Employees and pensions

Checklist: Office ergonomics – getting it right

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A desk, office chair, laptop, and mouse. A workplace is generally quick to set up. Yet it’s worth investing a bit more time in the design of your work environment. If you follow a few tips for setting up your workplace and are aware of the advantages of ergonomics, you will enjoy good health and higher performance in the long term. 

With this checklist, we'd like to provide you with the fundamental knowledge needed to set up an ergonomically correct office workplace. This will allow you to deal with the key issues quickly and simply and thereby lay the basis for a healthy working environment in the office.

What is ergonomic working?

The aim of ergonomic working is to adapt the working conditions in an office as best possible to the needs of the people doing the work. In this way, health burdens that occur through the execution of repetitive sequences of movement or too little movement are to be avoided.

A classic example for the high value of ergonomics is the computer workspace. Employees remain here in the same body posture for many hours of the day. If the desk or technical equipment is not geared toward the needs of the individual, it may lead to back pain and tension. In the long term, it could even cause chronic illnesses of the musculoskeletal system. This is why it’s worthwhile to invest in an ergonomically designed office.

At the same time, awareness for ergonomics at the office must regularly be raised. If employees have basic knowledge of ergonomic principles, the body’s warning signs can be detected early and countermeasures taken proactively. Breaks for movement can be an optimum way to prevent problems, for example.

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How do I design my workplace according to ergonomic principles?

1. Setting up your chair

An ergonomic chair is important for sitting comfortably and is provided by most employers. However, for good ergonomics the chair must also be correctly positioned at all times.

  • Sitting height: Place your feet flat on the floor. Your knee and hip joint should form an angle of at least 90 degrees. Please note: The height of your shoe heels changes the height of the chair.
  • Sitting depth: The distance between the hollow of the knee and the front sitting edge should be approximately five centimeters.
  • Height of the backrest: The inner curvature of the backrest should be at the height of the iliac crest.
  • Backrest movement: The backrest should be unblocked so that you can move it backwards and regularly shift the burden on your spine. 
  • Resistance of the backrest: If you have a heavy bodyweight, adjust the chair setting to a higher resistance. Turning it clockwise increases the resistance.

Tip: If no fixed workspace is assigned to employees at your company, then you should check before you start working whether your office chair for that day meets your needs for ergonomic sitting.

2. Adjust the level of your desk

  • Relax your shoulder and neck muscles. Lay your lower arms on the surface of the desk.
  • Your elbows should form at least a right-angle.

3. Set up the keyboard

  • The keyboard should lie flat and straight in front of your body.
  • The distance to the edge of the desk should be 10 to 15 centimeters.
  • Take care: Don't raise the keyboard using the "keyboard feet."
  • Your arms and hands should form a line so that there is no "kinking" of the wrist.

4. Position the mouse

  • The mouse should be at the same height as the keyboard and not too far away from it.
  • The hand should be in a relaxed position over the mouse.

5. Position the screen

  • Your monitor should be placed directly in front of your body at about an arm's length from your eyes.
  • It is parallel to the edge of the desk.
  • The upper edge of the screen is the breadth of a hand beneath your eye height.
  • The top of the screen is tilted slightly backwards.
  • Light enters from the side. This prevents reflections from forming on the screen.

6. Using the phone correctly

  • Wedging the receiver between your ear and your shoulder places a major burden on your shoulder and neck muscles and should be avoided.
  • A headset relieves the muscles in the neck. An additional benefit is that you have both hands free.

More tips on ergonomic office design

Are you having problems with your wrists?

If you are suffering from problems with your wrists, a special ergonomic keyboard and an ergonomic mouse are available. Ergonomic accessories such as these can be bought from specialist retailers. 

Your eyesight is no longer good or you wear glasses? 

Everyday varifocal glasses are not ideally suited to working on a monitor. Their upper section optimizes distance vision, while their lower section assists close vision for reading. The field of view in the transition area is restricted. In order to see the screen through the lower reading section, many wearers of glasses adopt an abnormal posture. This leads to neck strain and headaches. Computer glasses with indoor varifocal lenses provide a remedy. They correct an area of 3 meters to 40 centimeters in a continuous transition. This means: You have a sharp view of your office surroundings through the upper section of your glasses, and of the keyboard and your documents through the lower section. This prevents the formation of a malposition of the spinal column.

Do you work on a laptop for more than one hour daily? 

Use an external keyboard and mouse. If the laptop is raised slightly at the back, for example with a folder, the position of the screen is at a better height for working. Do you work on a laptop for more than four hours daily? Then we recommend that you also use an external monitor. Set up your workplace ergonomically at home too.

Working at a height-adjustable desk

Height-adjustable desks  ("sitting/standing desks") are growing in popularity in Swiss offices. And for a good reason. Firstly, they can be adjusted to the height of the individual so that every employee has the right posture when at the workplace.

Secondly, they can easily be changed into a standing desk and thus bring more movement into the office day-to-day. If you want to do something good for your health with such a desk, you should note the following factors:

Optimal working at a standing desk

  • The ideal desk height is reached as soon as the elbow forms at least a right-angle when you lay your underarm on the desktop.
  • The keyboard, mouse, and monitor stay in the same position as for sitting.
  • Exploit the possibilities offered by a standing desk and change from sitting to standing frequently.
  • Don’t stand in the same position for longer than 15 minutes. Regularly change your position. Otherwise, the veins in your legs will be placed under unnecessarily heavy strain.
  • Sitting for an hour followed by standing for 15 minutes is ideal.
  • There is no need to program the height of the standing desk since the desk height is also dependent, for example, on the height of your shoe heels.

If you have extreme backache, it also makes sense to acquire a standing stool. This leads to constant change in the group of intervertebral disks being subjected to stress and thereby supports the movement of the spine ("dynamic sitting"). A standing stool can easily be used by several people in the office.

Increase general wellbeing at the workplace

The basic rules of ergonomics include other factors at work besides having the right office furniture. Sufficient space in the office, low noise levels, a comfortable room temperature, and adequate lighting also have a positive effect on the wellbeing of employees at the workplace

The importance of repetitive movement should also not be disregarded. Deliberately take some time off away from your office chair and take a few steps around your desk or to the cabinets for office supplies. Stretch your back and do a few simply relaxation exercises before you start back to work. When you return to your office chair, always make sure that you are sitting correctly and always change your sitting position when working.

In this way, you make your desk a better place to work to which you can always return gladly and without complaints. 

Download checklist

You want to implement the common ergonomics requirements at your workplace and ensure better health when working? In our free checklist, you will find a practical overview of all our tips.

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