Office Ergonomic Training Research
Dr Elizabeth Kirk has been at the forefront of Australian research on the effectiveness of office ergonomics and injury prevention training methods and techniques.
She has undertaken significant research exploring the effect that different office ergonomic training delivery methods (rather than content) have on reported levels of musculoskeletal discomfort among agents.
Her PhD thesis explored current office ergonomic training methods, barriers to the application of office ergonomic knowledge as work skills and vocational training methods designed to ensure training is transferred to the workplace. This research also identified the need for training to deliver a greater range of health and safety skills for office workers.
As part of her research, Dr Kirk developed a world first multidisciplinary office ergonomics and injury prevention training program based on the practical application of information as work skills. The effectiveness of this program was tested at two major call centres.
The results from these trials were more than significant. They were well beyond expectations.
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Levels of physical discomfort before training
Before training, the self-report physical discomfort surveys recorded the baseline levels of discomfort in each call centre. The yellow column shows the total level of discomfort in one call centre for each body segment. This survey showed that over 86% of agents felt some level of discomfort and that there was no significant difference between those feeling ‘Just Noticeable’ and ‘Moderate’ levels.
Comparison of levels of physical discomfort after training
Anecdotal Reported Results
Within an hour of rolling out the one-on-one training session, agents reported that their headaches had gone, and that their necks felt more comfortable.
Within a month, one agent reported she had previously been seeing a physiotherapist monthly due to a stiff neck and headaches. After training her neck stiffness and headaches had improved so much, that she did not need to see her physiotherapist for several months.
One month after training, a second physical discomfort questionnaire was completed. The reported levels of musculoskeletal discomfort were significantly reduced in all body segments.
The results showed a reduction in musculoskeletal discomfort between 49% to 100%.
- The blue column is the level of discomfort before the training.
- The orange column is the level of discomfort after the training.
These results were achieved through the new training methodology created by Dr Kirk.
There was no additional equipment or furniture, and no new health initiatives such as seated massages.
Find Out More
Title: Injury Prevention Programs to Reduce Staff Costs: Redefining Training Needs for Computer Users to Minimise Pain and Maximise Productivity – Especially, in Contact (Call) Centres
Corporate health and wellbeing programs are increasingly popular as employers acknowledge the link between improved health and wellness, and higher productivity, reduced turnover, reduced costs, and greater employee satisfaction. The mainstay of workplace health and safety has always been injury and illness prevention, and the core values of proactively finding and fixing workplace hazards to prevent harm are now instilled into the promotion of employee health and wellness.
However, the promised benefits of wellness and injury prevention programs are not always realised. One such example is the use of office ergonomics training for computer users. Considered an essential injury prevention tool, these programs have not provided the expected decrease in rates of discomfort and injury or return on investment.
This white paper uses contact centres data to demonstrate the current and growing costs associated with levels of discomfort and injury experienced by computer users in the workplace. The identification of new risk factors associated with increasing screen use and sedentary work has created an urgency to address this issue.
In an effort to find new management strategies, this paper explores why current training has failed to address these issues in the past and suggest a new perspective. A need to change focus from traditionally isolated training moments to new comprehensive and integrated injury prevention solutions to help business arrest the already significant and increasing costs of work-related discomfort and injury among computer users. It goes on to ask:
What would a cost-effective injury prevention program for computer users look like?
Grounded in PhD research and informed by industry needs and experience, this paper introduces the concept of a new multidisciplinary injury prevention program for computer users to help:
Avoid the modern health epidemic associated with current and increasing screen use and sedentary work.
To read more about the research, please refer to the following published articles.
Kirk, E., Strong, J., and Burgess-Limerick, R. (2013). Developing Computer Competencies for eWorkers within Call Centres, Work: A Journal of Prevention Assessment and Rehabilitation, 46, 283-295, ISSN 1051-9815 (Print), 1875-9270 (Online)
Kirk, E., Strong, J., and Burgess-Limerick, R. (2010). Management of eWork Health Issues: A New Perspective On an Old Problem, Work: A Journal of Prevention Assessment and Rehabilitation, 35, 173-181, ISSN 1051-9815 (Print) 1875-9270 (Online)
Read a copy of Dr Kirk’s PhD Thesis
Kirk, E., (2013) Building Safe Computer Use Skills Training as a Management Strategy for Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Computer Users, PhD Thesis