Working while sitting or standing: Ergonomics at the workplace: How to prevent physical discomfort

According to a current DAK sickness rate analysis complaints of the musculoskeletal system such as back pain are still at the top of all types of illness: the health insurance company recorded an increase in this area compared to the previous year.

Working while sitting or standing: Ergonomics at the workplace: How to prevent physical discomfort

According to a current DAK sickness rate analysis complaints of the musculoskeletal system such as back pain are still at the top of all types of illness: the health insurance company recorded an increase in this area compared to the previous year. The often work-related suffering is promoted by poor or even non-existent ergonomics at the workplace. This is particularly true in administrative jobs - around 35 percent of employees complain about back pain, more than 50 percent about problems with the neck. And these are by no means all the complaints that are promoted by sitting incorrectly at a desk. In addition to those already mentioned, the most common symptoms include: problems with the shoulder or wrist as well as headaches and tension pain. Does the question arise as to how the workplace should look ergonomically correct so that you can prevent (further) work-related illnesses?

Many workers are satisfied with their desk, even if it doesn't meet all the criteria necessary for a healthy workplace. What most people don't know is that there are special guidelines for ergonomics in the workplace that every employer – from a purely legal point of view – must comply with. These include the Ordinance on Workplaces and the Occupational Health and Safety Act: Preventive occupational safety is intended to minimize work-related stress as far as possible in order to increase the well-being, motivation and associated performance of employees in the long term.

As it has been proven that it is better to spend only two-thirds of the working day sitting and one-third of that standing, height-adjustable desks are the best choice. They enable the employee to work both sitting and standing - according to their own taste. This not only relieves the spine, but also the intervertebral discs. And these are both important factors for a healthy back. Ideally, the desk is adjusted so that it is between 66 and 71 centimeters high measured from the floor, which is at least the optimal working height.

Furthermore, the desk should be at least 80 centimeters deep and 160 centimeters wide. However, the height and size of the surface are not the only criteria for an ergonomic workplace: the distance between the seat and the table is also important - it should not be more than 18 to 30 centimeters. You are sitting correctly when your forearms are horizontal on the desk and you have enough legroom under the worktop so that you can also accommodate a footrest if necessary. This is mainly used when the desk is not height-adjustable or is still too high even at the lowest level.

Another tip: If you already suffer from back problems, you can get a prescription for the height-adjustable desk from your family doctor, which you simply have to submit to your employer.

The office chair is at least as important for ergonomics at the workplace. Even if it is not cheap to buy, it still costs the employer less than a single sick day. In order for you to be able to adjust it optimally to your needs, it must meet the following criteria: It should be height-adjustable and have a flexible or tiltable backrest that you can adjust to your weight. Ideally, the armrests can also be adjusted in height and the seat in depth. An additional inclination option for the seat is also recommended.

If the chair meets all of these factors, adjust it so that your thighs and lower legs form a right angle, as do your upper and lower arms. The height must be adjusted so that the soles of your feet touch the entire floor and your forearms rest on the desk so that your shoulders are not pushed up. An additional footrest can be of great use here if you have the feeling that you cannot implement the settings mentioned in the form. The best way to make sure you've done everything right is to have a colleague check your posture.

According to the VDU Ordinance, the employer is obliged to carry out a risk assessment. In plain language, this means: In every company, care must be taken at all VDU workstations to ensure that its employees are not endangered in terms of their safety and health protection. The assessment must therefore always include the demands on the eyes as well as possible physical and mental stress. You can read here which guidelines must be observed in detail.

When buying a new monitor, you should definitely make sure that it is flicker-free, has good contrast values, is at least 22 inches in size and has a high-resolution LCD display. Then set up the screen parallel to the keyboard and your own shoulder axis. In addition, the upper part should be slightly tilted backwards - the top edge of the monitor, on the other hand, must be a little below eye level. Because the fact is: working on the screen is more relaxed for the eyes when the visual axis is tilted slightly downwards.

Light also plays a decisive role in ergonomics at the workplace: the ideal lighting consists of a mixture of direct and indirect light, daylight and artificial light (e.g. a desk lamp) - in the best case, the artificial light sources can also be individually adjusted. As for the desk, the light should fall on it from the side and not be brighter than natural daylight. For this reason, the workplace must also be set up parallel to the window. This is the only way to achieve ideal lighting conditions.

An ergonomic workplace may be associated with high costs, but every employer (and employee) should be aware that there are many advantages associated with it:

Every ergonomic measure is a preventive action. In other words: If the workplace is set up in such a way that typical occupational diseases are prevented, the number of days absent from employees decreases. In addition, the risk of accidents is minimized. In both cases you save costs.

Many employees already suffer from chronic back or neck pain. Here, too, an ergonomic workplace can ensure that the complaints are alleviated and that well-being at the desk is increased. And that, in turn, reduces further suffering.

Especially when employees are already known to have previous illnesses, it is imperative to design the workplace ergonomically. On the one hand you give your employees a feeling of appreciation, on the other hand you increase the productivity of your employees.

If employees feel that they are taken seriously, there is a very good chance of retaining them in a company for a long time. Especially when the workplaces are designed in such a way that they are ergonomically correct even with increasing age. Because of the positive association with their office, your employees will feel comfortable for many years.

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