Typing performance and body discomfort among overweight and obese office workers: A pilot study of keyboard modification

Matthew Lee Smith, Adam W. Pickens, Sang Nam Ahn, Marcia G. Ory, David M. DeJoy, Kristi Young, Gary Bishop, Jerome J. Congleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Obesity in the workplace is associated with loss of productivity, high medical care expenses, and increased rates of work-related injuries and illness. Thus, effective, low-cost interventions are needed to accommodate the size of today's obese office worker while alleviating potential physical harm associated with musculoskeletal disorders. Utilizing a sample of 22 overweight and obese office workers, this pilot study assessed the impact of introducing an alternative, more ergonomically-sound keyboard on perceptions about design, acceptability, and usability; self-reported body discomfort; and typing productivity. Data were collected using self-reported questionnaires and objective typing tests administered before and after the intervention. The intervention duration was six weeks. After switching from their standard work keyboard to an alternative keyboard, all participants reported significant decreases in lower back discomfort (t=2.14, P=0.044); although obese participants reported significant decreases in both upper (t=2.46, P=0.032) and lower (t=2.39, P=0.036) back discomfort. No significant changes were observed in overall typing performance scores from baseline to follow-up. Findings suggest that such interventions may be introduced into the workforce with positive gains for workers without reducing short-term worker productivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-37
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Issue numberPart A
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Body discomfort
  • Keyboard ergonomics
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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