Position Paper

Why we question the benefits of office ergonomics

This paper argues that the doubts regarding the benefits of office ergonomics have arisen due to the unrealised gap between research and the development of training that successfully translates that research into health, safety and wellness work skills.


Across the country, a silent culprit is stifling productivity in the office, stripping away the comfort of employees and leading to increased rates of chronic pain, musculoskeletal injuries, absenteeism, presenteeism, stress, and the use of EAP, which all translate to an increase in direct costs, both to employers and employees. That culprit is the lack of employee health and safety training.

While businesses put a lot of trust and financial commitment into the science of ergonomics and the expertise of professionals, other experts and industry professionals have recently questioned that science.

This paper argues that the doubts regarding the benefits of office ergonomics have arisen due to the unrealised gap between research and the development of training that successfully translates that research into health, safety and wellness work skills.

Office ergonomics talks, checklists and workstation 

assessments provide information, not training.

Relegated to the last and often forgotten part of risk management, training is the essential stage where employees learn how to build and apply work competencies. Such competencies include the knowledge of office ergonomics, physical conditioning and work skills, which employees need to create safe personal workspaces and reduce the chance of injury to themselves and others.

It is one thing to have grounded peer-reviewed research and to provide knowledge to employees as talks, checklists or workstation assessment. However, it is another thing entirely to have training that is specifically designed to translate that research into actual work skills that go beyond a basic understanding of ergonomic theory. 

Specifically designed training shows employees how to personalise their training and apply that knowledge as workplace competencies — in this case, the multidisciplinary health, safety and wellness competencies needed by a workforce embracing an increasingly complex array of work environments, work options, technology and work-related health risks associated with a twenty-first-century workplace.

Corporate wellness should include training individuals to navigate those risks, rather than simply sharing the information. Which begs the questions:

Does your workplace and technology look the same as it did 10 years ago?

Then why use office ergonomics training that is over a decade old?

This paper shows that the lack of training designed to translate research into new self-care competencies for offices workers has come at a significant cost to Australian businesses. It goes on to argue the need to expand our WHS mindset from the responsibilities of businesses to provide a safe working environment to include an obligation to provide each employee with the knowledge and skills to implement personalised health and safety decisions.

Finally, this paper outlines the need to bridge the massive gap between workplace health and safety training and the development of ergonomics and self-care competencies. This merge will provide a strategy that will build successful and enduring health, safety and wellness programs, while also boosting employee productivity and business revenue.

With the right workplace competencies and employer support, employees will make informed health and safety decisions, and refine generalised recommendations based on personal needs (which often change by the day, depending on the work, work environment, equipment and even an individual’s health on a particular day).

In this way, each employee is empowered to take greater responsibility for their health and safety at work, and businesses have training that bridges the skills gap needed to reduce rates of chronic pain and injuries, and to build a resilient workforce with individuals achieving their full potential.

By investing in the health and wellbeing of staff, businesses will also reduce their direct and indirect costs, consequently boosting their bottom line.

There has never been a more crucial time to update training and provide employees with the new self-care competencies needed to suit our unique twenty-first-century workplace.

Download full Position Paper

Meet Dr Elizabeth Kirk (PhD)

Dr Kirk built the unique Beyond Ergo program through PhD research at the University of Queensland and in collaboration with major Brisbane-based call centres.

Grounded in research and informed by client feedback and industry trends, Liz has developed a clear focus on developing programs to ensuring Beyond Ergo training can help as many people as possible to reduce chronic pain and the risk of acquiring injuries.

My Purpose: I help call centres reduce high rates of absenteeism, stress and attrition by coaching team leaders


The amazing Liz from Beyond Ergo shared some startling information about where and how we work is causing us pain, stress and health issues. She shared easy, no-cost strategies so we can safely and comfortable work anywhere, whether it be at the office, a coffee shop, in the car or by the pool on an exotic island while sipping champers! Thanks Liz, our bodies are going to so appreciate it!!!

Jo Westaway
Westaway Photography – Nov 2018