You have just one body. The one we care about.

Small steps to major development

Ever since the start in 1942, ergonomics has been close to Kinnarps’ heart, and has permeated everything we do from user-friendly design to preciselytargeted holistic solutions. It was Jarl Andersson, one of our founders, who took up the cause of ergonomic thinking. Being the inventor he was, he was always looking for small details that made a big difference. He made sure that Kinnarps, as one of the early mass furniture production innovators, began to cooperate with ergonomists in the early 1950s.

In recent years, the development and the range of ergonomic solutions has exploded. Today, with Kinnarps’ help, you can find sustainable alternatives for most working environments. Both current and future work presents many challenges, but we know that design and ergonomics increasingly go hand in hand. This makes it easier to choose ergonomic products which promote well-being at work. We also know that Jarl Andersson’s legacy and his search for functionality and user-friendliness live on in the Kinnarps of today and tomorrow.





”YES, I THINK WE PROBABLY DO HAVE HIGHER AMBITIONS than most other companies when it comes to ergonomics – it would be a bit odd if we didn’t,” says Production Director Anders Hermansson. ”For one thing, we know how important ergonomics is in enabling people to feel good and be able to perform. For another, we already have the necessary know-how in the company, so it is a little easier and more self-evident that we should have our own good ergonomic solutions there.”


This high level of ambition does not only apply to our own office environments, of course, but permeates the whole process – from production to delivery. Since so many Kinnarps products are technically advanced, assembly is one of the great challenges. At the Kinnarps factory in Jönköping, a new assembly line for chair underframes has just been put into service. We went there to talk to ergonomist Anders Lundahl, who has worked with ergonomics at Kinnarps for a long time.

”Our systematic work with ergonomics permeates everything we do, and the new line is a good example of this. Ergonomic thinking began at the design stage, and then we had a test workplace where we did an evaluation before we built the actual finished line,” says Lundahl when we come into the factory. One of the big challenges with this particular assembly is that there are many delicate and precise operations that have to be done inside the underframe and in various corners.

The line therefore ensures that the chair underframe automatically ends up at the right angle for assembly, instead of the employee having to work in unnatural and gruelling body postures.

”We also have height-adjustable flooring, so that the working height is right no matter how tall you are, and employees can choose whether to sit or stand at their work station.”


Anders Lundahl goes on talking about the line as we walk round and look. He shows the adjustable flooring, and points out that the light neither shadows nor dazzles and that the tools are easily accessible and customised for the work. It is clear that every little detail has been thought through.

”And you’ll also notice that I can talk at normal conversational volume, because the sound level is so low,” he says.

Safety is of course an obvious aspect, and is dealt with partly through the use of double commands requiring both the operator’s hands, which prevents crushing. It is equally obvious that material supply does not require any heavy manual lifting. Anders Lundahl has every reason to be satisfied.

”Yes, I’m satisfied in the sense that the production environment has turned out really well, but there are other things that can be improved even further, both here and elsewhere in the organisation. We’re continuing to develop our ergonomic solutions and practise what we preach.”


Nowadays, Kinnarps’ ergonomic work is concerned more with well-being and health than with furniture – with handling all the tools necessary for individually customising a workplace for different conditions, needs and bodies. For us, ergonomics is about people, quite simply.

Ergonomics is so much more than standing, carrying and sitting correctly. For us at Kinnarps, ergonomics means primarily feeling well – in the head, body and soul. Our goal is to fill offices with well-being rather than with furniture. So our starting point is every individual’s capacity to remain healthy at work. Because we know from experience that there are as many needs as there are workers in a workplace.


By using flexible solutions, innovative technology and intelligent combinations of chairs, tables, lighting, colour schemes and sound insulation measures, we develop a holistic ergonomic outlook which takes the whole person into account. We take account of how people interact with work tools, with their environment, with their work tasks and with other individuals to create tailor-made, individually planned and stimulating environments where flexibility, mobility and variation are our keywords for the most important thing: Good health at work.


We are experts in creating environments which foster well-being from every point of view. This is also the purpose of our major investment in ergonomics: to fill our customers’ workspace with good health!

To encourage increased well-being, we have put together an entire magazine filled with some of our know-how, interesting research, exciting articles on training, nutrition and trends, and interviews with inspiring people – for inspiring people. Because no matter who you are, we at Kinnarps want you to feel even better at work.




Interest in functional food, in other words food which optimises the body’s functioning, is growing to bursting point. We got in touch with Anneli Hallberg, cook, health coach and personal trainer, who is pleased to tell us more about how we can feel better.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD might seem like a new term, but was actually coined in the 1980s, when a research programme was started in Japan to chart the health effects of various foodstuffs. In Asia it is traditionally normal to regard food as medicine, and vice versa. The stomach is regarded as central – that is where the soul is located, and it is therefore important what we put in it. It is also important, in the Orient, to prevent illness rather than curing it.

”We don’t always remember that what we eat should help all the body’s cells, muscles, heart and brain to work at their best, without complications,” says Hallberg. ”We want to be healthy and to function properly, but we stuff our bodies with food that doesn’t give us what we need. If we know more about functional food, we can become better at filling our bodies, day by day, with food that helps it to function.”

The best-known foodstuffs in functional food are dairy products with beneficial bacterial cultures, high-fibre bread and pasta products and margarines with beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids.

”These do their job, but ”adding functionality” is also a good way of promoting yourself and selling more products. Beans, nuts and vegetables are shining examples of natural functional food. I’d like to see us begin to classify fruit and vegetables as functional food, and give the vegetable stall its own function list where we can read what all those vegetables do to the body. Eating more vegetables is sustainable both for our health and for our planet.”


