The IGR range of field and market studies
An extension of the IGR advice portfolio includes studies that are shown here under the heading of Research and Development.
Environmental and behavioural ergonomics – People are the focus
The needs of the workforce from a health promotion and prevention perspective are increasingly coming to the fore. The reason is, on the one hand, the known factors of demographic development and the shortage of skilled workers and also the trend towards intensification of work and the associated increasing incidence of mental illnesses such as burn-out, depression and the diseases of the skeletal and muscular system through a lack of movement and uneven stress. The general environment is also increasingly changing due to new types of work such as the introduction of open-plan offices, desk-sharing und the shifting of a part of the work to be done at home. In the production area, factors which are coming to the fore include the increasing number of workers with physically restricted capabilities, the increasing average age of the workforce and the remaining uncertain consequences of digitalisation, a key term being Industry 4.0.
With the certification of ergonomic products, the IGR has already set out to investigate how products or services stand the test in terms of their ergonomic effectiveness under tough everyday conditions. In particular, whether they meet the challenge of being of benefit to most working people. That means the consideration of various different forms of characteristics regarding size, weight, sex, age and also in terms of health restrictions in order to meet the individual needs of as large a number people as possible in terms of optimised ergonomic working conditions.
This includes both work aids created in accordance with the principles of “environmental ergonomics” and those measures that achieve a (greatest possible sustainable) impact on people towards more healthy behaviour, with the principles of so-called “behavioural ergonomics”.
These may be conditions such as a more ergonomic design of the workplace that induce healthier behaviour or that also simply have a didactic influence towards healthier behaviour. For example, in the form of special training measures, targeted visualisation (and thus simplification) of instructions, of an improved user guidance system – a key term being software ergonomics – or the optimisation of operating instructions, etc.
Studies provide answers
An observation of the above-mentioned effectiveness during an examination over a period of time then follows immediately. How effective are the measures over longer periods? Are these significant changes and improvements in behaviour able to have an effect?
How are the measures assessed by employees, superiors and also occupational health management staff, the HR or Industrial Safety departments?
Can any restrictions be minimized? Specific dimensions such as the sickness rate provide information about this, but also whether job satisfaction and motivation have been able to be increased.
Last but not least, the effects on business by ergonomics should be investigated. Here an example from the production area.
Employers are obliged to take appropriate measures or use suitable work equipment in order to avoid any stresses or strains that entail a risk to the health of their employees. Technical design solutions are available to prevent incorrect biomechanical stress to the musculoskeletal system in particular in the area of craft and industrial mass production with regular repetitive work procedures.
This applies all the more for employees who are only able to carry out restricted tasks due to a previous illness or an accident etc. External help must be provided. [Source: German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Dortmund]
The integration of physically impaired employees into normal shift operations is theoretically possible once more through specific measures in the environmental and behavioural areas. Field studies by the IGR are investigating whether and how such supportive measures can be implemented in practice.
Example of a field study for administration:
“Effectiveness of effectiveness of motivational software for electrically-powered height-adjustable desks in accordance with the interaction between environmental and behavioural ergonomics.”
The design of the workplace has an immediate effect on the behaviour of an office worker. An obvious example: The use of electrically-powered height-adjustable desks enables the so-called sitting / standing dynamic effect. However, practical experience shows that gravity prevails after a short time and work is one more carried out in a seated position. How this phenomenon has been dealt with and what measures have been introduced in order to achieve healthy behaviour may be read in the current press release from LINAK GmbH.
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Motivated for better working
Can people be motivated to make more intensive use of their electrically height-adjustable desk so that they can work better and more healthily? Yes, they can. That has been proven by a study that was carried out in the new offices of Diamant Software in Bielefeld. The study was initiated by LINAK, a manufacturer of electrically-powered lifting columns for height-adjustable workplaces. A number of workplaces at Diamant Software were equipped with the new DPG control element from LINAK. It was planned that four components would motivate staff to make greater use of the desk: On the one hand, the intuitive design of the keyless control element that can be operated by simply tilting and pressing. On the other hand, the three different options for a reminder function: directly integrated into the control element with a blinking light strip as a reminder, as a pop-up on the worker’s PC or as a push message on the mobile phone. The results speaks for itself. Additional use of the desk 74 percent.
“Sitting is the new smoking” – this sentence has appeared again and again in many newspaper and internet articles in recent months. And it is true that we sit too much, which is extremely unhealthy. Desks whose height can be electrically adjusted at the press of a button have become almost standard in German offices. Height-adjustable workplaces are a tested method of counteracting health problems. The special challenge in companies is, however, to motivate staff to make use of this function. It is not uncommon to see in German offices that people are only sitting and that hardly anyone is standing. Comfort and forgetfulness are the two main reasons that are frequently given when asked why they do not use their height-adjustable desk.
As a manufacturer of electrically-powered lifting columns, LINAK has considered this problem and has developed a new control element for height-adjustable desks. The user can individually set how often he wishes to work standing up. The software and app can be connected to the DPG by Bluetooth. A connection via a USB cable is also possible with the software.
The field test was intended to clarify to what extent the DPG control element and the motivational software causes staff to use the height adjustment more often. The study was carried out by the IGR, Institut für Gesundheit und Ergonomie, in Nuremberg. “Having to repeatedly sit an exam was no advantage at school. You can say the same about remaining seated in an office. Our spinal column and our muscles need movement to remain healthy and strong. However, there is little movement in our daily work and it mostly takes place in a seated position”, explains Ralf Eisele from the IGR. 40 office workers were investigated who work at 40 electrically height-adjustable desks. The new DPG was fitted at 20 desks and the appropriate software was set up. In order to gain the results, the software was extended to include a tracking function. It was possible as a result to read off the frequency of the lifting movements each month. After an investigation period of three months, the usage and the frequency of the lifting movements were compared. Both were appropriately documented and assessed. In addition to the reading off of the control units, the test subjects were asked about their experiences.
“It was definitely fun. My colleague didn’t have this software installed. I chatted with her in the meantime to see how it is to use the other control element without a motivation tool. And there is no way that I would want to swap”, reports Christina Milenkovic, an employee at Diamant Software. Other employees also confirm that they have changed their working behaviour as a result of the reminder software. Klaus Artmeyer, a member of the sales staff at Diamant Software says: “Previously, it was always my weaker self that constantly argued against it: “I don’t stand up, I stay seated and prefer to slump in my chair. And that has changed significantly.”
75 percent of the participants set a reminder through the software to alternate working between standing and sitting. The great majority of the users with motivational software indicated that they alternated more between standing and sitting or worked more often standing since the study. At the conclusion of the study the users of the desk with motivational software indicated that worked considerably longer in a standing position every day.
The IGR Institute comes to the following conclusion: “It must be noted that the positive effect of the motivational software will be sustainably effective That means that the increased use of the height adjustment will stabilise at a clearly higher level than for the participants without the software due to the influence of the motivational software. Additionally, the awareness of the users to include this in their own behaviour routines will be positively influenced through an increased repetition of the alternating from sitting to standing.
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