Ergonomics in the workplace

Sitting and standing in the workplace

Evidence suggests that prolonged sitting is common in Australian workplaces and associated with a range of health problems.  Sedentary behaviour is most often experienced by us by sitting at a desk in front of a computer for prolonged periods of time.

There is a growing body of evidence that high levels of sedentary behaviour and sitting in particular are emerging risk factors for chronic disease. Here are a number of links that you may find interesting:

Tips for sitting less at work

There are many simple changes you can make to reduce the time you spend sitting at work. Ways to sit less at work include:

  • Stand up during meetings
  • Conduct standing meetings or add one or more standing agenda items
  • Stand and take a break from your computer every 30 minutes
  • Stand during phone calls (considering ordering a headset)
  • Eat your lunch away from your desk
  • Move your bin away from your desk
  • Conduct walking meetings where appropriate
  • Walk to a colleague’s desk instead of phoning or emailing
  • Drink more water
  • Use the stairs
  • Stand to greet a visitor
  • Go for a short walk at lunchtime
  • Stand at the back of the room during long presentations

Ergonomic Assessment

Postural discomfort and musculoskeletal injury are identified as workplace health and safety risks for staff who work at a computer/workstation. A well designed workstation that has been adjusted correctly can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries and improve overall comfort and productivity.

The main aim of an effective ergonomic set up is to avoid the development of musculoskeletal injuries or discomfort associated with desk and computer based work. You can do this by conducting a self-assessment.

When working at a computer/workstation, you may experience postural discomfort, particularly if the same position is maintained for extended periods of time. This discomfort can be minimised with a well-designed and correctly adjusted workstation that supports correct posture. An understanding of office ergonomics principles, good workplace layout and managing tasks to incorporate regular postural breaks is also important.

Staff and students are responsible to report to their supervisor any physical discomfort they believe is associated with their work or study environment and work through solutions.  We have put together some helpful sheets to guide you through this process.

Click the links for further information on ergonomic set ups of your workstation, including guidance on stretching and moving more.

Guide: Ergonomic self-assessment workstation set-up Form: Ergonomic self-assessment

Other helpful tips include:

  • Frequent posture changes are important as it encourages blood flow to different muscle groups which helps minimise back fatigue when sitting for prolonged periods.
  • Ensure the underside of your desk is free from obstruction to the knees and shins.
  • For those who wear bi/tri/multi focal spectacles, the standard set up of the screen monitor(s) may not be adequate and may contribute to poor neck posture.  Ensure the monitor is low enough to allow you to utilise your glasses without having to raise your chin to look at the monitor(s).
  • Phones on desks should ideally positioned on your non-dominant side.  Holding a handset between the shoulder and ear creates excessive muscular tension in the shoulder and neck. If you use the phone frequently whilst typing, consider using a headset.
  • If you are using a document ramp make sure it is placed directly between your keyboard and your monitor, this will minimise refocusing when your eyes go from the document to the screen. If a vertical document holder is used, it should be positioned next to the monitor for the same reason.

The HSW team offers the service of ergonomic assessment that cannot be addressed through self-assessment.  We will be able to assist you with any questions you may have about your workstation set-up.

Stand up desk information

Considering a stand up work station?

Stand up workstations are one of a variety of ways to reduce sedentariness. If you require a stand up desk due to an injury or medical condition please contact for further advice and an ergonomic assessment. Additional information from the treating medical practitioner will be required.

Stand up workstations can in some instances aggravate existing injuries/medical conditions or present a risk for new injury. It is important that the implementation of a stand up desk is in line with an employee's treating medical health practitioner's recommendations.

When setting up a stand up desk

  • Complete an ergonomic assessment for both sitting and standing
  • Take regular postural breaks, every 20-30 minutes when sitting or standing or as recommended by treating medical practitioner
  • Alternating between sitting and standing on a regular basis, every 45-60 minutes (or as recommended by treating medical practitioner
  • Wearing flat, supportive footwear and use of an anti-fatigue mat is recommended
  • Manual handling requirements involved in adjusting workstation height and equipment.