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How to Enhance Safety, Comfort and Productivity by Improving Workplace Ergonomics

December 11, 2023 | By: Leigh Boakes

In the bustling world of the modern workplace, ensuring the comfort and safety of employees is not just a matter of convenience but a legal requirement in the UK. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002, mandates employers to assess and reduce risks associated with computer workstations. However, with the rise of remote work and the diversity of job roles, it is equally important to consider ergonomics for employees working in a wide range of environments.

This article explores the crucial topic of workplace ergonomics, focusing on best practices for enhancing comfort, safety and productivity, whether employees are working at traditional desks, standing workstations, or in various non-desk-related roles. We will also delve into the unique considerations for home workers and those in physically demanding jobs, highlighting the importance of ergonomics beyond the desk to create safer and healthier workplaces for all.

Understanding Ergonomics

Ergonomics, in the context of workplace safety, is the science of designing and arranging workspaces, equipment, and tasks to fit the capabilities and limitations of the human body. It is not just about making the workspace look nice; it is about ensuring that employees can perform their tasks comfortably and efficiently while minimising the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Common Ergonomic Issues and How to Prevent Them

Poor ergonomics can lead to a variety of health problems, including musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are conditions that affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other parts of the musculoskeletal system, causing pain, discomfort, and reduced mobility. Common MSDs caused by poor workstation ergonomics include:

  • Back Pain: Poor chair support or incorrect posture can lead to back pain.
  • Neck Strain: Inadequate monitor height or placement can cause neck strain and discomfort.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Awkward wrist angles due to improper keyboard and mouse placement can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the wrists and hands.
  • Tendonitis: Repetitive movements and poor ergonomics can lead to conditions like tendonitis, which affects tendons and causes pain and inflammation.
  • Shoulder Pain: Incorrect chair and desk heights can lead to shoulder pain and discomfort.

Establishing ergonomic workstations is paramount for ensuring the comfort and safety of individuals using display screen equipment (DSE), whether in the office or at home, and serves as a critical factor in mitigating the risk of individuals developing MSDs.

To promote workplace ergonomics and safeguard the well-being of employees, it is crucial not only to recognise common issues that can arise due to poor ergonomics but also to know how to prevent them. In this section, we will delve into practical strategies and best practices designed to help you and your workforce avoid the common pitfalls that can lead to discomfort, pain, and reduced productivity.

DSE Assessments for Ergonomics

DSE assessments play a crucial role in identifying and addressing workplace hazards related to ergonomics and poor workstation layout for those using display screen equipment. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations require employers to assess and reduce risks associated with DSE use, regardless of the work location. Employers should conduct DSE workstation assessments in the following situations, whether employees are in the office or working remotely from home:

  • When an employee starts a new job that involves the regular use of DSE.
  • If significant changes are made to an existing workstation.
  • If an employee experiences physical discomfort that may be attributed to DSE use.

The assessments should be conducted by competent assessors. Employees undertaking self-assessments should have training allowing them to identify any issues with their workstation and make recommendations for improvements.

Training and Education

Educating employees about the importance of ergonomics is vital for compliance with UK legislation and the prevention of MSDs. Employers should provide training that covers how to maintain good posture and how to correctly adjust their work area, including chairs, monitors, keyboards, and mice to their individual needs.

Regular Breaks

Employees, including home workers, should be encouraged to take short, frequent breaks to avoid prolonged periods of DSE work. These breaks can help prevent the development of MSDs.

Ergonomic Workstations

Chairs: The chair should provide support for the lower back, be adjustable in height, and have a comfortable cushion. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations specify that the employer should provide an adjustable chair, and this extends to home workers as well. Employers should ensure that home workers have access to suitable chairs.

Desks: Desks should be at a suitable height and large enough to accommodate the computer equipment without crowding. The regulations state that the work surface should be large enough for equipment and documents. Employers can provide guidance to home workers on selecting or adjusting their home office desks.

Monitors: Monitors should be positioned at eye level to reduce strain on the neck. The regulations stipulate that the screen should be easy to tilt and swivel. Home workers should be encouraged to set up their monitors at the correct height using monitor stands or adjustable mounts.

Keyboards and Mouse: Keyboards and pointing devices should be within easy reach and at a comfortable height. The regulations emphasise the need for adjustable keyboard and mouse positions, which home workers should also implement.

Reporting Issues: Employees should be encouraged to report any discomfort or issues with their workstations promptly.

