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Do ergonomics improvements increase computer workers' productivity?: an intervention study in a call centre

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This paper examines whether improving physical ergonomics working conditions affects worker productivity in a call centre with computer-intensive work. A field study was conducted at a catalogue retail service organization to explore the impact of ergonomics improvements on worker production. There were three levels of ergonomics interventions, each adding incrementally to the previous one. The first level was ergonomics training for all computer users accompanied by workstation ergonomics analysis leading to specific customized adjustments to better fit each worker (Group C). The second level added specific workstation accessories to improve the worker fit if the ergonomics analysis indicated a need for them (Group B). The third level met Group B requirements plus an improved chair (Group A). Productivity data was gathered from 72 volunteer participants who received ergonomics improvements to their workstations and 370 control subjects working in the same departments. Daily company records of production outputs for each worker were taken before ergonomics intervention (baseline) and 12 months after ergonomics intervention. Productivity improvement from baseline to 12 months post-intervention was examined across all ergonomics conditions combined, and also compared to the control group. The findings showed that worker performance increased for 50% of the ergonomics improvement participants and decreased for 50%. Overall, there was a 4.87% output increase for the ergonomics improvement group as compared to a 3.46% output decrease for the control group. The level of productivity increase varied by the type of the ergonomics improvements with Group C showing the best improvement (9.43%). Even though the average production improved, caution must be used in interpreting the findings since the ergonomics interventions were not successful for one-half of the participants.
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Keywords: Computerized office work; Ergonomics improvement; Intervention; Productivity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1513 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706, USA 2: Formerly at the School of Industrial Engineering, Purdue University, Grissom Hall, West Lafayette, IN 49706, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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