Workin’ it – your guide to workplace ergonomics

Has your 9-to-5 desk jockey life left you grappling with aches and pains ­– like neck and shoulder discomfort or headaches, to name a few? Or perhaps lifting and moving bulky, awkward objects has flared up your lower back pain. In either scenario, a poorly designed workstation can negatively affect your physical health and increase the risk of injury. The good news is you can alter your work environment to fit your needs, addressing niggles before they escalate1

Avoiding the worst by putting safety first

You’re likely familiar with the term ‘ergonomics’, which describes aligning the needs of a job with a worker's requirements. Making ergonomic adjustments to your set-up can help provide a comfortable workspace while minimising daily discomforts that progressively fatigue and strain muscles.

Workplace ergonomics can reduce muscle-related injuries caused by routine tasks, such as lower back pain from sitting at your computer for long periods. These adjustments can benefit multiple fields of work1, including healthcare professionals, machine operators and drivers, labourers and trades workers, and more.

Poor form. Poor function. Poor health.

Non-ergonomic environments increase work-related injuries1, with stress to joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons (due to repetitive or strenuous work) among the most commonly reported2. Workplace injuries affect not only the individual but also the business and broader economic environment. For instance, the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that 497,300 people experienced work-related injuries or illnesses between 2021­ and 2022. Within this group, 65.7% of people needed time off work and 14.8% stopped working all together3.

The economic cost of this is significant. Specifically, 6.9 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported in Australia across a 10-year period, leading to 1,140,000 compensation claims and costing the economy $28.6 billion. Without these claims, 185,500 additional full-time jobs could have been created, along with an average wage increase of 1.3% across all industries2,4.

So, whether you’re tapping away at your desk, lifting and moving heavy objects or spending hours-long stints on the road, consider how you’re positioning your body – and get it right!

Practical tips for a safe and comfortable workspace

Below are some ergonomic adjustments that you can make to improve your comfort and safety. However, bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. You can find out more about your industry and the nature of your work at WorkSafe Victoria.

A hybrid work model, allowing employees to split their time between working in-office and remotely, is popular among office professionals. While greater flexibility in our work lives is important, so too is ensuring both your home and office set-ups support good working habits.

Improper ergonomics at your desk set-up can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain, headaches and eyestrain. Repetitive movements with low muscle loading, such as keyboard typing or manoeuvring a computer mouse, can also strain the hand, wrist or arm, potentially leading to painful conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome if left unaddressed.

Adjusting your desk, chair, computer monitors, keyboard and mouse to suit your physical needs is key to preventing aches, pains, strains and muscle overload. This guide can help you create your ideal set-up.

A ‘deskercise’ routine can also help alleviate stiffness and soreness associated with sedentary work. If you’re unsure where to start, watch this video or review this stretching guide. Or if stretching is not your thing, you could consider adding a walking lunch break to your daily routine – which is great for your body and mental wellbeing.

Muscular injuries caused by lifting, handling, twisting, reaching for objects or moving patients are common among healthcare professionals, teachers, residential care workers and other community-oriented roles. On top of this, falls, slips and trips, sprains, strains and back injuries can often be prevented.

For this reason, interventions that focus on workstation set-up, safe patient handling, manual handling of objects (choose the industry specific to you), and awareness of slip and trip hazards can reduce your injury risk.

Similarly to community and personal service workers, machine operators and drivers are susceptible to injury from lifting, handling, twisting or reaching, as well as slips, trips and falls. Back, neck and shoulder pain, along with cramping in the feet, legs or hands are also potential consequences of prolonged sitting and poor driving posture.

Therefore, adjusting cabin seating for adequate postural and lumbar support is crucial. And ensuring that the loading and unloading space around vehicles is clear and well-lit while prioritising safe stock handling (refer to the ‘Transport, warehouse and stock handling’ industry section) is also a non-negotiable for worker safety.

Common injury triggers in this group of workers include muscular stress caused by handling items (such as tools), lifting, carrying or putting down objects, as well as falls, slips and trips, and stepping, kneeling or sitting on objects. Therefore, appropriate manual handling procedures (refer to the ‘Construction’ industry section) are a high priority for injury prevention.

Extended exposure to industrial noise on worksites also increases the risk of industrial deafness – highlighting the importance of wearing hearing protection along with other protective equipment, such as eyewear, gloves, high-visibility clothing and a hard hat.

Safety doesn’t happen by accident

A workplace designed with ergonomics in mind can reduce the risk of injury, improve your productivity and increase your satisfaction at work. So make ergonomics a priority by aligning your work setting to your needs.

You can also rest easy knowing that Zurich is here to support you with its services, including the free My Wellbeing Hub, along with Zurich Evolve and a range of life insurance plans.


1. National Library of Medicine, ‘Ergonomics’ in StatPearls, 2022.

2. Safe Work Australia, ‘Key work health and safety statistics Australia 2023’, 2023

3. Safe Work Australia, ‘Analysis of ABS work-related injuries survey data 2021–2022’, 2023.

4. Deloitte, ‘Safer, healthier, wealthier: the economic value of reducing work-related injuries and illnesses’, 2022