Ergonomics for Home Workers

Employers are legally obligated to ensure that their employees have access to suitable equipment and workstations that are free from risk, as far as reasonably practicable, and this responsibility extends to cover employees working from home. The rise of remote work has made it essential to consider ergonomics for home workers. Employers should extend their commitment to employees working from home by:

Providing Guidance: Employers can provide guidelines and resources to help home workers set up ergonomic home offices, including selecting suitable chairs, desks, and monitor setups.

Equipment Provision: If feasible, employers can provide ergonomic equipment to home workers, such as adjustable chairs and monitor stands, to ensure their home workspaces meet ergonomic standards.

Regular Check-Ins: Employers should maintain regular communication with home workers to ensure their ergonomic needs are met and any issues are addressed promptly.

Training and Education: Home workers should receive the same level of training and education on ergonomics as office-based employees, with a focus on creating safe and comfortable home working environments.

Ergonomics Beyond the Desk

Workplace ergonomics is not limited to employees who use workstations and desks, it extends to all workers across various job roles and industries. Some jobs require employees to stand for extended periods, such as retail cashiers, assembly line workers, chefs, and healthcare professionals. Proper ergonomics for standing workers includes providing anti-fatigue mats to reduce discomfort, adjustable work surfaces to accommodate different heights, and regular breaks to alleviate muscle fatigue.

Workers engaged in heavy manual labour, like construction workers, warehouse staff, and farmers, face ergonomic challenges related to lifting, carrying, and repetitive motions. Employers should implement training on proper lifting techniques, provide ergonomic tools and equipment, and promote regular stretching exercises to prevent musculoskeletal injuries.

Nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals often face ergonomic challenges due to frequent patient handling and long shifts. Hospitals and healthcare facilities should invest in patient-lifting equipment, adjustable beds, and ergonomic patient care tools to reduce the risk of strain and injury.

Employees in the retail sector, such as cashiers, stock clerks, and sales associates, need ergonomic considerations as they may spend long hours on their feet. Properly designed checkout counters, anti-fatigue mats, and adjustable shelving can improve their comfort and well-being.

Commercial drivers, including truck drivers, delivery personnel, and taxi drivers, should have ergonomic seating and adjustable steering wheels to reduce the risk of back pain and discomfort during long hours of driving.

In all these cases, the key to workplace ergonomics is to assess the unique demands of the job and implement measures to reduce physical strain, prevent injuries, and enhance worker comfort and productivity. Employers should conduct risk assessments that consider the ergonomic hazards of the job, provide appropriate training, and supply ergonomic tools and equipment as needed to create safe and comfortable work environments.

Ergonomics and Productivity

While the primary goal of ergonomic improvements is to enhance employee comfort and safety, improvements can also have a positive impact on productivity. Employees who work in ergonomic environments are more likely to:

  • Concentrate Better: Comfortable workspaces reduce distractions and allow employees to focus on their tasks more effectively.
  • Stay Energized: Ergonomics can help prevent fatigue and discomfort, allowing employees to maintain higher energy levels throughout the workday.
  • Reduce Errors: When employees are comfortable, they are less likely to make mistakes, leading to improved accuracy, safety and quality of work.
  • Experience Less Absenteeism: Ergonomics can help prevent injuries and health issues, reducing absenteeism and associated costs.


Ergonomics, a science focused on tailoring workspaces, equipment, and tasks to the capabilities and limitations of the human body, is not merely about aesthetics. It is the cornerstone of ensuring that employees can perform their tasks comfortably and efficiently while safeguarding them from the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

The heart of workplace ergonomics lies in assessing the unique demands of each job and implementing measures to minimise physical strain, prevent injuries, and enhance worker comfort and productivity. Employers should conduct risk assessments considering the ergonomic hazards specific to each job, offer requisite training, and supply the necessary ergonomic tools and equipment to foster safe and comfortable work environments.

This article has explored the multifaceted realm of workplace ergonomics, shedding light on best practices to enhance comfort, safety, and productivity across various work settings. Whether individuals are toiling away at traditional desks, embracing the benefits of standing workstations, or immersed in roles far removed from desks, ergonomics remains a fundamental concern.

In conclusion, workplace ergonomics in the UK is more than a legal obligation; it is an investment in the health, safety and productivity of employees. Whether labour unfolds within the confines of an office or the comfort of home, addressing the risks of musculoskeletal disorders is vital. By embracing the principles of ergonomics employers can forge safer, more efficient work environments while honouring their legal commitments. Ergonomics is not just a compliance requirement; it is a strategic choice that bolsters both employee well-being, safety and organisational success.

About the Author
Leigh Boakes
Leigh Boakes
Leigh Boakes, Author at Wirehouse Employer Services

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