The word "ergonomics" plays a big role at work - especially for sedentary jobs and in the office. But what exactly is ergonomics? What is ergonomics good for? And what are the dangers of working without movement? Here are detailed answers to these important questions.
What is ergonomics? Definition
In short, ergonomics is the science of human work, or more precisely, of the interactions between the working environment and human performance. The word ergonomics is composed of the Greek words "ergon" (work) and "nomos" (law, rule). Ergonomics thus stands for "work rules" in the broadest sense. This means that working conditions are adapted to people and not vice versa. Ergonomics serves to create a holistic and good working atmosphere for employees and to design the working conditions in such an optimal way that low health burdens result from the work. After all, people can only perform to their full potential if they feel comfortable.
In order to achieve this goal, the working conditions, the workflow and the arrangement of work equipment (e.g. tools, keyboard, mouse, etc.) must be ergonomically oriented. In other words, the working environment and the equipment are optimised so that tasks can be performed with high quality. An ergonomic design thus contributes to a reduction in sick leave, increased employee satisfaction and an improvement in the quality of work results and thus decisively to the economic success of a company. This brings us to an important fundamental question: for what kind of work does ergonomics make sense at all?
Where does ergonomics make sense?
Ergonomics is particularly useful in industry. The Aeris Muvman Industry For example, it is specially designed for standing activities at production workstations.
Basically, it can be said that ergonomic working conditions make sense everywhere! Originally developed for production workplaces, ergonomic adaptation is also playing an increasingly important role for office workplaces.
For a long time, sedentary jobs were considered less stressful than production jobs. This has changed significantly in the meantime. It has been recognised that long periods of sitting also cause great damage to health. It is not for nothing that muscular and skeletal damage - i.e. predominantly back pain - is one of the main causes of absenteeism and thus a major negative item for companies and the health system. Ergonomics is therefore important for every workplace and includes optimising the workplace in terms of the office chair, tables and desks, keyboards, PC mice and the monitor, floor coverings, lighting and air conditions and much more.
Tip: Ergonomic workplace design in the office and the criteria you need to pay attention to, we explain in detail here.
The term "ergonomics" in transition
The topic of ergonomics has its beginnings in industry. There, ergonomic requirements had a metric basis (DIN EN ISO standards). This means that standardised working and sitting heights, gripping radii and sophisticated distance dimensions for work equipment, monitors, keyboards, etc. determined the guidelines of ergonomics.
However, since hardly anyone is "built" according to standard dimensions, these ergonomic measures quickly reach their limits. Standardised seat heights and natural, highly individual human conditions (different proportions of upper and lower body) create friction points that often enough lead to the fact that the human being - as the only flexible element in this area - has to adapt to the standard dimensions. For many, this means hunching over and bending.
People must be able to move as much as possible and as naturally as possible in the workplace.
The term ergonomics, interpreted in a modern way, has therefore taken up the findings of current movement science and numerous studies and recognised the importance of movement for a healthy working environment. Modern ergonomics therefore means: people must be able to move as much as possible and as naturally as possible at the workplace. This helps them more than rigid standards to work healthily and efficiently.
Working without ergonomics - how normal office work harms your body
What actually happens to our bodies during conventional office work and under traditional ergonomic rules? Let's be clear: normal office work with the wrong furniture, a suboptimal working environment and the resulting permanently wrong sitting posture can be harmful to health over a longer period of time!
Sitting is the new smoking.
New York Times bestselling author
"Sitting is the new smoking," says New York Times bestselling author and physical therapist Glen Cordoza. in his book of the same name. "Sitting at work is as much of an occupational hazard as lifting heavy loads. The fact is: the chair is our enemy and is killing the body piece by piece," Cordoza writes in his book. As exaggerated as the statement may sound, the core message is correct. Sitting for hours on end and remaining in one position are not part of the natural movement pattern of human beings. This means that regular movement during work and the appropriate design of your working environment are the best way to prevent health problems. Frequently alternating between sitting and standing at a height-adjustable desk, for example, is a good solution for actively getting through the working day.
Modern ergonomics support movement at the workplace. Frequently switching between sitting and standing is very important. The Aeris Muvman is a very good support for long periods of standing.
Sitting for hours without ergonomics and movement: The health consequences
Reduced depth sensitivity
The so-called proprioceptors are responsible for depth sensitivity - i.e. the perception of certain stimuli from inside the body. These constantly send information about muscle tension, joint position and movement to the brain. If the ability of proprioception atrophies due to sitting motionless for hours every day, the motor function of the arms and legs deteriorates because the sensors in the muscles send fewer impulses.