Functional food is not a diet or a magic cure. The cornerstones of a good diet, according to Hallberg, are: eat regularly, eat breakfast, eat lots of vegetables and drink water. Limit sugar, semi-finished products and alcohol as much as possible. Eat more vegetables and cut down on meat and fast carbohydrates.

”A good diet depends a lot on planning. People often skip a meal, or don’t eat breakfast, because they haven’t got time. If you take 30 seconds to think through what you’re going to eat tomorrow, and when you’re going to eat it, it will be easier to stick to your plan. Have I got what I need for tomorrow? If not, what shall I do? Can I do my shopping on the way to work, or at lunchtime? The only person who can say what you need in order to put your life puzzle together is you.”

At work, it’s easy to skip lunch or eat too little, to save time. The result is often that you eat more in the evening, or buy something unnecessary on the way home, because you’re so exhausted and hungry. This wears the body out.

”Lunchboxes are good, but they need a bit of care and planning to really fulfil their function. If your lunchbox contains too much of everything, it doesn’t seem particularly appetising, and there’s a risk that you’ll go out instead, and eat something else, something less nutritious.”


Anneli believes in acquiring a modicum of knowledge from scientific websites or enlisting the help of a dietician or nutritional advisor. Even more than this, though, she encourages everyone to become better at listening to the body’s signals.

”I think that as an individual you often know best which food is good for you – if you learn to feel. We are all different, and need different food. Get into the habit of checking how you react to different foods and which food keeps you in a good mood, and think about your eating habits. Only when you know why you have such a craving for sweets can you do something about it. Be aware of how you feel when you eat a lot of sugar, compared with functional food. Of course there’s a place for cakes, but not as a substitute for food.”


With ergonomic furniture, you sit and stand properly at work. But your body needs more than that. Physical exercise is the best way to increased well-being for both body and mind. Specialist nurse and exercise enthusiast Angelica Bauer has her finger on the pulse of the everyday exercise that makes a difference.

IT’S THE SMALL CHANGES in our everyday lives that make the big difference, according to Angelica Bauer, who is a keen advocate of effective everyday exercise. It’s about little by little introducing new, simpler routines in our lives which, thanks to continuity and planning, make an active choice for better health. Effective as in ”big effect, little effort”, but also cost-effective in terms of time. Because everyday exercise is, and should be, simple – both to do and to find time for.

”Cycle to work, get off the bus one stop sooner or take a quick walk after lunch. Skip the afternoon coffee break and go out for a breath of fresh air instead, and use the stairs instead of the lift. Use every little opportunity to create a big, long-term change that can be seen and felt. If you have a sedentary job, take a break at regular intervals – stand up, stretch or do some simple movement exercises.” For those who want clear to their head with a real pulse-raiser after lunch, Angelica recommends interval and circle training in various forms.

It’s short and intensive but nevertheless gives you good all-round exercise. A quick interval training kick-starts the body and gives quick results, but only on condition that you really tire yourself out.”

Resting is equally important as exercise, Angelica points out. Today’s stress-filled society has a negative effect on us, both physically and mentally. Additional stress makes our bodies secrete the hormone cortisol, and too much cortisol reduces our insulin production, which in turn causes raised blood sugar levels, which leads to excess weight and obesity. Raised stress levels also negate the effects of our exercise, and then it does not matter how hard we exercise or how well we eat, because the cortisol breaks our body down instead of building it up.

”A short period of meditation or relaxation is a really good thing to find time for from a health point of view. Mini-breaks and short recovery periods during the day are important for how you feel. When you’ve learned to relax, you’ll feel calmer, have better awareness of your body and breathe more freely. The ability to relax is essential for rest, recuperation and deep sleep, all of which improve your performance.”

Regardless of which level you aim for, the best results come from the exercise that you actually do. If your new routines are to become everyday routines, it is important that they give you energy and that you can do the exercises consistently.

Experiment to find the various types of movement and exercise that you enjoy and that fit into your everyday life. Everything from a low-intensity morning walk to your workplace to a high-intensity run with your colleagues at lunchtime. Whatever you choose, it should be something you look forward to. If you’re a beginner, start gently but never be afraid to challenge yourself. That’s the only way to become stronger, have better endurance and get visible results. The other benefits of a more active everyday life will be tangible much sooner.”

With the body as the most important tool

With the body as the most important tool

You are at home. The phone rings and an intense conversation starts. You hold your mobile in your hand and against your ear, and start walking round while you talk. After a while you put your headset on and put the phone in your pocket. Now you can devote yourself fully to the conversation. You move, gesticulate and describe with your body language what your caller will never see but can nevertheless feel. Many of today’s workplaces take advantage of the good ergonomic work situations which a home environment offers. Because ergonomics is at its best when we can customise our working environment so that it gives optimal results both for us and for the task we are to carry out. In order to do this, we need to understand something about our incomparable body.


We human beings are, from every point of view, designed for movement, and our functions – from nervous system to digestion – depend on the fact that we move about. We should therefore create efficient ergonomic environments which provide good scope for physical activity. Despite this, we often prioritise thinking. We have increasingly given our brain the priority, and customised our environments for seated activities such as using a computer, watching TV and reading demanding documents. Since people are creatures of habit, we have got used to thinking that this is how it should be, and devoted a lot of effort, time and money to attempting to customise the human body to lengthy periods of sitting.

