Proactive focus on workplace postures reduces pain in office employees
The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, was led by Jasminka Goldoni Laestadius of The World Bank's Joint Bank/Fund Health Services Department. Prompted by a move to a new World Bank headquarters, the researchers designed a study to determine whether a proactive approach to ergonomics could reduce pain and other symptoms in office workers. One group of workers received new ergonomic office furniture, along with information on how to set it up. Another group also received new furniture and information, plus personalized setup by a professional ergonomist.
The proactive approach reduced symptoms of musculoskeletal pain and eyestrain but only for workers who received an expert workstation setup. This group, researchers said, also had a significant increase in productivity. Neither group had a significant reduction in sick leave.
The reduction in symptoms was clearly related to improved work postures, Laestadius said.
"Better postures meant less pain," the researchers wrote. "This verifies our experience that equipment such as an adjustable chair does not add value unless properly adjusted."
Reductions in pain and other symptoms were seen only in workers who had such symptoms at the start of the study -- fully half of all workers. For employees who were initially free of symptoms, the ergonomics program did not reduce the rate of new symptoms.
To be effective in reducing pain and improving productivity, the study concluded that a proactive ergonomics program needs to include an individual workstation assessment.
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November 5, 2009
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