Office Ergonomics – The impact of adjustable chairs and training programs on visual discomfort.

Visual discomfort and eye problems are common in computer work. This not only impacts on the perceptions of discomfort of the employee, but it can also impact daily productivity. Ergonomic interventions to improve the comfort and productivity of employees during office work are very common, yet the majorities of these interventions focus only on musculoskeletal outcomes and have rarely included assessment of visual outcomes. In a recent research article in Applied Ergonomics, Menéndez et al. (2012) describe an office ergonomic intervention, specifically the application of adjustable chairs and training, on visual outcomes.

Article Review:

This intervention followed previous work of the authors where implementation of a “highly adjustable chair” and ergonomics training on proper setup and use of the chair resulted in positive postural and behavioral outcomes (Amick et al., 2003). In this new investigation they attempted to resolve the impact of the chair and training on visual outcomes. They recruited a sample of employees from a private insurance company. These employees had computer intensive jobs, and none of the selected workers had filed injury claims within the previous 6 months.  The employees were divided into 3 groups to test the effects of the intervention: group 1 received a new highly adjustable chair and the related ergonomics training, group 2 received only the ergonomics training and not the new chair, and group 3 were not given the new chair or training during the evaluation.

The results showed that group 1 and group 2 had significantly reduced visual discomfort symptoms when compared to the group that did not receive the new chair or training. Interestingly, the reduction in symptoms between groups 1 and 2 was almost identical, which suggests that the ergonomics training, rather than the chair drives these positive changes. However, these results must be considered within the realm of other available literature. For example, a previous study by this group at a public sector workplace showed the group receiving a highly adjustable chair and training to report fewer musculoskeletal symptoms when compared to a group receiving only training. Therefore, the chair remains an important component of the intervention.

EWI Works Comments:

These papers discuss some interesting concepts for office ergonomics. First, office interventions and the evaluation of these interventions must include multiple levels of analysis; many times the impact on visual outcomes is overlooked and there is a greater focus on musculoskeletal outcomes. Secondly, these papers highlight the importance of ergonomics training with respect to achieving positive outcomes. While employees in the office are the key stakeholders that allow an intervention to succeed, these results speak to the important role an ergonomist can play as a teacher and facilitator.

What are your experiences with implementation of new office equipment? What role did various company stakeholders play, and was the intervention led by an ergonomist?

Feel free to leave us your comments and questions below. 


Amick, B. C., Robertson, M. M., DeRango, K., Bazzani, L., Moore, A., Rooney, T., & Harrist, R. (2003). Effect of office ergonomics intervention on reducing musculoskeletal symptoms. Spine, 28(24), 2706-2711. doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000099740.87791.f7

Menendez, C. C., Amick, B. C., Robertson, M., Bazzani, L., DeRango, K., Rooney, T., & Moore, A. (2012). A replicated field intervention study evaluating the impact of a highly adjustable chair and office ergonomics training on visual symptoms. [Article]. Applied Ergonomics, 43(4), 639-644. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2011.09.010