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Variety – an important part of your digital work environment

Expert tips


The digital work environment encompasses everything from the technology and applications you use to working in front of the computer and how your brain copes with screen time. It can be difficult to find a sustainable way of working in the digital office. Here, our ergonomist Linnéa Arbman helps you with what you can do to lessen wear and tear your body and optimise the work in front of the computer.

Digitisation brings numerous positive factors, but it can also cause stress and strain on both the body and brain.

– In our work, we see an increased frequency of stress-related health issues among managers. It is crucial that, as a manager, you create the conditions necessary for both you and your employees to thrive in a digital work environment, says Linnéa Arbman, Physiotherapist and Ergonomics expert at Falck.

Digital work often involves long periods of the same posture and task. For us to feel well, work must provide variation. This can involve taking a break and stepping away from the computer, changing location and/or task, or switching between standing and sitting. Discuss this with your employees to provide support.

– To introduce variation into work, it's beneficial to engage in contrasting activities. If you've been sitting for a long time, move around. If there's been a lot of social interaction, spend some time alone. Keep in mind that both the body and the brain need variation, says Linnéa Arbman.

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To introduce variation into work, it's beneficial to engage in contrasting activities.

Help the brain develop throughout life

We concentrate best in 20-40 minute spans. The longer you work on the same task, the more important breaks and variety become. After work that required a lot of focus, it's good to have an habitual activity, such as emptying the dishwasher.

The brain resembles a muscle that can be trained throughout life. Just like our muscles, it needs recovery and variety to feel good and get stronger. With the right recovery and sleep as well as variety, the brain can develop high in old age.

For the brain to be able to concentrate, it is also important to minimize distractions. Too many sensory impressions such as a messy work environment, cold in the office or a lot of notifications means that the brain cannot work as well. If we are disturbed in a task, it can take up to 20 minutes to find focus again.

– When it comes to ergonomics, there are always several correct ways, depending on your circumstances and abilities. To help the brain, it is important to have variety and few distractions. However, how often you need to change your focus or what you are disturbed by is individual and can differ depending on your current form, says Linnéa Arbman.

The role of managers in focus for 2024

Research on both the digital work environment and cognitive ergonomics has gained momentum after the pandemic and is currently in focus both nationally and at EU level. In 2023–2025, the EU campaign "Healthy Workplaces in a Digital World of Work" will be launched. In Sweden, the theme for 2023 is digital ways of working.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority conducts inspections and the purpose of the inspection effort is to get employers to pay attention to how new and established digital ways of working, such as remote work, affect the work environment and the strain on the brain. It is important that the brain also gets recovery and rest in the form of variation. Nearly 11,000 employers have received letters from the Swedish Work Environment Authority stating that they can be inspected. Of these, about 2000 will be inspected.

In a press release on October 25, when 1500 companies were inspected, it was shown that 25% had deficiencies in procedures for investigating and assessing risks in the digital way of working. In 2024, the Swedish Work Environment Authority will focus on the manager's role in the digital working life.  

Encourage physical activity

For sustainable digital ergonomics, it is also important to prioritise physical activity and exercise. Make sure that both you and your employees have the opportunity to take breaks to move around during the working day. During the winter, it is especially important to encourage employees to go outside during lunch to get daylight.  

As a manager, you can encourage employees to move through joint activities and challenges, as well as by reminding them of the opportunity to use wellness allowances. The recommendation is 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise a week on at least two occasions with elements of strength training, mobility and fitness.

Tips for strengthening the organisation's digital work environment

  1. Have a good structure and follow up – make sure that the digital work environment is part of your systematic work environment management. Carry out risk assessments and follow up regularly.
  2. Review the structure for working in the office – think about what suits your workplace best in terms of office vs remote working. After the pandemic, it is common that everyone doesn't fit in an office at the same time. One tip is to focus on social interaction when employees are in the office. The concentration work can be done at home. Get help from our ergonomists to make sure that the workplace at home is good, this can be done online.
  3. Appoint superusers – a stressor in digital work is the amount of systems to learn. Facilitate learning by training a few employees to become experts. They can then in turn help others with new systems. In this case, planned working hours may need to be set aside.
  4. Educate in digital ergonomics – make sure your team has the knowledge of how to best work in the digital environment.
  5. Encourage variety, recovery and movement – in order for your employees to be able to perform in the long term, it is important that you not only educate in, but encourage and give time to, things that promote good digital ergonomics.