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Ergonomics at the workplace
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Ergonomics at the workplace

Working in a seated position and little movement can have long-term negative effects on employees' performance. An ergonomic workplace promotes health and increases productivity. In our guide, you can find out everything you need to know about ergonomics and ergonomic workplace design.

What does ergonomics mean?

Ergonomics is made up of the Greek terms ergon (German for "work") and nomos (German for "law" or "rule") and can be understood as the study of the interaction between people and work.

Ergonomics is about adapting working conditions to people (and not the other way around) so that work can be carried out in the best possible way. The best possible means to achieve the best possible result without having a negative impact on people.

What does ergonomics mean in the workplace? And why is it important?

An ergonomic workplace is therefore about designing the workplace in such a way that it is optimally adapted to the worker so that they can achieve the best possible performance. This should always be done while safeguarding mental and physical health. Ergonomics therefore plays a key role in preventative occupational health and safety.

What is the workplace?

In principle, the workplace is the place where employees perform their duties in accordance with their employment contract. This can be on the employer's premises, but it can also be a home office workplace. When we talk about the workplace, we can mean the computer workstation in the office, the assembly line in the factory or the kitchen in the restaurant.

Why is ergonomics in the workplace so important?

An ergonomically designed working environment has a direct and indirect positive impact on employee performance. By avoiding negative influences on employees' health, the working atmosphere improves and the number of illnesses is reduced.
At the same time, an ergonomic arrangement of tools and aids directly increases performance by enabling tasks to be carried out more efficiently.
As a result, an ergonomic workplace has advantages for both employees and employers.

Legal regulations on ergonomics in the workplace?

The findings of ergonomics should also be applied in practice. However, as ergonomic workplace design has long been neglected by employers, various laws and regulations now govern the requirements for ergonomic workplaces.

The most important laws, regulations and directives are

  • Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV)
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act (ArbSchG)
  • Display Screen Equipment Ordinance (BildscharbV)
  • DIN EN ISO 9241
  • DIN EN ISO 10075
In addition to specific requirements for the design of ergonomic workplaces, it defines in particular the obligation for employers to ensure an ergonomic workplace for all employees and to "strive to improve the safety and health protection of employees".

What does an ergonomic VDU workstation look like?

Ergonomics at VDU workstations must meet several requirements. An ergonomic VDU workstation offers:

  • Ergonomic, individually adjustable office furniture for an optimal working position
  • Sufficient space for movement
  • Appropriate arrangement of tools and equipment
  • Suitable equipment to counteract environmental factors that affect people and their performance

Ergonomic office furniture

Why do we need ergonomic office furniture? Quite simply, they offer the possibility of being individually adapted to the respective body dimensions in order to enable optimum posture. The following points are therefore important:

  • Height-adjustable office chair
  • Height-adjustable table
  • Easily accessible organization systems
When it comes to the ergonomics of office furniture, the correct adjustment and positioning is important. We explain below how to set up an ergonomic workstation.

Office chairs

Anyone who wants to focus on their work for several hours will appreciate a comfortable office chair. An ergonomic office chair promotes upright sitting and thus strengthens the back muscles, improves breathing and prevents back pain, which can otherwise lead to persistent pain and sick leave for employees. 

Adjustment of our Caro desk chair

To enable ergonomic sitting, the following criteria should be taken into account when choosing the right desk chair:

  • Height: The height of an ergonomic office chair must be adjustable and lockable. The ideal seat height always depends on the height of the person. However, the office chair should be adjusted so that the legs are bent slightly more than 90 degrees while sitting with both feet firmly on the floor.
  • Seat: A large seat is not only comfortable but also important to ensure blood circulation in the legs. Make sure that the seat is deep enough to reach the back of the knees when sitting and that there is not too much pressure on the underside of the thighs.
  • Backrest: Ideally, the backrest should not adjoin the seat, but should even have a free area between the backrest and the seat. This additionally encourages upright sitting.
  • Locking the backrest: Even if locking the backrest is comfortable and you can lean against it, this is not a necessary feature from an ergonomic perspective. The locking mechanism encourages you to lean back and relieve the strain on your back muscles. This in turn leads to incorrect strain on the spine and can lead to back pain in the long term.
  • Armrest: The armrests should be adjustable in height and width so that they can be used as an extended armrest to the desk when working. In addition to height and width, modern office chairs allow a third dimension to be adjusted. With 3D armrests, the lateral angle of the armrests can also be adjusted. This extends and supports the area of the forearms behind the table top. Soft PU armrests are also a nice add-on.
  • Lumbar support: When sitting for long periods, the back muscles can become tired and slump as a result. A lumbar support supports the lordosis (the natural curvature of the spine) and thus promotes a relaxed sitting posture.

Office desks

The office desk is the center of the workplace. As with the choice of the right office chair, there are also a few things to consider with office desks:

  • Work surface: In addition to the required work equipment such as laptop, screen, keyboard and mouse, there must be space for frequently used work equipment. In order to have enough space to place your arms, we recommend that the desk is at least 80 cm deep and 160 cm wide.
  • Desk height: A simple rule says that the arms at the desk should be at an angle of between 90 and 110 degrees to enable a comfortable sitting posture. The work surface should therefore be 18 - 30 cm above the seat. At the same time, the desk should be chosen so that there is enough room for the legs to move. This ensures that incorrect posture and tense posture do not occur.

"Sitting is the new smoking" - As long-term sitting can have a negative impact on health, you should regularly switch between sitting and standing positions. Electrically or mechanically height-adjustable desks are ideal for this. They can be raised and lowered to a height of between 68 and 120 cm, depending on your height.

Height-adjustable desks are also ideal for normal staff changes, which occur frequently, as well as for flexible desk-sharing workstations that are used by different employees. Every workstation, including screen and office chair, therefore fits every body size. This eliminates the hassle of replacing office furniture or the need to buy new office furniture.

Storage systems and cabinets

Once the desk and office chair have been set up, storage and management systems follow. Sufficient storage space at the workstation means that all items that restrict freedom of movement can be stowed away.
In general, all important and regularly required compartments and organization systems should be easily and quickly accessible from the workstation. Intelligently placed shelves at the desk make all the required work equipment easily and quickly available.
Office cabinets create additional storage space for all other items. From an ergonomic point of view, these cabinets can be placed on the opposite side of the workstation. This encourages regular movement during working hours.

Sufficient space for movement

Occupational health and safety regulations stipulate a minimum area per workstation. This must be at least 1.5 m². In addition, a depth and width of at least 1.2 m must be available. This ensures that employees have easy access to all work equipment at all times, can change their posture while working and can make compensatory movements to avoid a monotonous working posture.
Find out more about the requirements for office and movement areas.

Arrangement of work equipment

The appropriate positioning of tools and aids supports an ergonomic posture and efficient work.

The monitor is an essential part of a VDU workstation. To avoid tension, it should be positioned straight and at a distance of 50 - 70 cm in front of the user. The upper edge of the screen should be approximately at eye level and the lower edge of the screen should be visible at an angle of 35°.

Keyboard, mouse and other input devices should be positioned at a distance of 10 - 15 cm from the front edge of the desk to ensure a comfortable posture. Frequently used work equipment should be positioned as centrally as possible in the field of vision and reach.

Counteracting environmental factors

Environmental factors are external influences that affect people and influence their performance. At a VDU workstation, these include, for example

  • Lighting
  • Noise
  • Indoor climate

To counteract these environmental factors, a general ergonomic room design is required, supplemented by specific measures at the computer workstation.

Ergonomic lighting

Lighting conditions are also one of the legally regulated requirements for an ergonomically designed workplace. Ergonomic lighting has numerous positive effects, but these are often underestimated.

Ergonomically optimized lighting leads to, for example:

  • Better concentration and focused work
  • Increased well-being
  • Promoting health
  • Increase in productivity
Ergonomic lighting starts with sufficient daylight through the windows. This is supported by indirect ceiling or wall lighting. A table lamp at the desk provides direct lighting.

Daylight lamps can be used as a substitute, especially in winter or in workplaces with little daylight. As the name suggests, these are lights whose light color is very similar to natural daylight. High-quality models have a broad light spectrum. This allows light to be emitted in different colors depending on the time of day. We recommend colder light for the morning and warmer light for the evening. This is because: while constant cold light exhausts you, constant warm light makes you unfocused.

You can find out more about the lighting requirements in our guide article.

Noise protection at the workplace

Noise is one of the most frequently mentioned disruptive factors at work, which can also have consequences for mental health in particular. Particularly in open-plan offices, which have been popular for a long time, a background noise quickly develops that makes focused work almost impossible.

For this reason, appropriate precautions should be taken at every workplace and technical measures implemented to ensure effective noise reduction. Sound-absorbing partitions and desk partitions are an effective way of reducing noise by absorbing sound waves. If noise reduction is not sufficient, headphones with active noise canceling can provide additional protection.

What are the requirements for noise levels in the office? And what measures are there for better noise protection?

Indoor climate

Room temperature, humidity, air movement and heat radiation can have a major impact on performance. The optimum temperature is 20 - 22 degrees Celsius, but should not exceed 26 degrees. Above a temperature of 30 degrees, the employer must take suitable cooling measures, such as providing fans or cold drinks. Above a temperature of 35 degrees, the place is no longer suitable for working.
To guarantee sufficient humidity, the room should be aired regularly. To do this, the windows should be opened to provide fresh air. Excessive heat radiation should be avoided. Sun protection must be installed in direct sunlight

Even though companies are becoming more and more aware of health protection and ergonomics in the workplace, we have noticed that many companies are still not paying enough attention to the topic. Yet it is in the interest of every company to promote the topic in its own offices and production facilities, as an ergonomic workplace ultimately leads to higher productivity and is therefore beneficial - for both employees and employers.

Lendis is the expert for professional workspaces. We help companies to provide their employees with the best possible working environment. With our ergonomic office equipment, you can equip your colleagues with everything they need for a modern workplace and maximum performance.

Our experts will be happy to advise you on ergonomic equipment for your workstations.