Ergonomic investigation- Call Centre: Usability, Stress and MSDs

Client requirement

The client required an independent assessment of their specialist call centre, due to the number of complaints received.

A number of assessments by other companies had been undertaken, but these did not help as what was required was the services of an expert Chartered Ergonomist and HF specialist who not just looked at the physical aspects but cognitive and ergonomic aspects.


The call centre run by legal experts had been changed all at once but they had not been consulted about the new ways of working, the change in technology, and bug-ridden software had been introduced. This resulted in:

  • High levels of stress
  • High levels of Musculoskeletal disorders

What we did   

We carried out a pre-assessment survey and analysed pertinent documents relating to:

  • absenteeism, productivity (call rates), complaints etc, and employee discomfort compared with post implementation

The ergonomic investigation was carried out in three stages:


  • Assessment of supporting departments
  • Assessment of each person
  • Software analysis in terms of usability and reason for error
  • Lack of usability of software and paper systems, poor team working, failure by IT to understand task and urgency of a responsive team.


    Discomfort survey
    Equipment audit
    Departmental history in relation to changes and analysis of relevant data collected by the organisation
    Data analysis


  • One to one discussions with specialists, and significant others ie IT, HR and overall call centre manager
  • Using a variety of tools, survey and evaluation tools a good understanding of the ins and outs of the problems, reported and corroborated, along with fresh insight
  • Main Findings
  • New call centre expert software had not been user tested, it had been built and ended up with all the routing incorrect. A large increased in mouse clicks to get to the desired contact.

    Calls were getting longer due to the time to find information, breaks were curtailed

    Line managers more hostile and serious client complaints


  • Submitted report with detailed findings, along with a presentation and the recommended course of action. This was then followed up with post investigation no changes survey and post investigation changes.


  • Train staff to be DSE assessors, Stress and wellbeing assessors, train IT staff in the principles of Usability and Interface design with key Cognitive principles – Given a usability guide to allow them to accurately assess software
  • Software redesigned based on the task analysis and context of use

  • Increase in breaks

  • Correct use of equipment

The post ergonomic investigation showed

  • Significant decrease in individual stress together with an overall lowering of organisational stress for all those involved (this covered a several internal and external departments)
    Productivity increased due to the change in the software design, which resulted in increased customer satisfaction

    Significant decrease in upper limb, back and neck discomfort and pain

  • Reduced stress levels – improved relationships between call takes 1 and call experts, line managers been given stress management training become more amendable

Client feedback

  • Very happy as can see immediate changes, relationships changed due to proactive approach and not just a sticking plaster approach

    Presentation and report clearly signposted way forward, backed up by immediate data changes