Today, there is research which supports the strong link between movement and well-being. It tells us that we should sit less and that the sitting we do should be high-quality and healthy. When we do sit, we should sit really well. This is exactly why we need work tools and furniture which are flexible and easy to customise to the characteristics of each individual.


Just as much as we need movement and activity, we need to wind down and recharge our batteries. It is not enough to take a few weeks off per year – we need to regularly consider active rest. From tension comes relaxation, and vice versa.

Stress is a force which is in general good for us, and stimulates us to be creative – provided that it is combined with recuperation. We fall ill most often not because of stress itself, but because of lack of recuperation. A good working environment creates the necessary conditions for recuperation during working time.


The back is one of our body’s weakest links, and needs to be treated with respect. It consists of 32-35 vertebrae, each of which has its own unique position and its own unique function. The anatomical configuration of the backbone has an S-like shape, which we should try to maintain as far as possible when we sit. We do this with the aid of both ergonomically-designed chairs and the surrounding muscles.

As whole days of sitting still mean that we no longer strain our bodies naturally in our everyday lives, we may need to give our own ’muscle corset’ some training. Fitness training, if done correctly, can prevent problems by making our muscles stronger. It is important to remember that the seated position – in spite of good chairs – is unnatural for the back, which is a further reason to vary our working posture between sitting and standing.


Our system is like a gurgling stream in springtime. We benefit from a constant flow, a continuous circulation. If it stops, there is a risk that the flow will be obstructed. Our office jobs entail lengthy static time for the shoulders and the neck area. The blood vessels through which our blood has to surge in order to supply our ’data muscles’ with oxygen are extremely narrow. They are so narrow that a drop of blood filled with oxygen has to fold itself double in order to get through. This means that even tense working postures with low strain cause a lack of oxygen in the muscles, with pain and injury as a result. If we also take into account that we have poor lighting, a draught from a window or defective eyesight and raised stress levels, all of which lead to increased tension in the neck and shoulders, oxygen deficiency in the muscles is inevitable.

Good ergonomics for the neck and shoulders means creating environments where we can work with a relaxed neck and shoulders, take regular breaks and vary our working posture to stimulate the flow of blood, as well as offering a good indoor environment with adequate lighting. The design of the furniture and individual customisation make a beneficial distribution of weight possible.


Excessive strain means that the body has been subjected to something too heavy, or has been doing something for too long or too many times. Office work is generally not heavy work, but it involves the frequent repetition of the same small movements in the hands and forearms during the working day. Two commonly occurring and painful complaints connected with monotonous movements while using a computer are mouse arm and carpal tunnel syndrome. These complaints can be prevented with the aid of good work tools and by changing our working posture from time to time.

Challenge your habits and switch your mouse from one hand to the other, use short commands and ensure a working posture which is customised to your own height and size. All monotonous, unvarying work tasks should also be regularly interrupted to allow that gurgling stream – our fantastic body – to flow.


Endless sofa groups and good Wi-Fi or ergonomically perfect desks and desktop computers? Today, there are as many ways of working as there are employees, and different generations have different demands on their working environment. The perfect workplace must therefore stimulate both creativity and flexibility – without stinting on ergonomics.

ONCE UPON A TIME, DESKS, sturdy task chairs and oval conference tables were the obvious way to furnish an office. These elements are still part of most workplaces – but today many of us work just as well on a sofa or bean bag as we do at a desk.

”I do that myself more often than not, as I work at home a lot, and it works really well for me,” says Jane Ahlin, ergonomist from Ergo@Work and chair of the Swedish Ergonomics & Human Factors Association. She continues:

”Many people can find a good working posture on a sofa, since you have lowered arms when you have a laptop on your knees. What can be a problem, though, is that if you have a long back you may get neck pain, because on a sofa it’s easy for your neck to bend downwards.”


Nowadays, an important customer presentation can be done just as easily via Skype on the sofa as in the company’s conference room, and there is general agreement that a varied office environment works wonders for creativity. Some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Spotify, have also been acclaimed for their crazy offices, where hammocks, TV games and ping-pong tables are equally important as task chairs.

”The perfect office has different work stations for different needs. Everyone benefits from being able to change their posture,” says Ahlin. It is, however, important, not to go all out for a trendy workplace by scrapping all the desks in favour of cushion rooms and ball pits. For even if creative environments are highly regarded, four out of five office workers want to have access to ergonomic work furniture, according to a survey carried out by Kinnarps and United Minds. Four out of ten work standing up every week, and every other one seeks help from an ergonomist.

”Desks are necessary, but on the other hand I think all desks should be height-adjustable. There’s no reason to buy anything else today,” says Ahlin.

Views on the working environment differ between generations, with the oldest generation being most traditional and focused on ergonomics and peace and quiet. 76 per cent of office workers in the 51-69 age group consider it important to have their own office, while less than half in the 15-35 age group think this is important, according to Kinnarps’ survey.

But awareness is increasing here, too, Ahlin believes: ”I think there used to be a bigger difference. I have lectured in secondary schools and to young guys who worked with CAD. They used to be immortal but now they’re more aware. Many of them have had touches of muscle fatigue themselves or know other people who experience it, and so they become more attentive.

”The secret is to always keep people, our lives and what we do in mind."


In a working life full of quick changes, our ability to be creative and innovative is the key to success. But what role does the design of the workplace play for our creativity? And how are ergonomics and innovation connected? Ergonomics researcher Rob Stuthridge thinks it is always a matter of putting people first.

THE CONDITIONS, possibilities and demands of working life are changing rapidly. Researchers and other experts agree on this. To put it simply, we are moving from a predictable and controlled working life to one that is increasingly characterised by change. To be successful in this new, more unpredictable – but also freer – working life, individuals, organisations and society as a whole must be creative and innovative.

