Ergonomics in the workplace – this is what you need to focus on

The days when the term office ergonomics was just a buzz phrase are long gone. Almost everyone knows that ergonomics is important when working at the computer. But what does that mean in real terms? Below you will find a compilation of the most important information towards working ergonomically.

The term ergonomics is Greek in origin (ergon = work, nomos = law). Ergonomics refers to the process of designing and adjusting working conditions and requirements to the needs and abilities of those carrying out the work. In German-speaking countries, when talking about the relationship between individuals and work, one refers to the load-strain concept. The load refers to external factors that have an effect on people when carrying out their work. For everyone in the same situation, the load is the same. The strain, in contrast, is defined by the load in the context of individual abilities. Accordingly, in the office situation the same load or stress will affect people differently depending on their individual disposition.

Up to 2,000 hours a year spent sitting

Working daily at a desk and, in particular, the long hours spent sitting down put strain on our health. Pain in the musculoskeletal system is widespread among the working population.Among the most frequent physical complaints experienced by the working population is back pain – this includes office workers. It is not surprising – with office work, it is the same small movements day after day that put strain on the body. Cramping, neck and shoulder pain can also be the result of this long-term physical strain. By getting up, moving around as well as sitting up straight and relaxed, these complaints can be avoided. In order for us to take care of our bodies while at work, working conditions need to be designed according to ergonomic principles. Article 23 of Regulation 3 of the Labour Act states that employers must design and set up work stations and working equipment taking ergonomic factors into consideration. This does not necessarily mean acquiring new and expensive furniture. In order to improve the ergonomics of work stations, setting up and using existing furniture correctly will often suffice.

The office chair – sitting has to be learned

The purpose of an office chair is to provide stable support that allows the person sitting a posture that is comfortable over longer periods of time. And corresponds to the sitter’s physiological needs. Everyone is built differently and has different needs of his or her work station. So take note of the following tips in your daily work when sitting at your desk.

1/ Chair height:

Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor. Your legs should be bent at an angle of at least 90°.

2/ Seat:

The seat should be adjusted so that your back presses lightly against the chair back. There should be, however, a small gap between the seat and the backs of your knees – the width of around two fingers.

3 / Chair back:

The chair back should be adjusted so that you can lean back without exerting any strength. It should, however, provide enough resistance so that the curve provides support in the small of the back when sitting upright.

4/ Lumbar support:

Your office chair has a curved chair back. Adjust the height of your chair back so that the curve is at the small of your back. This encourages good posture. Some models allow you to adjust the height of the back support without changing the height of the chair back.

5/ Armrests:

Sit upright in your chair and adjust the armrests so that your elbows rest lightly on the armrests without having to raise the shoulders. Armrests are not absolutely necessary.

6/ Table height:

When you are sitting upright in your chair, the table height should be adjusted so that you can rest your elbows on the table without raising your shoulders.

ErgoCheck: For the sake of your back – check your work station

Is your office chair correctly adjusted? Is your table at the right height?  

The free ErgoCheck app will show you step by step how to optimise your computer work station and do your health a good turn.

Computer work station – not everything has become easier thanks to the computer

7/ Monitor:

Place your monitor directly in front of you so that you do not need to turn your head sideways. The height should be set so that the top of the screen is a hand’s width below the level of your eyes. The distance between your eyes and the screen should be at least an arm’s length, a little more if you have a large screen. Do not bring the monitor closer if you cannot see text clearly. Instead, increase the type size in your programme.

8/ Documents:

Take care to place documents between the keyboard and the monitor and not between the table edge and the keyboard. If possible, the keyboard, document and monitor should be aligned.

9/ Keyboard and mouse:

The keyboard should be directly in front of you. The distance to the table edge should be between 10 and 15 cm so that you can rest the heels of your hands on the table. Place your mouse as close as possible to the keyboard.

Krieger R und Graf M: Europäische Erhebung über die Arbeitsbedingungen: Ausgewählte Ergebnisse aus Schweizer Perspektive.


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