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26. 9. 2023

Furnishing an office for ergonomics and employee well-being

Are you setting up an office? Then think ergonomics. An ergonomic work environment not only has a positive effect on employees’ psychological well-being and performance, but it also reduces health burdens and contributes to greater overall work efficiency.

What does workplace ergonomics actually involve? The basic definition is that it consists of a set of techniques and devices designed to adapt the workplace to a person's physical and mental needs, thus ensuring health and safety at work. Ergonomics is just as important in offices as it is in manufacturing plants. "It is not uncommon for people in offices to spend all their working time at their desks and long hours in the same position. If workplace ergonomics are poor, this can put employees’ health at risk and with it their mental well-being and performance," warns Jana Vlková from Colliers, adding that the most common health risks associated with working in an inadequately designed office are back and headaches, migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome and various eye diseases. And no one really cares - neither the employee nor their employer. Attention must therefore be paid to the ergonomics of the workstation itself and its furnishings, as well as to the layout and equipment in other office spaces. Not only the furniture, but also the lighting, noise levels and materials used play an important role.

Create different zones

When planning ergonomic offices, it is advisable to start from scratch - with the layout. The trend today is for offices to be divided into several functional zones. In addition to areas for individual and concentrated work, zones for teamwork, informal meetings or relaxation are also becoming popular. "Dividing the office into different zones allows employees to choose the environment that best suits their immediate needs. Thanks to this, they can change between several working environments and positions during the day," advises Jana Vlková.

Choose reclining furniture

An important element in the office space is the furniture. Today, ergonomic chairs with lumbar support and adjustable seat and armrest heights (adjusted for users’ height and weight) are an essential feature. Good chairs allow for the fully individualised adjustment needed to avoid unpleasant back and neck pain. Height adjustability is also important with office desks. This is because workers can then adjust the desk to their individual needs and not only sit at the desk, but also stand at times. The transition between these two positions has a positive effect on blood circulation and muscle activity. The employee’s keyboard and mouse should have an ergonomic design that minimises strain on the hands and wrists during prolonged use. A fully adjustable monitor stand ensures that the screen is always at the correct eye level, relieving neck strain and promoting correct posture.

Bring nature into the office

Although it may not seem like it, the design of the office itself supports worker productivity and well-being. "Instead of bold and distracting colours, it is better to rely on pleasant, calming tones: soft pastel colours are ideal," points out Jana Vlková, adding that nature should definitely not be absent from offices. Plants, wooden features and plenty of natural light are essential for creating a harmonious environment. The positive influence of nature on our health is confirmed by a number of studies. For example, The Economics of Biophilia study found a reduction in heart rate and stress hormones by up to 15% in people moving around in green interiors. Researchers also recorded better concentration, mental stamina and productivity in interiors full of natural elements. According to an experiment conducted, employees using the phone in a space with a view of nature answered far more calls than those who did not have such a view. In addition, they handled calls up to 7% faster. The beneficial effect of green environments is also proven by the fact that employees who work in them have up to 15% lower absenteeism rates.

Plenty of light and silence

Last but not least, lighting also affects workers’ mood and performance. The best light is, of course, natural light, which provides energy and vitality while minimising fatigue. A Harvard Business Review survey found that the absence of daylight causes nearly 50% of workers to be more likely to feel tired and sad; more likely to be irritable and more easily stressed. "If there is a lack of natural light in a room, which is common in the geographical latitudes where we live - especially from autumn to spring, it is advisable to use neutral-coloured lighting to stimulate productivity. For individual needs, a table lamp with brightness and, if necessary, temperature control is suitable," explains Jana Vlková. In addition to lighting, sound insulation and the acoustics of the space also play an important role. Carpets, curtains or acoustic panels can help, as they dampen unpleasant sounds and make the working atmosphere more pleasant.

Need advice on your office’s ergonomics? Our Workplace Advisory team is at your disposal.