc Studio is the exclusive manufacturing and distribution partner to Humanscale in the Southern Africa region.

With only days left before the inaugural HR Indaba, the anticipation from partners is palpable. In this article, we speak to Peter Kowalski, the MD of Formfunc Studio, about why he is excited to be at the event.

What is Formfunc Studio?

“We are the Southern Africa representative for an ergonomics brand called Humanscale. Our focus is on the health, wellness and productivity of employees who spend most of the day working on a computer, whether it is a laptop or a desktop. Humanscale has a series of products that we manufacture locally, and additionally, we have a consulting element to the business. We have two Masters qualified ergonomists who can complete risk assessments at user’s workstations and provide reports and recommendations on what can be done to improve the comfort and productivity of those individuals.”

Is there really a demand for this kind of service?

“There certainly is! South Africans are becoming more aware of productivity and wellness issues related to bad posture. The demand for this type of service is likely to grow significantly in SA. In 2017 the Department of Labour issued draft legislation out for public comment on Ergonomics in the Workplace, which spoke about punitive actions against non-compliant companies and CEOs. One of the challenges SA will face with this legislation is that we, unfortunately, do not have enough qualified Ergonomists to assist in facilitating the draft legislation. Formfunc has two such qualified Ergonomists is a very limited pool in South Africa so we’ll be well placed in this market should the legislation come to fruition.”

Why have you decided to become a partner at the HR Indaba?

“We’re excited about the event because it assists us with a new strategic focus to educate corporate and institutional influencers - most Human Resources departments are the Wellness champions within their companies and they are most likely to listen to our message of how an ergonomic investment will affect their staff wellness and productivity. We’re looking forward to meeting these influencers at the Indaba.”

Why do you think health and wellness have become so important?

“One only needs to look to trends in developed nations to understand its importance. In the U.S. legislation is already in place to incentivise corporate Wellness programmes and in 2015 it was already recorded as an R8billion industry. According to Karen Marlo, Vice President of the National Business Group on Health, “employees are increasingly defining well-being to include physical, emotional, financial, and social health, and they will expect their employers to support them in their efforts to be healthy.” This presents a unique shift from previous generations who saw the workplace as a place of productivity that allowed them to support a life away from work."

“There is more than enough evidence globally that proves a direct relationship between healthy staff, productivity and ultimately the company bottom line. Any company ignoring these statistics and paradigm shifts will struggle to retain staff and ultimately fall behind their competitors.”

Are there any statistics to back up these productivity claims?

“Of course yes. Last year we brought Alan Hedge, Professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University, to South Africa. He presented case studies which reflected up to a 17/1 return on investment for an ergonomics programme, meaning that, every R100 000 spent, the organisation could get up to R1.7 million back.”