Office ergonomic training is common, yet high rates of discomfort among operators continue.


Here’s why!


When I completed my PhD in 2013, it focused on the role of ergonomic training in WHS and Wellness within the Australian Call Centres. It showed that musculoskeletal disorders and eye-related symptoms were the most frequently occurring health problems associated with long hours of computer use and were considered the most significant contemporary occupational health problems (Silman & Newman, 1996).

When I started delivering talks and workshops, the most common question was, “How do I recover from my neck and shoulder pain?” But now, in 2023, while I am still asked about neck and shoulder pain, the most common question is, “How do I manage my lower back pain?”

Now, the world of work for those involved in computer-intensive work has significantly changed, and the WHS and Wellness issues have become increasingly complex, especially when working from home.

While the implementation of office ergonomic training is common within many workplaces, reports of its benefits are mixed, and high rates of discomfort among operators continue.

But Why?

This is where my foundation research is still relevant, as it revealed the complex range of WHS and wellness risks that work independently and accumulatively to affect employee health and wellness. My research showed the intentions were good, but managers did not have access to the ‘How To’ style of training that ensures employees know how to apply training content as practical, actionable work skills. This is why my research is so important and why it remains the foundation of the Beyond Ergo programs.




The pervasive use of computers in contemporary workplaces has increased musculoskeletal disorders and eye-related symptoms among computer operators. Despite the common practice of office ergonomic training, its effectiveness remains uncertain, and operator discomfort persists. This research aimed to contribute to health and safety initiatives for computer operators by investigating the challenges hindering the implementation of ergonomic training. The study also explored holistic training approaches and the application of transitional learning theory to enhance training knowledge transfer into work skills.


The research employed an action research (AR) methodology, utilising a focus group enquiry and a series of case studies within call centre environments. The focus group investigation delved into current office ergonomic training practices and perceptions, while the case studies sought to identify factors influencing the application of ergonomic training as work practices. Qualitative and quantitative data collection methods were employed, including interviews, physical discomfort questionnaires, office ergonomic assessments, and participative ergonomics (PE) methods.


The focus group interviews revealed a genuine concern for employee well-being among call centre managers, but existing training programs often failed to translate knowledge into actionable work skills. Office ergonomic checklists were primarily used as diagnostic tools rather than preventative training instruments. The case studies highlighted the limitations of traditional training methods, prompting the development and trial of a skill-based program. The skill-based intervention significantly reduced musculoskeletal discomfort, headaches, and medication usage among participating operators.


While office ergonomic training is common, its impact on reducing musculoskeletal disorders remains limited. The research identified a gap in the traditional transmission methods of training, emphasising the need for a more comprehensive and multifactorial approach. The skill-based program, incorporating transitional learning elements, demonstrated positive outcomes, indicating that practical application and continuous reinforcement are crucial for effective training. The study recommends a shift from generic training to personalised, context-specific interventions involving stakeholders and utilising participative ergonomics.

Implications and Future Research

This research contributes valuable insights into the challenges of implementing ergonomic recommendations as work practices. It suggests that a one-size-fits-all training approach is insufficient and advocates for a multidisciplinary training model that addresses the complex nature of learning. Further research is needed to explore additional stages and methods for developing competencies in the workplace, extending beyond the training delivery stage. Longitudinal studies could provide a deeper understanding of the sustained impact of enhanced ergonomic training on the well-being of computer operators. As a ‘first step,’ this research lays the foundation for future investigations into improving the health and safety benefits associated with ergonomic recommendations in the workplace.


More Detail | If you would like a copy of the complete PhD research abstract, Click Here.

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