The question is how today’s workplaces help us to live up to this demand. Not particularly well, if we are to believe the behavioural scientist and ergonomics researcher Robert Stuthridge.

”We humans are creative and innovative beings by nature, but our work offers greater or lesser opportunities to find an outlet for these qualities. The least opportunities are to be found in workplaces characterised by control, routines and fear of change. Where the staff are viewed as production units, rather than people. Unfortunately, there are still quite a lot of these sort of workplaces, but they are going to find it difficult to maintain their position in the future.”


Robert Stuthridge thinks that the physical environment is often a mirroring and magnification of the culture of a workplace. It can impede or stimulate the individual’s creativity, and help or obstruct the organisation in developing its full potential. The most successful organisations accept change, encourage new thinking and use design to stimulate discussions, inventiveness and development. Others are instead based on control and boundaries, and would prefer to eliminate all uncertainty through rules and routines which deter the employees from innovative thinking and action.

”Excessive control kills peoples’ creativity and makes the organisation sluggish, ponderous and, in some way, inhuman. Development arises, instead, from a positive attitude to uncertainty and change. By being quick-witted and fleet-footed, and having flexibility inscribed in their DNA, organisations not only survive all changes, but actually derive benefit from them.”


In other words, Robert Stuthridge is suggesting that work should be planned, organised and performed in a way which utilises the individual’s potential for fresh ideas. The workplace’s physical design is an important tool in realising this ambition.

”We should try to create a working environment that feels comfortable and appeals to both heart and head. Without compromising on function, workplaces must take actual people as their starting point – who they are and what they are capable of, both individually and collectively. We have to create person-centred rather than process-centred workplaces.”

Is there any connection between what you are saying about creativity and ergonomics?
”Absolutely, a strong and self-evident connection. The most simple way to express it is that both creativity and ergonomics entail putting people first. Adapting the job to the individual, rather than the reverse.”

Does that mean that the most ergonomic workplaces are also the most creative and innovative?
”Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Or rather – it depends on your view of ergonomics. If the term is used superficially, and simply refers to the workplace’s physical design, then ergonomics doesn’t have much to do with creativity. But if we understand that ergonomics isn’t just about how we sit, stand and carry things, but about a holistic way of thinking about people, organisations and technology – then, yes, ergonomics has a major impact on inventiveness.


So how are person- or human-centred workplaces designed? An overall requirement is that there are no hierarchies in the physical design. Instead, it should reflect a horizontal organisational model in which innovation and development can arise anywhere, and it should affirm the importance of the individual in enabling the organisation to thrive and perform well. The innovative workplace contributes to the organisation’s functionality and capacity to achieve its targets, for example in terms of profit, but it is also a pleasant place to be in. It enables people to meet in a natural way, as they would also be able to do outside work.

Even if the employees have different tasks, the workplace doesn’t need to be physically divided. Robert Stuthridge thinks that physical divisions contribute to separation between teams and departments when we should, instead, be creating a feeling of shared engagement in how the organisation performs.

”For example, a salesperson can choose to sit with someone in the accounts department, because they get on well together or because they both like that particular spot in the office. The point is to offer an inclusive environment that the individuals can customise according to their wishes and work tasks.

On a more tangible and detailed level, it can entail flexible furniture and mobile solutions that suit everybody, regardless of age or physical capacity, and areas that can quickly be modified to incorporate new technology and new ways of working together.”

Of course, everything that Robert Stuthridge says places high demands on management:
”As I see it, the task of management is increasingly to remove obstacles to the staff’s inventiveness. Don’t get in the way and don’t stop people’s natural impulses to come up with fresh ideas. Uncertainty and change are an unavoidable part of working life, and organisations that want to be successful in the future must utilise people’s capacity to be creative.”



We have all experienced how the working environment affects our mood, well-being and the quality of the work we do. But what is fact and what is mythology? In his dissertation, Aram Seddigh investigates how office type, health and performance are interrelated – and the answers are not always what we might expect.

MORE AND MORE OF US spend our days in office environments, which also means that more and more of us have experience and views about how we feel and function in different types of office. Some of us think having our own room is best, others feel most comfortable in an open landscape, while a third group have adopted the flexible office.

But it’s one thing to think and guess, and another to measure in which environments we actually do feel best and work best. This is exactly what Aram Seddigh did in his doctoral dissertation ’Office type, performance and well-being’, submitted to the Department of Psychology of Stockholm University. In the dissertation he investigates how office types affect employees’ health and performance, and whether such effects are in their turn influenced by an employee’s personality and the type of work task.

”The results show that the difference between how we feel and perform in different types of office is not the same as many people think, and in certain cases the difference is much smaller,” says Seddigh.


The dissertation is based on data from six organisations and 3,000 people working in cubicle offices, office landscapes and flexi-offices. This is a larger and broader investigation than those previously done in this area.

”I used questionnaire responses and cognitive tests, which enabled me both to inves tigate how the people perceive their working environment and to test how it really affects them. Working with objective facts, as I did, mean that my results differ somewhat from those that have emerged from previous research,” says Seddigh. So what are the results, then? When people themselves are asked to say how they feel, the ones who have their own room usually claim to have the best health, followed by those in flexi-offices, while those who work in office landscapes express the most problems. But if we look deeper into the material, it turns out to be not quite so simple. When we look at objective data, it is not so obvious that those who sit in cubicle offices always perform best.

