Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do proactive measures for health and productivity in office workers work?

A recent article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported on a study which tried to address the question: ‘do proactive interventions enhance office worker health and productivity?’ The study was conducted with a large number of World Bank employees. Interventions included new furniture, education about workstation set-up and working techniques through handouts and the web, accelerated complaints system for medical inquiries, satisfaction surveys and individual workstation assessments. Group 1 received all the interventions and Group 2 received the interventions but no individual assessments and there was a control group who continued with the existing reactive system for discomfort complaints.
Interesting results include:

1. Compared to the control group Group 1 had significant improvement in

* Pain for neck/shoulder, hand/wrist and overall.
* Productivity scores

2. Compared to Group 2, Group one

* Had significant improvement in postures of head/neck/trunk/ shoulder and arm
* Were more likely to use existing educational material

The authors concluded that proactive interventions which include an individual workstation assessment were effective in reducing discomfort and improving productivity.

The full paper is available at

Reference: Laestadius, et al (2009) The proactive approach – is it worthwhile? A prospective controlled ergonomic intervention study in office workers, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 51, 10, 1116-1124

Check out the services we offer for worksite assessments


Presenteeism is a relatively new ‘buzz word’ for when a person is present at work but their performance is affected by any type of health issue. This is becoming of increasing interest to organisations since presenteeism affects productivity and the costs of it have been identified as very significant.

For example, one study1 found that presenteeism was a large cost for organisations for the top 10 health conditions across a range of occupations. The largest cost to companies was for back and neck pain with presenteeism accounting for almost half the total cost (medical, drug and absenteeism accounting for the rest).

Studies involving computer users report that 6 % to 8 % of workers report presenteeism due to discomfort.

Another study2 showed that presenteeism could be reduced by removing health risks. This is an opportunity to improve the productivity of staff by decreasing the discomfort they experience at work or improving other health factors. This has a very positive cost-benefit since the cost of presenteeism is not accounted for in ‘usual’ costs such as absenteeism or lost time injuries, though these, of course, also stand to be improved by decreasing discomfort. This recent research also highlights the potential benefits there are for improving the general well-being of your staff.

If you would like to know more about presenteeism, interventions for reducing discomfort and improving wellness contact us.

[1] Loeppke, R., Taitel, M., Richling, D., Parry, T., Kessler, R.C., Hymel, P., Konicki, D. (2007) Health and productivity as a business strategy, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 49, 7, 712-721

[2] Burton, W.N., Chen, C-Y., Conti, D.J, Schultz, A.B., Edington, D.W. (2006) The association between health risk change and presenteeism change, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 48, 3, 252-263