Tips from an ergonomist: physical health factors to improve wellbeing in the office

Tips from an ergonomist: physical health factors to improve wellbeing in the office

Health factors at work often include elements that promote employee mental wellbeing at an organisational level such as trust, developmental opportunities and common goals. However, we also want to highlight the significance of the physical work environment for sustainable health. So we asked physiotherapist and ergonomist Erica von Sicard to highlight physical health factors that can help improve our wellbeing in the office. See what recommendations are relevant to your office.  
Woman sitting at a desk

1. Varying your working position

The body is made to be in motion and changing working position is key to a healthier work life. Movement boosts blood circulation, which in turn improves our cognitive skills and makes us more alert. Therefore, it is beneficial to have a workplace where people can choose to stand or sit, and when they sit to be able to do that in different ways. This also applies when some work is done at home, as in the case of hybrid working.

Remember to work centred at your desk and use a standing mat, document holder and other smart accessories to allow you to work in a relaxed and comfortable manner. Don’t forget to take micro breaks from time to time, just to take a breather and relax your neck and shoulders.

Sit-stand desk with white frame and oak desktop

TIP! Sit-stand desks

Switching between sitting and standing is the perfect way to get the body moving during a day at the office: something that’s made much easier with a sit-stand desk. The desks are available in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes but they all have one thing in common: they are an investment in wellbeing.

Find a sit-stand desk

2. A pleasant sound environment

Few things affect the work environment as negatively as disruptive noise. It is not just your work that suffers, the increased effort to stay focused may cause strain in the neck and shoulders and even headaches. The solution is to block and absorb the sound in the room by using soft materials such as screens, upholstered furniture, carpets and acoustic panels on the ceiling and walls.

One tip is to create "quiet rooms" for focused work and “talking rooms” for telephone calls and video meetings, to ensure that colleagues are not disturbed.

An employee sitting at a desk in an office with pot plants
A man sitting at a desk to work with good daylight

3. Correct lighting

Good lighting is a prerequisite for wellbeing, helping us to see and work better. Position the desk so that you benefit from daylight coming in but also avoid glare from the screens. Keep in mind that ceiling light should be evenly distributed and should fall right in front of the body to avoid shadows. Combine overhead lighting with focused desk lighting, which should make it possible for the employee to adjust the brightness as eyesight varies depending on age and other factors.

Do you have the right lighting in the office? The cap test can give you the answer. Place your hands over your eyes. If the light feels more pleasant "with the cap on" that means that the lighting in the room needs to be improved.

Tip: Take lunchtime walks in the winter to give yourself a chance to refuel your energy levels from exposure to daylight.

4. Designing your space for socialising

Humans are social creatures and we’re at our best when we’re interacting with each other. We can easily reinforce positive feelings by creating inviting common space for coffee, lunch and breaks with colleagues. Consider making lounges and canteens mobile-free as that makes us more open to conversations and activity around us. One tip is to build community through play by adding a ping pong table or similar.

Don’t forget that colleagues who work from home also need to feel part of the team. Virtual coffee breaks are a great way to include any remote workers and will be highly appreciated.

Woman in an office lobby holding a coffee and smiling
Large oval shaped sofa with turquoise fabric

TIP! Sofas for all occasions

A comfortable seat for visitors, an alternative workspace or an inviting gathering point for coffee breaks, sofas can fulfill many functions in the office and look completely different depending on your needs. From reception or lounge area to open plan office, what are you looking for?

Discover sofas for all areas

A woman sitting at a desk in an office surrounded by acoustic floor and desk screens

5. The opportunity to be yourself

Not everyone likes working in an open plan office. Some people feel uncomfortable and struggle to perform at their best in such an environment, so alternatives are required. Ideally each workspace should be adapted to the needs of the individual, so they can have their own space and get the privacy they require. This can easily be achieved by adding floor and desk screens, by using clever storage options to further separate work areas and through the positioning of the workstations in the room.

Another tip for working undisturbed is to book a meeting with yourself to guarantee time when you can be fully focused on your task.

6. Better organisation equals less stress

Some people are completely unbothered by mess but for others piles of paper, cable clutter and dirty plates on the desk can be a major distraction and a cause of stress. So keeping the office organised has its advantages. You can improve organisation by furnishing the office with plenty of storage cabinets and cable trays. Remember to provide sufficient waste and recycling bins in canteens and break rooms for food waste and packaging as well as in the office for paper, ink cartridges, etc.

It’s also advisable to establish and communicate a general rule that everyone should dispose of their own waste in common areas in order to keep the space pleasant for everyone who uses it.

A woman crouching to get a storage box out of a bookcase in an office

Get help from our project design experts!

Do you need help creating an office that promotes physical and mental wellbeing? A space that is both functional and inspiring? Let our design professionals take control: from initial proposal to delivery, we can help you create your ideal workplace at no extra cost!
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