Poor stress relief and increased blood pressure
Stress can be relieved primarily through exercise. The reason is quite simple: movement lowers the adrenaline levels that have built up in the body as a result of a stressful situation. With normal office work and rigid sitting, the body cannot "work off" the increased stress levels that can quickly arise from time pressure, annoying misunderstandings or conflicts with colleagues. This can lead to increased blood pressure in the long term. Work environments that allow or encourage movement are therefore also conducive to health in this respect.
Little movement and long, rigid, slouched sitting lead to fatigue and loss of performance much more quickly.
Poorer attention and fatigue
In order not to get tired and to maintain attention over time, people need variety. This applies to both the mind and the body. The conclusion: the less we move at work, the sooner we tire and the error rate increases
Good to know: A study by the Johannes Guttenberg University Mainz has proven that brain activity is significantly higher when you "sit in motion". This movement increases the activity of the brain, muscles and breathing.
Higher risk of injury
Those who, for example, quickly go to the tennis court for an hour or do some other sport after a long, immobile day at the office have a much higher risk of injury than those who have moved slightly during the day and thus constantly addressed the muscles, proprioception, fasciae, tendons and ligaments.
Faster ageing process
Don't worry, conventional office work won't make you look the same in your mid-30s as you do in your mid-60s. However, the fact is that the formation of new cells in your body is activated by friction and pressure ¬- in other words, by movement. The consequence of too little movement: Cells die earlier and are not renewed as quickly. This accelerates the ageing process. Movement keeps you young!
Interesting fact: It is estimated that about four million new cells are formed in the body every second. These are mainly blood, intestinal and skin cells. Our body is thus constantly renewed.
Better blood values thanks to ergonomics at the workplace
Regular exercise at work and the right ergonomic office furniture, for example for meetings, noticeably improve performance
An Australian study with 4800 test persons evaluated the blood values after a typical working day. Employees with a normal office workplace were compared with those whose workplace was ergonomically designed - which meant that they were always in slight motion during the day.
The following groups were included:
- Group 1: Typical office workers who did not move around the office during the day.
- Group 2: Typical office workers who did not exercise during the day in the office, but did exercise two to three times a week in the evening.
- Group 3: Typical office workers who exercised lightly during the day in the office but did not do any sport.
As expected, the evaluation showed that group 1 had the worst blood values. Surprisingly, however, the blood values of groups 2 and 3 were equally good. The light exercise during the day was already sufficient for group 3 to bring the quality of the blood values to the same level as in the group that exercised several times a week. This does not mean that you should stop doing sports in your free time. But:
Ergonomics helps you stay fitter, more active and healthier in general.
6 Advantages of ergonomics and movement at a glance
1. lower risk of contracting diseases of civilisation
Numerous studies prove the connection between excessive sitting and the development of diseases of civilisation, such as obesity, diabetes type II, high blood pressure, or tense fasciae. Cardiovascular diseases, obesity, type II diabetes, high blood pressure or tense fasciae. The right ergonomics, adapted to you, and the light but constant movement this creates reduce the risk of such diseases.
2. avoid back pain
Back pain and tension are largely caused by static, unnatural sitting in a "forced posture" at the workplace. Through ergonomics that promote movement at the workplace, you can prevent this rigid sitting and thus back pain and tension.
3. better physical performance
Constant exercise increases the oxygen concentration in your blood. As a result, your metabolism functions better and physiological lows are avoided. The afternoon performance slump is a thing of the past with the right ergonomics.
Better performance, prevention of back pain and a lower risk of contracting diseases of civilisation. Modern ergonomics has many advantages.
4. increased cognitive performance and efficiency
The improved supply of oxygen to the brain also increases cognitive abilities (i.e. learning, thinking, remembering, etc.) and thus efficiency at work. Sitting in motion and with constant changes of position and posture leads to more frequent straightening of the upper body and thus to deeper breathing, which in turn supports better oxygen intake.
5. more quality of life
The ergonomic orientation of your workplace has an effect on the function of your entire metabolism. The "more" movement increases the production of hormones that cause a positive attitude to life. And an increased feeling of well-being is also an increased quality of life. A life without physical (civilisation) complaints and ailments is incomparably much better.
6. economic benefit
This point is especially important for managers. If you have employees yourself, you should set up their workplaces ergonomically as soon as possible. Because: If you only look at the pure figures, the number of sick days in a company that relies on modern ergonomics and a lot of movement is considerably reduced.
Tip: The contents of this article can be found in detail in the book Active Office - Der Arbeitsplatz als Bewegungsraum. in the book Active Office - Der Arbeitsplatz als Bewegungsraum.