What is it about?

In today's evolving office landscape, open-plan offices are hailed for enhancing collaboration and reducing costs. However, while they promise greater communication, they often overlook a crucial aspect: employee health. Recent research hones in on open-plan designs, especially in bank settings, revealing a pressing concern about Musculoskeletal symptoms (MSS) and the challenges they pose. The Musculoskeletal Challenge Bank employees, much like their counterparts in other offices, are prone to physical discomforts such as pain, numbness, and a host of musculoskeletal issues. The reasons? The combination of prolonged sitting, inappropriate workstation setups, extended work hours, and environmental factors. The unique demands of banking, with its need for precise communication amidst potential distractions, make these challenges more acute in bank environments. Two important issues related to ergonomics that have become a challenge for bank employees are MSS and noise. How to control these two issues at the same time?

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Why is it important?

A Multi-faceted Approach to a Solution Ergonomics is not a new word in office design. But how effectively is it applied, especially in open-plan bank offices? And can ergonomic interventions truly make a difference? A recent study posed several questions: 1. Is there a way to alleviate physical discomfort and MSS? 2. Can enhancing the workstation design also improve communication? 3. What impact does ergonomic training have on bank employees? Drawing on these, the study proposed a comprehensive ergonomic intervention. This encompassed not only the physical environment, focusing on better workstation designs and noise management but also addressed the human element through comprehensive ergonomics training. Here is what The Study Uncovered Identified Problems: From having to stand and converse with clients, to lack of legroom and constant noise interruptions, bank employees were operating in less-than-ideal conditions. Implemented Interventions: The approach was multicomponent: 1. Workstation Redesign: Drawing from the specific anthropometric data of the working population. workstations were made more spacious and features like footrests and partitions were introduced. The redesign was based on employees' job needs, anthropometric criteria, and ergonomics and environmental factors. 2. Ambient Improvements: Noise was tackled through sound-absorbing materials, and structural changes improved face-to-face communication. 3. Ergonomic Training: Employees were educated about ideal postures, workstation setups, and the importance of taking breaks. The Results? Post these interventions, there was a notable drop in reported discomforts. Employees expressed a dramatic surge in satisfaction with their after-intervention. Also, working postures improved, and the clarity of speech and ease of communication became markedly evident.


The findings of this study are important for open-plan organizations. It's a clarion call to prioritize ergonomics, ensuring that employee health and productivity don't take a backseat in the pursuit of collaboration and cost-efficiency. Open-plan offices, when designed with ergonomics in mind, can indeed be spaces where employees work together healthily and productively.

Soheyla Ahmadi Charkhabi
Shiraz University of Medical Sciences

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Investigation of the multi-component ergonomics intervention effects on improving musculoskeletal outcomes and speech communication: A case study in open-plan offices, Work, September 2023, IOS Press, DOI: 10.3233/wor-220427.
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