Healthy work systems and ergonomics

The profile area of Healthy Work Systems and Ergonomics applies knowledge and methods from the domains of Ergonomics/Human factors, Design, Work environment and Participative design, to enable comfortable, healthy, safe and inclusive work and workplaces.

The main goal is to use design to enable well-being, promote health and improve overall system performance, whilst counteracting sub-optimal work and work performance, injuries or accidents, and exclusion of workers from the work environment and tasks. Our research covers physical, cognitive and/or organizational (macro-) aspects of work, as well as user-experiential aspects, often in parallel. In order to address these complex interdependencies, we use a mixed-methods approach, combining field observations, interviews, focus groups, surveys, user studies, experiments, document studies, direct measurements, etc.

The research aims to increase our knowledge on how to design workplaces and work systems. We want our research to lead to safe, effective, efficient and productive work systems that are also attractive, comfortable and meaningful. In different studies we examine which overall system conditions will allow human workers to perform their work tasks as well as possible, or to find out what factors in a work system can jeopardize employees’ well-being and productivity. We also develop frameworks and processes for facilitating the design of work systems, as well as for testing and evaluating them. An important aspect of designing healthy and sustainable workplaces and work systems is participation, ensuring that the workers gain influence over the work system design.


Sustainability development goals

The research contributes to many of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals that concern the well-being of people at work. In particular, Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-being, through the focus on healthy workplace development; Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth, through better and safer use of human resources under sustainable conditions; and Goal 12 – Responsible Production and Consumption, by promoting universal understanding of sustainable lifestyles in production industry, through a human factors and ergonomics lens.


Research themes

A number of different themes related to healthy work systems and ergonomics are addressed, including production ergonomics; well-being and health in knowledge workplaces; and design methods and frameworks for work systems design.


Production Ergonomics

Production work is typically a large-scale endeavour where multiple tasks are divided among many people and machines, whose combined efforts add up to the completion of a product (or service). The research project PreKo - A Model for predictive assessment of cognitive workload exemplifies our research within Production Ergonomics. By developing a predictive assessment model for cognitive/mental workload, the project aims to support operator well-being and overall system performance in manual assembly by guiding product and work system designers towards better support regarding cognitive workload.


Well-being and Health in knowledge workplaces

In knowledge-intensive workplaces, we study the adoption of innovations in workspace design, most recently the implementation of Activity-based Flexible Offices. The research addresses design, adoption, and planning processes, as well as occupational health and safety management practices in these environments. We contribute with new knowledge on the interplay between individuals, their activities, technology and the office environment, as well as relationships between the design of office landscapes and employee wellbeing.


Design methods and frameworks for work system design

We develop methods and frameworks for analysing and designing work systems, often using workshops and systems thinking tools to engage with ergonomists, engineers and designers. One example of a tool is the ACD3-design framework for work systems, a participative design tool that helps various actors/stakeholders to gain a systems view of which design decisions have determined the current realization of a work system, and what can be changed. We have also developed a method that focuses on stakeholder roles in (ergonomic) workplace changes, called Change Agent Infrastructure.


The core idea of all themes

All themes are unified under an overarching philosophy of systems ergonomics/human factors. The core idea of designing healthy and sustainable work systems is based on the internationally ratified definition of Ergonomics/ Human Factors, described by the International Ergonomics Association IEA as improving “human well-being and overall system performance” in parallel. A systems view emphasizes interconnectedness and interaction between the elements of the system. Our research on work systems adopts this view as its foundation.

Our research aims to contribute to theories explaining of how and why some work systems function well while others do not. This involves the consideration of behavioural studies, qualitative methods from social sciences, methods from measurement science, and systems theory. Since we have a core ambition to also influence the design of future work and workplaces, we combine design theory with applied sciences, with our chief focus on ergonomics and human factors engineering. We constantly aim to maintain the systems view and not lose sight of the wider context that enables and supports healthy human work.


Areas of Expertise

  • Workplace design
  • Macro ergonomics
  • Physical ergonomics
  • Cognitive ergonomics
  • Mental and physical workload
  • Well-being


The research group