”Many people believe that having their own room is always best for them, but when we measure the reality, the difference compared with other office types isn’t so great. Cognitive tests of memory even show that employees who sit in cubicle offices are most affected by distractions, while people in small or medium-sized office landscapes manage significantly better. Perhaps this because they have learned to concentrate despite being distracted, or because individual offices are not being used correctly.”


If we were hoping for an unambiguous answer, then, we have to accept that the reality is not always so simple. Even if it is possible to identify certain patterns, there is no single type of office which is always best. Different solutions bring different challenges, and Aram Seddigh’s advice is that workplaces should be designed in line with the characteristics of each individual organisation.

”Nowadays, office design is less to do with furnishing and more to do with a holistic perspective on the processes and working methods in an organisation. For a company like Kinnarps, this may mean investigating how their products are really used in workplaces, and continuing to work closely with their customers.”

Aram Seddigh’s continued research is now focusing on investigating how flexible and activity-based offices affect us. He states that the large-scale historical trends have been moving for a long time in the direction of more flexible ways of living and working, and this development is only going to continue.

”The freedom of choice that the activity-based office creates can be positive for employees. It can give them a sense of control which, in turn, can lead to better well-being and more effective work. But increased freedom of choice also puts new demands on self-leadership in the organisation. In the transition from individual rooms to an activity-based office, for example, management must create a good transformation process where the employees are involved and can participate. This is a sure way of contributing to both health and performance.”


Architects often see ergonomics as a necessary evil rather than an inspiring, creative opportunity, according to the architect Giuseppe Boscherini when we phone him up in London. He wants architecture to be more in tune with people’s everyday lives and to bring the issue of ergonomics to the fore in the vision of architects and designers.

THE ROMAN ARCHITECT and engineer Vitruvius’ treatise ’Ten books on architecture’ is often regarded as the oldest preserved work on architecture. In it, architecture is defined as the interaction between function, beauty and sustainability.

The discussion on what the focal points should be is at least 2,000 years old, but is still of relevance. When the issue of ergonomics is added to the equation, the question is turned on its head. Should architecture succumb to ergonomics, should architecture be steered by ergonomics – or can the various elements interact, even draw strength from each other?

”Definitely. For me there is no contradiction between ’good architecture’ and ’good ergonomics’. On the contrary, I would say they are closely linked. Both, for instance, are based on people and the insight that the designed, physical environment should endeavour to find a balance between function, beauty and sustainability. So basically, architecture and ergonomics are about the same thing; it’s just a question of ’scale’,” says Boscherini.


Giuseppe Boscherini is an architect, interior designer and industrial designer, and also works as a workplace strategist and teacher at, for instance, the KLC School of Design in London. He would like more architects to design buildings and interiors that have a clear link to how people actually live their lives, move about and work. He quotes the architecture theorist Charles Jencks, who writes of an architecture that embraces us without slapping us on the head.

”Architecture and interior design should improve people’s everyday lives. Make us grow and feel stronger. Unfortunately the focus today is on iconic buildings and landmarks that do not take the people who use them into consideration.”

And here there is no room for ergonomics?
”No. Today many architects see ergonomics as something they have to come to terms with when legislation or clients make it a requirement, rather than as a source of creative inspiration or an opportunity to explore new fields. However, the issue of ergonomics should never be just tacked on at the end, but should instead be a source of guidance in the overall architectonic vision of how buildings and interior designs should be used and shaped.”


Architecture and design should, just like ergonomics, contribute to better physical and mental health. The aim should be to design objects that are nice to look at and comfortable and fun to use, every day and for years to come. As an example, Boscherini mentions his folding Brompton bicycle, which he has been using for 15 years and has never tired of.

”The secret is to always keep people, our lives and what we do in mind. One question to ask, for instance, is how a child would perceive what you design. Or an elderly person. Or someone with a disability. In this way, both good design and ergonomic thinking are synonymous with an inclusive way of working.”

Giuseppe Boscherini also talks about ergonomic feedback as a means of understanding how people use an environment and behave in it over time, in order to be able to carry out improvements to a workplace, for example, based on how we actually act, interact and work. He offers Google’s main office in California as a good example.

”The core of this project is a vision of ultimate flexibility, based on the insight that we actually don’t know how we will be working in 10 or 20 years’ time. They have therefore designed an architecture that works like software and can be updated rather like an app. Lightweight, mobile and modular structures instead of fixed and static concrete buildings.”


In the same spirit, Giuseppe Boscherini wants to encourage his students to use and explore their senses when they develop a project, with the aim of developing a holistic perspective when they work.

”I usually describe design as a process that has to be open and receptive to the senses. It is only through understanding our five senses that we as architects and designers can create environments that are attentive to the needs of people. And such environments will also automatically be good from an ergonomic perspective.”

Or, in other words – balance function, beauty and sustainability.



Stefan Nilsson is one of sweden’s leading trend experts and a popular lecturer and communicator. He always has his finger on the pulse, and is aware sooner than most people of what is going to happen. We at kinnarps wondered what Stefan thought about the development of ergonomics and health at work.

TRENDS AND ERGONOMICS perhaps don’t seem to be an obvious combination. Trends are often thought of as short-term solutions, such as a certain colour choice for a certain year, and ergonomics is thought of as efficiency and well-being in the office. But of course ergonomics also follows the spirit of the times.

Historically speaking, the office has changed. After the first world war came the first solutions for relations between humans and machines. In the 1970s came ergonomic chairs. In the 1990s, computers and the paperless office. Around the turn of the millennium, the scope for mobile solutions exploded and we could work in different places. When the home or lounge enticed us away from the workplace, the new workplace became more like the home, with nice-looking home sofas, ordinary kitchen lamps and so on.

