Current Research Topics

Please refer to the guidelines for preparing and submitting a proposal, which can be found here.

OERC Areas of Interest


Productivity has been challenging to measure for knowledge workers, but is important to understand because it gives a measurement that could affect a company’s profitability. Understanding how ergonomic design, setup, or strategies affect productivity can provide the end users and companies with these valuable measures.

How do you get workers to change behavior and make it sustainable? How can you optimize the use of the hardware, software, or real-time exposure for productivity? How can you collect data that is more objective, accurate, and helps to shape behaviors?

The term technology is not limited to current computing devices but includes software, furniture, fitness monitoring/wearable devices, smart buildings, etc., as well as new computing devices and new ways of interacting with technology. How does changing technology affect the ergonomic risks or effects in the office environment? How can technology be used to improve assessment of ergonomic effects, help change worker behavior, or improve outcomes?

The workplace environment is changing and is no longer just a landscape of traditional workspaces (closed offices, cubicles, etc.). People work in many different locations: work, conference rooms, shared spaces, cafes, home, or public transportation. The office environment is not the only place for the ergonomic challenges—they can also occur in healthcare, higher education, and other workplaces.

Demographics and Office Factors
There may be compounding factors in understanding the effects and risks of ergonomics. Some of those include (but are not limited to): age, nationality, office culture, type of work performed, gender, where people work (cubicle, open area, café, hotel, etc.), how they work (standing, sitting), and time of exposures. These are important factors to consider in the design of research.

OERC 2019 Research Topics: 

The OERC has created the following list of Research Priorities for 2019. In each of the priorities, we are interested in understanding the “ergonomic effects” on productivity and/or behavior for each topic and practical recommendations for applying the research findings. The term effects can encompass both positive and negative effects (benefits/risks).

NOTE: The research priorities are presented in random order.  Position on the list does not indicate importance, and all topics should be considered as of equal interest to OERC.

  • What are the ergonomic effects of the latest input technologies or interactive input methods such as gestures, eye-tracking, voice and multi-modal input on performance, comfort, and usability? How can users be assisted in choosing appropriate input devices for the tasks performed, and how can the user interface be adjusted appropriately for the selected input method?
  • How does new and changing technologies, such as mobile computing, Internet of Things (IoT), affect the ergonomic risks or effects in the office environment? What are the effects on the physical environment factors, including lighting, and noise requirements, and the associated health, comfort, and well-being issues?
  • What are the ergonomic effects, e.g. physical or cognitive, associated with AR/VR devices, especially headsets and controllers? Comfort of headsets and potential effects on circadian rhythms or effects on the eye are of particular interest.
  • What are the ergonomic effects of new display technologies (such as high resolution, curved, high dynamic range, 3D, projective, higher refresh rates and blue light filters) or the use of multiple displays and or very large displays on user performance, comfort and health outcomes?
  • Are there clinically significant recommendations for the general workforce regarding sit/stand in terms of movement patterns, frequency and duration of sitting vs. standing, and number of transitions from sit to stand? What are the possible limits to the frequency or duration of sitting or standing? How can these movement patterns be incorporated into healthy computing habits? Are there different ergonomic effects of stand-biased, platform, height adjustable tables, etc. for sit/stand work?
  • What are the ergonomic effects associated with the workplace design, open vs. closed lay-out, on intended or unintended interruptions, acoustical/noise issues, use of unassigned workspaces, including physical accommodation of diverse users in drop-in spaces and soft seating designs, to enhance individual and group engagement and performance? How does the workplace design support and integrate new technologies? Field studies with mid to long-term exposure measures are of particular interest.
  • How do individuals’ expectations, cultural and generational differences, type of work task, location of where one works (remotely and virtually) affect the various physical, cognitive and organizational ergonomic issues in the workplace? How does the design of the workplace affect performance, effectiveness, and profitability to create a healthy organization?
  • What intervention strategies, for example, in-the-moment-learning, practicing the learned behaviors, etc., are most effective at motivating and sustaining ergonomic behavioral changes in the workplace? Are there principles that might apply to software and associated wearables (which is more easily measured) that could apply more generally to any intervention?
  • Does training in efficient use of software, deeper understanding of functionality, use of macros, hotkeys, shortcut keys, voice recognition, and other efficiency tools have the potential to significantly reduce risk of injury by reducing exposure, and to increase productivity by allowing users to do more in a fixed period of time?
  • What are the ergonomics effects of artificial intelligent (AI) assistants or machine learning (ML) algorithms on musculoskeletal exposures and what new challenges do they pose? How can data analytics or telemetry from these AI or ML tools be used across user populations to positively impact organizational decision making to reduce physical exposures and increase productivity?