Call Center Technology

Ergonomics in the Contact Center: Interior Concepts Offers Guidance on Reducing Worker Fatigue, Increasing Productivity

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  July 02, 2012

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Working in a call center can give the brain and the mouth a nice workout, but it’s not always so great for the rest of the body. That’s why it’s important to design call center workplaces to maximize productivity by reducing user fatigue and discomfort. To get more details on how organizations to achieve all that, Customer Interaction Solutions magazine recently interviewed Jennifer Way, marketing manager of Interior Concepts.

What are key features of an ergonomic chair?

Way: An ergonomic chair should be comfortable and adjustable to fit a variety of users. Typical adjustments are height, seat depth, lumbar support, and armrest height and width. The chair should fully support the back of the user while reclining slightly. Studies have shown that the best seated posture is a reclined posture of 100-110 degrees and not the upright 90-degree posture that was portrayed in the past. Also, mesh back chairs have gained popularity due to their increased breathability and comfort.

What are your thoughts about workers sitting on exercise balls?

Way: After researching various articles, the general consensus from ergonomists tends to be that exercise balls are not recommended for prolonged sitting. Also, some workplaces might be hesitant to introduce exercise balls because of the potential hazard. It is easy to fall or roll off of the ball while working. One positive of an exercise ball is that it promotes movement, but it should probably only be used in small amounts of time sporadically throughout the day.

What should organizations look for in an ergonomic desk/workstation?

Way: An ergonomic workstation should be designed to maximize productivity by reducing user fatigue and discomfort. The key to an ergonomic workstation is training on how to work in an ergonomically correct position, and using accessories like a monitor arm, or keyboard support to allow yourself to work in those positions.

What features are important in an ergonomic headset?

Way: According to Jabra (News - Alert) (, headsets offer carefully adjusted acoustics and feature light ergonomic designs. A headset provides increased call clarity and comfort to help to avoid aching muscles and neck strain from cradling the telephone handset between head and shoulder.

It would seem that lighting would also be key to an optimized work environment. What can you tell us about that?

Way: According to OSHA, studies estimate that 90 percent of the U.S. workforce using computers for more than three hours per day experience CVS, computer vision syndrome, in some form. Task lighting can reduce symptoms of CVS including eyestrain headaches and fatigue. When choosing task lighting, be aware of significant contrast between your screen and documents or surrounding areas. Your eyes should not have to re-adjust to light levels when your focus changes. This could lead to constant dilation, creating additional eyestrain.

What, if anything, can people do to make their existing desks, chairs, etc., be more ergonomic?

Way: First, use the chair adjustments to put yourself in the proper position to view the monitor and use your keyboard. The computer monitor should be in front and centered. Your back should be fully supported by the chair while reclining slightly, and your arms and wrists should be in a neutral position when using the keyboard.

How should workers position their legs and feet to avoid stress?

Way: Legs should remain uncrossed with feet on the floor. If needed, utilize a footrest to support the legs. A footrest can relieve pressure on the lower back and provide leg support for shorter users.

How often should workers take a break?

Way: A general rule referenced on many ergonomic websites is to take a 20-second break every 20 minutes. Try to stand up and move around every few hours as well. Stop by someone’s desk to ask a question rather than sending an e-mail. Breaks and movement throughout the day will reduce stress on the body and promote circulation.

Some experts suggest that occasional stretching exercises during the work day can help workers avoid body strain and fatigue. What kinds of stretches do you recommend?

Way: We recommend contacting local workplace health experts. They will work with you to design a stretching program for your company and train employees on how to properly perform the stretches. A workplace health expert can also complete a walk through service to provide ergonomic suggestions to employees while they work. Locally, we work with Hackley Workplace Health to develop stretches and provide training for our office and manufacturing facility.

What about standing? Should workers work stand rather than sit?

Way: A few articles note that standing up all day can be equally as problematic as sitting. A better solution is probably to alternate between the two or take breaks to stand up and walk around.

Tell us about your sit-to-stand products.

Way: Interior Concepts offers several sit-to-stand product solutions. The first features a flat-screen computer monitor arm and keyboard mechanism with enough adjustment to work in either a sitting or standing position. The keyboard features a paddle level, so with one simple movement the keyboard is adjustable from sitting to standing. The monitor arm has an adjustable height column. Once the height is adjusted on the column the monitor can simply be gripped and move to the correct position. The second option is an electrical mechanism and moves the entire work surface from a sitting to standing position.

I saw a local news bit that featured computer workers completing tasks while on treadmills. What are your thoughts about that?  

Way: Desks featuring treadmills are designed to allow the user to work while walking very slowly. In a few call center sites we have seen a small bank of treadmill desks where employees can choose to work a few hours a day at the treadmill desk.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi