Ergonomics at the workplace
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Ergonomics at the workplace

Working in a seated position with little movement can have long-term negative effects on the performance of employees. An ergonomic workplace promotes health and increases productivity. In our guidebook 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 interrelationship between people and work.

Ergonomics is about adapting working conditions to people (and not vice versa) so that work can be done in the best possible way. Best possible here means, to achieve the best 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 best adapted to the worker and that he or she can achieve the best possible performance. This should always be done while preserving mental and physical health. Thus, ergonomics is of essential importance for preventive occupational health and safety.

What is the workplace?

In principle, the workplace is the place where employees perform their duties according to their employment contract. This can be on the employer's premises, but it can also be a home office. The term workplace can refer to the computer workstation in the office, the assembly line in the factory or the kitchen in the restaurant.

Why is ergonomics so important in the workplace?

An ergonomically designed working environment has a direct and indirect positive impact on the performance of employees. By avoiding negative influences on the health of employees, the working atmosphere improves and the number of cases of illness is reduced.
At the same time, an ergonomic arrangement of work tools and aids directly ensures an increase in 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, since ergonomic workplace design has long been neglected by employers, different 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 for an improvement in the safety and health protection of employees".

What does an ergonomic VDU workplace look like?

Ergonomics at the VDU workplace must fulfil several requirements. An ergonomic VDU workplace offers:

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

Ergonomic office furniture

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

  • Height adjustable office chair
  • Height adjustable table
  • Easily accessible organiser systems
The correct adjustment and positioning of office furniture is important in terms of ergonomics. How to set up an ergonomic workplace is explained below.

Office chairs

Anyone who wants to work focused 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 desk chair Caro

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

  • Height: An ergonomic office chair must be adjustable and fixable in height. 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 when both feet are firmly on the floor.
  • Seat: A large seat is not only comfortable but also important to ensure 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 stimulates sitting upright.
  • Lockingthe backrest: Even though locking the backrest is comfortable and you can lean against it, it is not a necessary feature from an ergonomic perspective. By locking it, one is tempted to lean and relieve the back muscles. This in turn leads to incorrect loading of 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. Modern office chairs allow adjustments of a third dimension in addition to height and width. With 3D armrests, the lateral angle of the armrests can also be adjusted. This extends and supports the area of the forearms behind the desk top. Soft PU armrests are also a nice add-on.
  • Lordosis support: During long periods of sitting, the back muscles can tire and subsequently slump. 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 centre of the workplace. As with the choice of a suitable office chair, a number of things must also be taken into account when choosing an office desk:

  • Work surface: In addition to the necessary work equipment such as laptop, monitor, keyboard and mouse, there must be space for frequently used work equipment. In order to have enough space to store your arms, we recommend a desk with a minimum depth of 80 cm and a minimum width of 160 cm.
  • Desk height: A simple rule is that the arms at the desk should have an angle between 90 and 110 degrees to enable a comfortable sitting posture. Therefore, the work surface should 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 bad posture and tense posture do not occur.

"Sitting is the new smoking" - Since permanent sitting can have a negative effect on health in the long term, it is advisable to switch regularly 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 - 120 cm, depending on body size.

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 thus fits every body size. This eliminates the hassle of replacing office furniture or the need to buy new office furniture.

Storage systems and cupboards

After the table and office chair are set up, storage and management systems follow. Sufficient storage space at the workplace allows all items that restrict freedom of movement to be stowed away.
In general, all important and regularly needed compartments and organiser systems should be easily and quickly accessible from the workplace. Intelligently placed shelves at the desk make all the necessary work equipment easily and quickly available.
For all other items, office cabinets create additional storage space. From an ergonomic point of view, these cabinets can be placed on an opposite side of the workstation. This encourages regular movement during working hours.

Sufficient space for movement

Occupational health and safety prescribes a minimum area per workplace. 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 during work and can make compensatory movements to avoid a monotonous working posture.
Learn more about the requirements for office space and movement areas.

Arrangement of work equipment

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

The monitor is an essential part of a computer workstation. In order 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 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 placed at a distance of 10 - 15 cm from the front edge of the desk to enable a comfortable posture. Particularly frequently used work equipment is positioned as centrally as possible in the field of vision and reach.

Counteract environmental factors

Environmental factors are influences that affect people from outside and influence their performance. At the VDU workplace, these include, for example

  • Lighting
  • Noise
  • Indoor climate

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

Ergonomic lighting

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

Ergonomically optimised lighting leads to:

  • Better concentration and focused work
  • Increased wellbeing
  • Health promotion
  • Increase productivity
Ergonomic lighting starts with sufficient daylight through the windows. It is supported by indirect ceiling or wall lighting. At the desk, a table lamp provides direct lighting.

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

Read our guidebook article to find out more about the lighting requirements.

Noise protection at the workplace

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

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 dividers are an effective way to reduce noise by absorbing the sound waves. If reducing the background noise is not enough, headphones with active noise cancelling 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 & heat radiation can have a great impact on performance. The optimal temperature is 20 - 22 degrees Celsius, but should not exceed 26 degrees. From a temperature of 30 degrees, the employer must take appropriate cooling measures, such as fans or provide cold drinks. From a temperature of 35 degrees, the place is no longer suitable for work.
To guarantee sufficient humidity, airing should be done regularly. For this purpose, the windows should be opened to supply fresh air. Excessive heat radiation should be avoided. Sun protection must be installed in case of direct sunlight.

Even though the topic of health protection and ergonomics at the workplace is becoming more and more conscious in companies, we notice that many companies still do not pay enough attention to the topic. It is in the interest of every company to promote the topic in their own offices and production areas, as an ergonomic workplace leads to higher productivity on balance and is thus beneficial - for 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 equip your colleagues with everything they need for a modern workplace and maximum performance.

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