There are a number of current trends at the moment. The first is about health and well-being. Another movement concerns personal expression and has its own subculture called makers & fixers.

The health trend really exploded during 2015. All of a sudden, everyone had to go for a run at lunchtime, and bosses talked about the importance of exercising. Offices were redesigned to encourage more movement. Maybe the coffee machine didn’t need to be quite so near? Environments were filled with furniture upholstered with material resembling sports clothing, and the conference table became a temporary ping-pong table.

The environmental issue and personal engagement also became more prominent during 2015. It’s now ten years since Al Gore’s film ’An Inconvenient Truth’, and at this year’s design week in Milan there was a demo against the production of too many unnecessary new things. 2015 was definitely the year when anti-consumption made an impact. One of the most influential people globally in the world of design, Daniel Charny, thinks we are moving towards a world where we will be more involved in the production of products. To give us a feeling of participating more – and especially by recycling. He calls the movement ’makers & fixers’, and includes everything from ordinary home-made projects to advanced 3D-printed stuff. But everything is self-made, and the opposite of mass-produced and ’quick fix’.

This is a movement which can obviously be linked to the personalisation trend, where everything should be personal and environmentally friendly. So in an office that bears the hallmark of ’makers & fixers’, we’ll see recycled office furniture in constant change. To give a clearer image, think of the white office – and now think the opposite. In come odd chairs, different tables, strange-looking lamps, and preferably a touch of yourself in the furniture. When you have participated in creating your working environment, your well-being and performance will improve. If nothing else, you should have an exercise session at lunchtime.


Today, work is not something you go to. Today, work is what you do. Working methods are changing along with technology, and traditional workplaces are on the way out, yielding place to new solutions. Kinnarps Next OfficeTM – Activity Based Working is a location-independent interior design concept which promotes mobility with ergonomically designed workplaces, customised for the specific task which is to be performed.

AN ORDINARY DAY AT WORK means many different work tasks for most office workers. Technology – mobiles, tablets, portable computers and wireless networks – in contrast to earlier times, make it possible today to perform work tasks in various environments, both inside and outside the office. Whereas we used to go to work, today we take our work with us wherever we go.

To meet these new demands, Kinnarps has developed Next OfficeTM – Activity Based Working, an activity-based concept for an ergonomic workplace which promotes mobility. The individual desk is removed in favour of a number of different types of location-independent workrooms, all under one roof. There may be small, quiet rooms next to large landscapes filled with flowing conversations. Meeting rooms of different sizes can be located next to a lounge for a more relaxed atmosphere and to give scope for spontaneous meetings when the need arises.

Personal work tools are kept in a locker, and employees choose a workplace during the day, depending on the work they are going to do. The Next OfficeTM philosophy is based on a holistic perspective which includes everything from furniture to sound, lighting and colour choice, and where every component is a decisive part of a successful whole.


The gains associated with the activity-based solution Next OfficeTM are many. Reduced costs of premises, thanks to more efficient use of space. A more sustainable office which can be customised to accommodate changes in the workforce for many years to come. Greater creativity through the creation of space for spontaneous meetings. And, not least, increased well-being among the employees, who gain the opportunity to move between a number of ergonomically correct environments, customised to suit the tasks to be performed.

The only thing that controls Next OfficeTM – ABW is need. And imagination.



Most people sit far too much for their own good. Not only at work. In the car. On the bus. At the breakfast table and in front of the TV. It is estimated that, nowadays, an adult sits for 9 of the 16 hours of their waking day. Think about it – how many hours per day do you sit still, how many hours do you move about, and what can you do to become more active? A height-adjustable table is of course a good start for a more mobile and healthy life. But remember to use the table, and switch regularly between sitting and standing in order for it to be of any use. Standing up for ten minutes from time to time may not sound like very much, but it makes a big difference to the body. The best thing, of course, is standing up for your health before your neck, shoulders and back remind you how important it is.



A short break from time to time is the first step towards a healthier life. But taking a break is not the same thing as resting passively. On the contrary. You should preferably move a little when you take a break. Slight muscle effort sets off lots of positive processes in the body, and works real miracles for your health. A workplace where movement and variation are built in is therefore not only good for your back, shoulders and neck, but also reduces the risk of problems such as heart and vascular disease. A number of new studies show the importance of more movement during the working day, since exercise and other physical activity do not entirely compensate for the health risk posed by long-term daily sitting. Too much sitting still is a dangerous behaviour for weight, blood lipid values and diabetes. Take a break roughly once every half hour. Not to rest, but to be active.



It is an ergonomic challenge of our times that we spend so many hours every day in front of a screen. And not only at work. On the way to or from work, when you are shopping, during the coffee break, at home in the kitchen and in bed – we sit with our noses buried in a screen. Literally. The problem is not the screen itself, but our tendency to bend over it and into it. Especially when you use mobile screens such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. You get a so-called ’screen neck’. The heavy strain we subject the neck to when we bend it in this way can cause pain in the neck and shoulder areas, but can also make us tired and tense and give us headaches. When there is no other remedy, we have to rely on ourselves. The best tip is to put the screen aside and do something different. If you really need it, you can make a big difference by lifting your gaze and holding your head a little higher. You will improve your body posture and relieve your neck. Small details that can make a big difference.



