Postural variability: an effective way to reduce musculoskeletal discomfort in office work

Hum Factors. 2014 Nov;56(7):1249-61. doi: 10.1177/0018720814528003.


Objective: This article investigates whether different interventions aimed at promoting postural change could increase body movement throughout the shift and reduce musculoskeletal discomfort.

Background: Many researchers have reported high levels of discomfort for workers that have relatively low-level demands but whose jobs are sedentary in nature. To date, few interventions have been found to be effective in reducing worker discomfort.

Methods: Thirty-seven call center operators were evaluated in four different workstation conditions: conventional workstation, sit-stand workstation, conventional workstation with reminder software, and sit-stand workstation with break reminder software-prompt to remind workers to take break The primary outcome variables consisted of productivity, measured by custom software; posture changes, measured by continuous video recording; and discomfort, measured by simple survey. Each condition was evaluated over a 2-week period.

Results: Significant reductions in short-term discomfort were reported in the shoulders, upper back, and lower back when utilizing reminder software, independent of workstation type. Although not significant, many productivity indices were found to increase by about 10%.

Conclusions: Posture-altering workstation interventions, specifically sit-stand tables or reminder software with traditional tables, were effective in introducing posture variability. Further, postural variability appears to be linked to decreased short-term discomfort at the end of the day without a negative impact on productivity.

Applications: An intervention that can simply induce the worker to move throughout the day, such as a sit-stand table or simple software reminder about making a large posture change, can be effective in reducing discomfort in the worker, while not adversely impacting productivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / physiopathology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Sedentary Behavior