Working while sitting or standing: Ergonomics in the workplace: How to prevent physical complaints

According to a current DAK sickness 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 here compared to the previous year.

Working while sitting or standing: Ergonomics in the workplace: How to prevent physical complaints

According to a current DAK sickness 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 here compared to the previous year. The work-related suffering is often promoted by poor or even non-existent ergonomics in the workplace. This is particularly true in administrative jobs - around 35 percent of employees complain of back pain and more than 50 percent of neck problems. And these are by no means all the complaints that are caused 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 employees are satisfied with their desk, even if it does not meet all the criteria necessary for a healthy workplace. What most people don't know: There are special guidelines for ergonomics in the workplace that every employer must adhere to - from a purely legal perspective. These include, among others, the Ordinance on Workplaces and the Occupational Safety and Health Act: Through preventive occupational safety, work-related stress is intended to be minimized as far as possible in order to increase the well-being, motivation and, as a result, the performance of employees in the long term.

Since it's proven to be better to spend only two-thirds of your workday sitting and a third of it standing, height-adjustable desks or desk attachments are the best choice. They enable employees to work both sitting and standing - according to their own preference. 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 set 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 if your forearms rest horizontally on the desk and you have enough legroom under the desk so that you can also accommodate a footrest if necessary. This is mainly used if 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, your family doctor will give you a prescription for the height-adjustable desk, which you simply have to submit to your employer.

The office chair is at least as important for ergonomics in the workplace. Even if it is not cheap to purchase, it still costs the employer less than a single day of sick leave. So that you can 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 can be adjusted to your weight. The armrests are ideally adjustable in height and the seat in depth. An additional tilt option for the seat is also recommended.

If the chair meets all of these factors, adjust it so that your upper and lower legs form a right angle, as do your upper and forearms. 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 upwards. An additional footrest can be of great use here if you have the feeling that you cannot implement the settings mentioned. The best way to make sure you've done everything correctly is to get a colleague to check your posture.

According to the VDU Work 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 computer workstations to ensure that its employees are not at risk in terms of their safety and health protection. The demands on the eyes as well as possible physical and psychological stress must always be taken into account in the assessment. You can read about the guidelines that must be adhered to in detail here.

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 position the screen parallel to the keyboard and your shoulder axis. In addition, the upper part should be tilted slightly backwards - the top edge of the monitor, however, must be a little below eye level. The fact is: working on a screen is more relaxing for the eyes when the visual axis is tilted slightly downwards.

Light also plays a crucial role in ergonomics in 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 should 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 expensive, but every employer (and employee) should be aware that it comes with many benefits:

Every ergonomic measure is a preventative action. In other words: If the workplace is set up in such a way that typical occupational illnesses are prevented, the number of days absent by employees will decrease. In addition, the risk of accidents is also 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 complaints are alleviated and well-being at the desk is increased. And that in turn ensures that further suffering is reduced.

Especially if employees already have previous illnesses, it is absolutely necessary 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 that they will be retained by a company for a long time. Especially if the workplaces are designed in such a way that they are ergonomically correct even as people get older. The positive association with their office means your employees will feel comfortable for many years to come.

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