Do you find it hard to sit still? Congratulations! Because the best way to sit is to move around. Forget the myth that there is one single correct sitting position which everyone should aim for. Or that you absolutely should not throw yourself down on a chair for a while and rest your legs. It is actually fine to sit for parts of the day, especially if the sitting involves variation, movement and activity. So it is good to have a task chair which follows your body rather than vice versa, which is easy to adjust to you and which allows you to sit in as many different ways as possible.



It is easy to understand that tables and chairs are important in creating good ergonomics. You can see them and touch them. In the case of sound and light it is a little more difficult. Because although we know that they affect people, they are rather forgotten, invisible areas. In the case of damaging noise there are laws and regulations, but sound can be annoying without being actually damaging. Sound is subjective, and we all perceive sound differently, depending on who we are, what we are working with and how stressed we are. The same goes for lighting. Just such a simple thing as the fact that we have different needs for light at different ages. Both sound and light have a lot to do with the planning of the workplace and are something you as an individual cannot influence very much. A few tips are nevertheless useful for making the acoustic and light environment better for both you and your colleagues. As far as sound is concerned, consideration is a good starting point. A quiet conversation is obviously less annoying than a loud one. When we talk on the telephone, we have a tendency to talk with a louder voice than is really necessary. Maybe you can move somewhere else for lengthy conversations or meetings. And did you know that too little light makes the body secrete melatonin, which makes you sleepy? So good lighting is a bright idea if you want to be certain of coping all day long. Make sure you can adjust your lighting needs yourself, with additional lamps if you need them.



The flexible, modular Fields range of furniture is the latest of Kinnarps’ product launches and one of the building blocks of the Next Office™ concept. Fields creates opportunities for individual customisation of a workplace to suit everybody’s different characteristics and needs. We had a few words with Olle Gyllang, the architect behind the design.

”The Fields concept is based on precise analyses and strategies carried out by Kinnarps. So when I was brought into the project they already knew what they wanted, and my task – together with the team at Kinnarps – was to find a solution to a need that had already been identified.”

”A large part of the work of developing Fields was to create good conditions for different work needs and activity types. From getting away on your own so that you can work and concentrate with no distractions, or a quiet break, to meetings in small groups.

From the private to the social, where both individuals and groups can find the space they need. So the concept consists of a large number of modules and functions where all the parts can be combined to tailor furnishing and interior design to suit the customer’s needs and wishes.

My idea was to find an expression where all these combination options are possible and at the same time work in terms of form. A balance between the soft, organic seating elements and the more angular screens.

”As I see it, we have created the building blocks and opportunities for the architect, on the basis of space, need and context, to design a good functional environment with a lot of variation in both expression and use.”

”The whole and the details. I think Fields represents the new Kinnarps well.”


The whole human body is governed by the biological clock, which is in turn governed by, exactly – light. With the knowledge that we spend on average 90% of our waking hours indoors, it is no wonder that illumination and lighting are so important for us. Not least in the workplace.

LIGHT HAS AN ENORMOUS EFFECT on us human beings. It does not only enable us to see, but has a huge influence on our mood and our activity level. The human daily rhythm is adapted to the sun. We are more alert and perform better during the day, whereas the body recuperates at night, when we sleep.

Since our physiological reaction to light depends on light intensity and colour temperature, and since modern human beings spend so much time indoors the characteristics and quality of artificial light in our surroundings are of great importance.

An old-fashioned light bulb has the whole spectrum of light waves that daylight has, but is an extremely energy-inefficient source of light. A fluorescent strip light has nothing like the same range of light waves, and therefore does not have the same effect, and does not satisfy our light needs in the same way.

In addition, certain light sources are more sensitive to our alternating current, which creates a so-called subliminal flicker*, which can cause headaches and even create the sensation of stress. The new LED** lamps are a good alternative, as they are extremely energy-efficient, with an energy coefficient of about 70-80% – this is the proportion of the energy that goes into the lamp which is converted into light. (In a light bulb, in comparison, about 5% is converted into light, and the rest into heat.) They also have very good colour reproduction and a low amount of subliminal flicker. The disadvantage is that light quality can vary greatly between different LED lamps. It is therefore extremely important to choose carefully, and really make sure you get good quality.

We are becoming increasingly aware that lighting also has non-visual effects. Human Centric Lighting is so-called dynamic light, which means that you can vary both lighting strength and light colour during the day, to keep the user a little more alert. This can support the human daily rhythm, increase concentration, prevent sleep problems and improve our general well-being.

Human Centric Lighting solutions in schools, offices and hospitals can give students, staff and patients increased energy and motivation. For example, a high-intensity cold white light at the start of the working day can shift the sleep phase forwards and help to reset our biological clock. In countries with little daylight during the winter months, fittings with adjustable light temperature can reduce winter depression and other season-related illnesses.


Torbjörn Laike is senior lecturer and adjunct professor in environmental psychology and PhD in psychology at Lund University. He researches how people are affected by light in indoor environments, and how artificial light can affect us. In particular, his research has focused on the non-visual effects of light and colour, i.e. how these environmental characteristics influence our well-being and how we feel. Our well-being is important both for our behaviour and for our performance. Torbjörn is also head of CEEBEL, a national education centre for energy-efficient lighting, whose purpose is to coordinate, disseminate and initiate research into light and lighting in Sweden.

Windows are the absolute best light source you can have. There is no other light that can replace daylight completely, even if research has taken great steps towards better lighting.

Best of all is an indirect light which is directed via the walls and ceiling. A glaring lamp can have a directly negative effect on the body, since we humans like to adapt ourselves to our environment. If we are dazzled by a light source, we react by fending off the incorrectly directed light, which in turn leads to an incorrect working posture which puts a sidelong strain on the body and is directly dangerous in the long run.

