Gone are the days where Display Workstation Assessments (DSE) are carried out generically.

As more emphasis is made on workplace wellbeing and the different ways in which people are working in today’s offices, how should employers adapt an individual’s office space to maintain their wellbeing and aid productivity?

At Rapport, when relocating staff or redesigning a current workspace, we take staff wellbeing seriously by incorporating human-centered design and often carry out a workspace analysis with our Workspace Analyst Lily Bernheimer. This can mean organising employee workshops at the beginning of the process, ensuring desk space is safe to work in at the end of a project or office fit-out.

However, a DSE assessment must be carried out if you have more than five office-based employees who habitually use desktop equipment at least once a year or every six months regardless of new office space, especially if an individual is moving around or hot desking frequently.

The General Health and Safety Legislation requires employers to provide a safe place of work, taking into consideration equipment being used, systems of work and to ensure workplace wellbeing is being adhered to.

With display screen technology, such as PC’s, laptops, smartphones and tablets all now commonplace in not only our personal lives but our working lives, our exposure to these devices continues to increase. With reported levels of up to 9 hours per day spent consuming media on some form of display screen device.

While the musculoskeletal (MSD) risks through display screen devices are relatively low, the increased exposure does mean that the effects of preventable risks such as poor or fixed postures can accumulate and lead to issues. In most recent HSE statistics on MSDs show a 20% increase (2013/14) with around 80% of new work-related illnesses attributable to work conditions.

We recently interviewed the General Manager of The New York Times about her office move and touched on how the organisation manages the wellbeing of their employees,and how an individual’s personal needs and stature means today’s DSE assessments are no longer a ‘one size fits all’ exercise.

We hope you find this information useful in your own organisation.


Have the traditional ways of working in an office changed over the years?

Yes, absolutely. Sitting at a desk all day isn’t the norm these days or healthy for staff. Employees must be encouraged to stay active in the office and take regular breaks.

There is also better technology and furniture so we’ve seen a real shift in the traditional seated office and people now adopt a mixture of sitting and standing module desks because it’s better for your posture, and it’s a healthier way of working.


What do HR and facilities teams need to be mindful of when carrying out DSE assessments of an individual’s working space?

You need to look at the individual and how they work each day.

We have employees in the newsroom who stand for an hour then they sit down and work. Intermittent standing and sitting is effective and prevents pressure on the spine, and keeps the circulation going rather than being in one state all day long.


What can HR teams do to ensure employees are taking regular breaks?

Sitting your tea and kitchen areas quite close by can help people with that natural process of stepping away from their desks. If they have to walk a long way or to another floor people will just sit all day.

Our employees have easily accessible tea points and kitchenettes in close proximity to their working area. Staff are then naturally moving about and having regular and necessary breaks naturally.

You must ensure your employees stay active in the office.


Does a person’s height and stature affect a DSE assessment?

Yes, and we’ve had to source specific chairs for some people that are very tall and the seat pan of a chair has to be sufficient enough for people with larger frames in relation to your back and your knee position.

Equally, the back and headrest should support someone’s height or frame. We supply additional risers to raise the height of the desk to accommodate tall people, and also desk risers to raise the monitor screen for people, to ensure their screens meet their eye line. You’ve got to adapt to people’s different shapes and sizes. It’s about having flexible furniture.

If you’re relocating your staff to new offices, and not taking over current furniture then consult with your staff prior to ordering furniture. Make sure their wellbeing is being adhered to, especially if they have needs outside of an average worker.

We personally brought chairs in for people to try before our move last April. We were looking at two chairs and asked our staff which they preferred. We then went with the majority and purchased specific ergonomic chairs for people who needed them.

The only problem with personalised chairs is if the staff member is only with you on a short-term basis. You hope that someone else will take that specific chair to use, and that someone may then be able to release a more standard chair to someone else.


Briony Everett, Furniture Consultant from Sagal Group:

“We know that ergonomics is of paramount importance when it comes to office furniture and work wellbeing in the office.

We are seeing a big trend towards flexible furniture within office design and work closely with Rapport and other partners by selecting furniture from our portfolio that is fully adjustable to a user’s specific requirements.

We encourage all of our clients to test our furniture to ensure their utmost comfort and productivity during an office fit-out or upgrading furniture after a DSE workstation assessment with the end user in mind.”


As flexible working and hot desking become more popular, what would your advice be to people when working from home?

You give them relevant forms to do a workspace assessment and supply them with best practice guidelines for good working posture. But, it really boils down to common sense in reality and recreating what you have in an office within your home environment.

If you’re working independently or freelancing at home, then think about your time previously in an office environment.  Adapt what you have at home to what you would use in an office based on that knowledge.

Have a desk if you can and make sure your chair is supportive. You should be sitting upright. This may mean investing in risers for your PC or laptop, a suitable office chair and cushions.


Your DSE questions answered

Is a DSE the same as a VDU?

Yes. A DSE is sometimes referred to as Visual Display Units (VDU) or Computer Workstations and includes laptops, touch-screens and other similar devices that incorporate a display screen.

What items does a DSE assessment include?

Any item of computer-related equipment including the computer, display, keyboard, mouse, desk and chair can be considered part of the DSE workstation.

What does a DSE assessment form consist of?

A checklist can be used by employers to comply with the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. It lists risk factors in six areas, with ‘yes’/’no’ tick boxes: keyboards, mouse and trackball, display screens, software, furniture and work environment. It lists issues to consider and gives space to record planned action.

If your organisation doesn’t have a copy you can download an HSE copy here – HSE DSE Assessment Form


You can speak with Rapport on; 01252 712590 or email us for advice on utilising your current space, an office move,  design or fit-out at; info@rapport-solutions.org.uk

To view our portfolio of work click here.


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