• By: Liz Kirk (PhD)
  • BeyondErgo.com.au
  • M: 0408 751 379

The 21st Century workforce is unique.

Technology has enabled alternative work choices where staff are free to hot-desk (sometimes with tablets), work from home, use laptops in coffee shops and constantly interface with multiple screens.

These new work trends may bring with them a costly problem for companies. While work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s) are already considered the most significant negative health issues associated with the use of personal computers[1, 2], these flexible work arrangements and now ubiquitous use of technology means injury rates and associated costs are set to rise.

The Growing Range of Wellness Initiatives

Companies already recognise the ethical and business case for supporting staff health and safety initiatives.

Who hasn’t seen this Richard Branson quote?  

Wellness programs,  conferences and consultants now promote a substantial range of initiatives including healthy eating options, financial planning,  mental health first-aid courses, programs to support the challenges of an ageing workforce, and gamification platforms that create social and engaging wellness initiatives.

We have the research, skills and motivation needed to support staff and reduce costs associated with workplace health and safety issues. The problem is, with the temporary loss of WHS officers and growing (and essential) focus on wellness, the development of modern office ergonomics as safety training has drifted into the shadows.

The Risk of Poor Office Ergonomics Training

Current training is decades old and still focuses on a single fixed work space with full size screens. Research also shows less than 10% of people implement ergonomic training they have attended into their day-to-day jobs. What does limited training and already low implementation of ergonomic recommendations mean for the safety of hot-desking, sit-stand, mobile activity-based workplace employees or telecommuters?

To compound these issues,  companies must now prepare for an aging workforce and future employees. A situation not previously considered for knowledge workers. Research shows Gen Y’s are entering the workforce already injured[3] and children as young as 15 show signs of pre-arthritic postures[4] because of constant screen use.

Building better checklists and increasing workplace audits are not the answer to managing these risks.

Training must now ensure the application of office ergonomics as everyday work habits, automatically applied in any work (or leisure) situation. Staff need a multidisciplinary range of knowledge with guaranteed translation into work skills.  To create effective training, programs must blend the best from office ergonomics, behaviour-based safety and vocational training, and build strong communication networks.

Office Ergonomics as a Competitive Advantage

Embracing the need for new office ergonomic training will give companies a competitive advantage. These programs help manage labour costs by reducing injuries and absenteeism, and increase staff engagement and productivity. New programs are built in collaboration with learning professionals, ergonomists, managers, trainers and employees to design programs that become an integrated part of the company safety culture. The inclusion of multiple stockholders is especially important for knowledge workers were work environments are seldom recognised as holding safety risks.

Beyond Ergo seeks to build awareness around the need to re-frame how companies think about office ergonomics training for our unique 21st Century mobile workforce. Our new multidisciplinary programs were designed through PhD research and informed by the changing needs and challenges of industry.

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  1. Bullock, M., Ergonomics in a Technological World: Implications for Occupational Health, in 25th Annual Conference of the Ergonomics Society of Australia,. 1989, Ergonomics Society of Australia,.
  2. Aaras, A., G. Horgen, and O. Ro, Work with the visual display unit: Health consequences. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction;, 2000. 12(1): p. 107–134.
  3. Pace, B. A Generation in Pain. Cardinus Connect magazine, 2016.
  4. n.a. Healthy Working: MOVE. Healthy Working: MOVE 2017 June 2017 [cited 2017; Injury Prevention and Training Resource ]. Available from: http://ergonomics4kids.com/ – http://www.healthyworking.com/move