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"We need to change the way we work and sit!"

Wichtigkeit von Ergonomie am Arbeitsplatz

Three questions for health expert Mark Krichels

Health management is a major topic that now plays an increasingly important role in corporate life. Staff fitness courses, superfood in the cafeteria and ergonomic workplaces: companies looking to enhance their status as attractive employers are investing in the well-being and physical condition of their teams. And the office furniture is a decisive factor in preventing the spread of back pain or headaches. Does it really always suit the person using it to work? We met with health expert Mark Krichels from KKM Corporate Health, who advises companies on these issues.

Question: Why is workplace ergonomics such an important topic?

Answer: Most people in the western world spend over half their time sitting or lying down, which is not a salubrious state of affairs, as we all know. A significant number of employees sit in front of their computers the whole day at work – and this fact is unlikely to change in the near future. Most of us will continue to have desk jobs.

But we can certainly change the way in which we sit and work! That's why an ergonomic workplace needs to prevent strain that people experience due to monotonous, rigid movements and infrequent changes in position.

Question: What can the employer do to create a good environment?

Answer: First of all it is essential to realise that each employee is an individual with a unique physique. They can be big or small, have long upper bodies, good eyesight or bad ... So the idea of a standardised workplace is misleading from the start. They need to be adapted to suit the individual employees, just like in a car. Nobody would ever climb behind the wheel and set off without adjusting the seat and the mirrors. That's why there needs to be a willingness to invest in ergonomics, also in the 'hardware' like furniture and lighting.

Question: What does that mean specifically for desks?

Answer: Many people believe that a good chair is enough. Of course it's important, no doubt. But it needs to be paired with an ergonomic desk. It all comes down to flexibility, as the height of the tabletop must match the height of the chair – and that depends on who is using it. Desks are at an ideal height when their users can rest their forearms on the surface at a right angle to their straight back. There should be a hand's breadth space between the upper thighs and the lower edge of the table. Users should be able to move their legs or stretch them out below the desk. A footrest can be sensible in some cases.

The position and above all the height of the monitor at screen workplaces – which most of them are – is particularly important, of course. The ideal visual axis is slanted slighted downward, so the upper edge of the monitor should be just a shade below the height of the eyes; it should also be possible to tilt the screen forwards or backwards.

Mark Krichels is managing partner at KKM Corporate Health in Würselen. He and his partners advise companies on issues of health management by preparing tailored concepts and implementing strategies to preserve and improve the health of employees.

You can find more about the topic here.