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Reducing musculoskeletal problems in office workers: new study

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10 Mar 2014

What is the best way to reduce musculoskeletal problems in office workers? That’s the focus of a new University of Queensland (UQ) study. Researchers will aim to identify what’s more successful – an ergonomic assessment plus health promotion, or an ergonomic assessment plus exercise training.

Researchers want to know which of the two interventions will be more beneficial for the individual and the employer, so that recommendations based on evidence can be made to industry as to the best type of intervention to maintain and/or improve employee health.

WorkCover Queensland staff are participating in the study, and Customer Services Manager Angela Sullivan explains why.

“Given that WorkCover Queensland employees are office based we felt this was a great opportunity for staff to gain further knowledge that can assist them not only in the workplace but also in their day to day lives,” she said.

“This is the first time in Australia that this type of study has been conducted. It is nice to know that WorkCover is contributing to making a difference for employees’ wellbeing.”

Lead researcher of the project, Dr Venerina Johnston adds that the study is important because of the increasing evidence of a link between employee health and productivity at work.

“More than 50% of office workers experience the musculoskeletal symptoms targeted by this study, with 60-80% of workers reporting a recurrence of symptoms,” she said.

“Due to musculoskeletal discomfort there is anecdotal evidence that performance at work suffers. This reduction in productivity will be measured and converted into dollar terms to give an indication of the economic burden,” she said.

“Musculoskeletal problems impact people’s lives in different ways from changes in leisure activity, ability to concentrate, drive, sleep and read. We are measuring the impact of musculoskeletal problems on the individual [or] the ‘personal burden’.”

During February all participants received a workstation assessment and a measure of their strength. During March, April and May participants take part in either exercise training or health promotion sessions. Strength measures are reassessed after 12 weeks, and again after 12 months. The study has been very well received, with more than half of eligible staff volunteering. We can all show our support and encourage participating members of our teams to keep up their good work.

UQ is administering the study which is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. The researchers leading this project are recognised nationally and internationally for their expertise in the area of employee health and exercise.

You can find other related articles on health and wellbeing on our website.

Last updated
30 June 2015

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