Fluorescent lighting can provide a good general light, but fluorescent lights alone tend to create a gloomy impression. The new type of diode light has a narrower beam, which increases the risk of dazzling, but can on the other hand be used to ’sculpture’ with, creating rooms with shadow effects and illuminated points.

Good light fittings should have reflectors to counteract dazzling. So as not to generate glare and reflections on screens, they should be hung from the ceiling to provide indirect light, just behind the actual workplace.

People have different lighting needs. Research shows that it is important for people to be able to supplement so that we get the amount of light we think we need. A simple desk lamp may be the solution.

Children and young people can be affected negatively by the shortsightedness that arises as a result of poor light. So light is even more important for them. At the age of 40+, the need for light becomes greater and greater, and a little more light can make it possible to avoid the need for reading glasses, for example.


The border between sound and noise is not always obvious. What disturbs, stresses and tires us varies from one person to another and also depends on how we feel on a particular day. So it’s all the more important not to keep quiet about how we perceive conversation, laughter and murmuring in the workplace. We need to talk about sound.

LISBETH FORSBERG, responsible for acoustics and environmental labelling at Kinnarps, believes that ’sound ergonomics’ is a rather neglected area. In our workplaces, but also in society at large. Even if a huge amount of effort has gone into the architecture and interior design of a new building, it is not uncommon for the whole experience to be ruined by an unconsidered and annoying acoustic environment.

”Sound is an extremely complicated area. For one thing, it involves advanced physics. For another, sound isn’t something we can touch or see, which means it’s easy to forget. So most people probably don’t think about the acoustic environment that surrounds them, but we know that it nevertheless affects health, well-being and ability to perform.


Kinnarps was a pioneer in sound ergonomics – measuring sound in the workplace to be able to create better acoustic environments. The development took off during the 1990s, and in recent years awareness of sound has increased considerably.

”I think technological development, which means that we are working more flexibly and in open landscapes, has pushed the acoustic environment up the agenda. At Kinnarps we have worked with colleagues in the industry to develop joint standards for measuring sound absorption in our products.”

Forsberg points out that there are laws regarding noise which is damaging for people’s hearing, but in the case of sound which is ”only” annoying, the limits are fuzzier.

”We know that sound greatly affects our ability to perform, that it can cause stress, headaches and concentration problems, but also physical pain in the shoulders and neck. At the same time, sound is obviously inevitable in our workplaces. In fact it can also be perceived as a positive thing that our colleagues discuss, laugh or play music. So total silence isn’t always necessarily best. Not all sound is noise. And in fact there are some sounds that we want, and need, to hear as well as possible.

”What we perceive as annoying is really subjective. We all have different sensitivities. It can also vary from day to day. If we’re tired, or stressed, or have a work task that needs a particularly high concentration level, a colleague’s laughter or phone conversation can annoy us more than usual,” says Forsberg.


So, how can we create a good acoustic environment? Since sensitivity to sound can vary between people, days and work tasks, a flexible environment with a number of different soundscapes is best.

A good way to start is to enlist the help of an expert who will analyse the link between work processes and the environment, suggest how unnecessary disturbances can be eliminated and what other sound absorbers might be needed. This includes both specially-designed products such as desk screens, screen walls and wall-rail systems of various kinds, and looking at the whole environment to find a good balance by using natural absorbers such as curtains, carpets and furniture.

”My advice is always to start with a basic furnishing that you can then adjust when the premises have come into use. It’s really only then that you know what it sounds like. The advantage of screens, apart from the fact that they dampen sound, is that they also make the office flexible and adaptable to new requirements,” says Forsberg. It is especially important to screen off machines and areas that make a noise, hum or just have a slightly raised sound level, such as printers, lifts, walkways, canteens and reception areas. Screens between workplaces dampen sound in an office landscape, without sacrificing the advantages of increased closeness and communication. Separate rooms for shorter or longer meetings also contribute to a better acoustic environment.

”You can also affect some things with your behaviour. If you’re going to have a lengthy telephone conversation, you can move away a little. Remember, too, that we have a tendency to talk on the telephone with a louder voice than necessary. A quiet conversation is obviously less annoying than a loud one, says Forsberg.


A lot can be done with the acoustic environment if we only notice it and become aware of how it affects us. Best of all, of course, is if the architect knows about sound and plans the acoustic environment at the stage of designing the building.

”I’ve come across quite a few environments where the acoustics were completely forgotten during construction, and it can be really difficult to make and mend afterwards. That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness of sound and how it affects us,” says Forsberg, adding:

”I can see a lot of positive signs that things are developing in the right direction. There’s something of a quiet revolution under way.”


Sensitivity to sound is individual and can also vary from day to day depending, for example, on how tired or stressed we are. Work tasks that require high levels of concentration can also make you perceive sound as annoying.

It affects your health and your ability to perform. It can cause stress, headaches and concentration problems, but also physical pain in the shoulders and neck.

Talk more quietly on the telephone; you will be heard anyway. Move away if you are going to have a lengthy meeting. Notice and take account of how your colleagues perceive the acoustic environment. Turn towards the person you are talking to, so that they can hear you better.

Suggest that areas with high noise levels should be screened off. Everyone will appreciate it. Screens can also create separate spaces in an office landscape.

Soft, porous materials such as curtains, textile-covered furniture and carpets absorb sound. On the other hand, harder surfaces such as wooden floors reflect sound. So in a room with very hard surfaces, sound is more annoying and can have an echo effect.

It’s about people.