Consulting with a member company on the use of tablet PCs for the provision of customer advice

Project No. IFA 1128


completed 05/2017


Employees were to be equipped with digital work equipment in the form of tablet PCs to support them in their functions of providing customer advice and performing day-to-day administrative work in several branches of a company.

The BG Verkehr was tasked with assessing the work situation on site and identifying measures for organizing work so as to be healthy, and with production of a risk assessment for the changed working situation. Practical implementation was performed by the IFA. The project was supported from the proof of concept (POC) status in 2016 to the roll-out in all branches across Germany in 2018. Technical developments can also be expected to result in tablet PCs increasingly being used in other companies. The results of the project can therefore be widely exploited for prevention activity.


The project was implemented by a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, followed by integrative analysis of the data (triangulation) enabling the subject under evaluation to be considered from multiple perspectives. For the first phase, field observations were planned in three branches in which the tablet PCs were already in use. The employees were observed during their use of the tablet PCs in their daily work. The individual work steps were documented in order to permit analysis of the work process. This included determining how frequently and how long the tablet PC was used, and for the performance of what task.

Context scenarios were also generated to provide an understanding of the workers' requirements and needs, and to show how their environment influences their interaction with the tablet PCs. Semi-structured interviews with three to five workers were conducted in the shops for this purpose. Based upon the results, hypotheses were formulated that were studied by means of quantitative surveys (online and paper questionnaires). The survey of the employees had the purpose of clarifying the findings and critical usage situations identified from the field observations, context interviews and usability test. The survey was divided for this purpose into the three generic topics of ergonomics, technology, and interaction with the tablet PC. (Not all questions can be assigned unequivocally to a particular generic topic.) All questions included the option of providing more detailed information by means of a comment.

Approximately 60 employees from the shops in which the tablet PCs were used were invited to take part. All employees taking part in the POC were invited to take part in the online survey. A total of 32 employees took part in the survey over a period of one month (22 February – 22 March 2017).


Regarding the results of the employee survey: An overwhelming majority of the individuals surveyed commented favourably upon the display size, the display properties and the facility for input by finger and stylus. A large proportion of the individuals surveyed did not consider themselves excessively stressed overall by the weight of the tablet PC. Responses to questions regarding wrist angle and body posture during input on the tablet PC tended to vary. By contrast, a majority of respondents were critical of the available working and storage spaces.

The employees' responses regarding system crashes of the tablet software, the battery life of the tablet and the smoothness of the print process were neutral. It is noteworthy that only 50% of those surveyed were provided with a substitute device in the event of failure of the tablet PC or a dead battery. These problems were raised during discussions with the employees and organizers of the project, and were corrected or improved to a large degree whilst the field observations were still in progress.

Around half of all individuals surveyed stated that the tablet PC enables advice to be provided more effectively and efficiently than with pencil and paper. The high mobility and flexibility permitted by the tablet PC were praised in the comments; technical constraints, such as poor system interfacing between tablet and desktop PCs, were however criticized. Over 60% of the individuals surveyed found the software easy to use, and close to 60% felt more confident in discussions with customers when using the tablet PC. The employees stated that the majority of customers respond favourably to the use of the tablet PC in the provision of advice. However, fewer than half of the employees prefer to use the tablet PC rather than pencil and paper, and close to 22% have no clear preference.

Based upon the results, the following recommendations were formulated for further necessary studies and proposals for optimization. Tablet PC: procurement of tablet PCs with anti-glare displays (fitted with display film) and higher luminance (400 cd/m² and higher). Additional hardware: provision of an external keyboard/use of a docking station/input stylus for reduction of input by finger, which is less ergonomic. Ergonomics: expansion of the workers' work spaces and the storage spaces for the tablet PCs. Software ergonomics: continual evaluation and further development of an ergonomic software application. Worker training: provision of specific instruction to the workers by scenario-based training courses/use of multipliers. The results of the studies form the basis for risk assessment of work involving tablet PCs in the individual branches.

Last Update:

8 Oct 2018


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • Berufsgenossenschaft für Transport und Verkehrswirtschaft (BG Verkehr)


Type of hazard:

design of work and technology


risk assessment, man-machine interface

Description, key words:

digitization, mobile work