Reducing psychological stress in the workplace

Reconciling physical and mental wellbeing

The statistics are shocking. Many people are suffering from psychological stress in the workplace – one in every three in Germany currently. Although psychological distress in general has not increased, the amount of workplace absences attributed to mental illness has. Employers have a duty to provide employees with the best possible working environment and conditions to help them do their job. This applies not only to office-based working environments, but also to those in industrial production. For instance, measures need to be taken to prevent chronic pain caused by psychological strain. A work bench that can be flexibly adjusted to suit production requirements and the personal needs of staff makes a huge contribution to tackling this issue.

Employees cannot be expected to work at maximum efficiency and productivity unless they are working under the right conditions. However, their job will often expose them to physical and psychological stresses and strains that have a negative impact on their performance. For example, the number of sick days taken as a result of psychological problems has more than doubled since 2007, according to the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. In fact, a recent study by Techniker Krankenkasse has shown that illnesses brought on by psychological disorders were the number-one reason for taking sick leave in 2018. 

The consequences of stress

Staff cuts and process changes are putting employees under more and more pressure. They are often expected to take on ever-growing workloads, while also meeting increasingly tight deadlines. If employees are constantly subjected to high levels of stress, this will inevitably have negative consequences. A short attention span, fatigue and trouble concentrating can ultimately lead to burnout, depression and alcohol abuse or dependency. Exposing muscles to increased levels of stress results in tension and chronic pain. In the end, employees are less productive or completely unable to work, while a high sickness rate impacts directly on the company’s productivity. That’s why every employer should actively seek to reduce psychological stress and design the working environment in a way that reduces error rates and helps employees work efficiently.

What does the ideal work bench look like?

What can employers do to provide the best possible working environment for their staff? In addition to changing workplace organisation and workflows or reconfiguring areas of activity, it is also crucial that employers improve the working environment. 


Bad lighting at the work bench caused by lights that are too dim, too bright or dazzling, a flickering light, excessive shadows and contrasts all have a negative impact on employees’ work and their ability to concentrate. As a result, fatigue sets in, causing error rates to increase. By contrast, a well-thought-out lighting arrangement helps improve work output. “Lighting levels should be tailored to the task at hand,” explains Marius Geibel, an expert in work bench systems and a product manager at item, the international market leader in building kit systems for industrial applications. “Ideally, there should be even lighting with soft shadows.”


Well-designed assembly work benches help employees do their job. “It’s important to take a holistic approach when addressing the interplay between physical and psychological issues,” says Geibel. “For example, modular building kit systems can be used to customise equipment for different requirements and production sequences.” If work benches are height-adjustable with an optimised ergonomic design, employees can avoid unnecessary movements that become harmful over time. 

3.Performing tasks intuitively

Optimum material supply and tool stowage is becoming extremely important in industrial production. Clear visual aids, such as colour-coded containers or a consistent labelling system, help employees perform tasks intuitively. This prevents material mix-ups from the very start. Using monitors as a direct means of getting information across to staff also helps optimise manual production processes.

4.Optimising production sequences

Combining working processes can help boost efficiency, while also reducing strain on staff. For instance, item combines a height-adjustable work bench with a FIFO rack in its 4E FIFO Shooter, thus enabling rapid reconfiguration when manufacturing different variants. “We follow the lean philosophy when optimising workflows,” Geibel explains. “Thanks to Low Cost (Intelligent) Automation, the item 4E FIFO Shooter features a customised material supply system and gets rid of empty containers faster.” 

5.Organisation and structure

The 5S method is a suitable principle to follow when organising the workplace. This approach is based on the lean philosophy and includes the five steps “sort”, “set in order”, “shine”, “standardise” and “self-discipline”. Once this philosophy has been successfully implemented, employees feel more comfortable because they have a clean, tidy and safe environment to work in, which boosts both their satisfaction and performance. What’s more, having a structured working environment can help new staff get to grips with their tasks faster. 

Job satisfaction boosts efficiency

Job satisfaction has a positive impact on work output, reduces staff turnover and absences in the company and benefits the mental health of employees. “We must not underestimate just how much time staff spend at the work bench,” says Geibel. “That’s why companies should focus on providing customisable working environments that feature optimum ergonomics.” It is important to work closely with individual staff members to identify their personal and process-specific requirements and thus find the ideal solution for each of them. 

Length: 5.806 characters including spaces

Date: 4 September 2019

Images: 5

Caption 1: According to a recent study by Techniker Krankenkasse, illnesses brought on by psychological disorders were the number-one reason for sick leave in 2018.Source: Techniker Krankenkasse health report 2019

Caption 2: Keyboard Shelf 8 and the Pull-Out Keyboard Shelf from item enable employees to set up their work bench to suit their own specific needs, giving them just the support they need to do their job.

Caption 3: item work bench systems support optimum material supply and tool stowage.

Caption 4: If a state-of-the-art work bench satisfies both intralogistic and ergonomic requirements, it helps keep staff fit and healthy, thereby boosting productivity and efficiency.

Caption 5: All the products in the item Hook and Holder System, Shelves and other custom fixtures are easy to fix in place and can be arranged clearly, bringing a sense of organisation and structure to the work bench.

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