How does height change and ideal work environment relate?

February 21, 2019

Numerous studies examine how the average height of the human race has changed over the centuries. This phenomenon has an effect in areas that we wouldn't think of at all first. Designing workplace environment is also included.

Scientific publications bring examples primarily from the European history of how people's living conditions, life expectancy and physical parameters have evolved in different time periods. Scientists revealed a relationship between nutrition, health, and height.

The population of medieval Europe was decimated by the plague. However, with the decline of the population, more and more food was available to the survivors. As there was more food to consume, the average height increased. Later, in the 17th century, with the advent of the small ice age, the climatic conditions changed, the average yield have fallen, and less and poorer quality food was delivered per capita. As a result, shorter people started to be born again.

The relationship between health and height can be traced today, just like as it was noticeable one hundred years ago. A great example is to examine the split population of Korea. In North Korea, where the conditions are different, men are 3-8 centimeters shorter than in South Korea.

Such factors as living conditions, health conditions, nutrition and climate all affect the physical appearance of the population. In addition to environmental factors, it is genetics that determines the physical appearance of newer generations. Researchers identified the first gene to have a relationship with height in 2007. More than two hundred thousand people’s DNA samples have been analyzed, and science now traced as many as 697 genetic variations that affect the height of the individual.

The countries where people have grown the most in the past 100 years

Height is also an ergonomic factor

In the 21st century, when one of the most important goals of companies is to increase efficiency and optimize costs, the ideal matching of the human-machine-working environment should be given even greater emphasis than ever before. Expenses that are spent on organizational development, workflow planning, and job creation will not only increase efficiency, but will be returned many more times.

Ergonomic analysis and design in this man-machine-work environment provides guidance for the adjustment of worktools, the working environment and the workloads during work to comply with human conditions. The physical parameters of the human body, such as height, is also an important factor in the design of the workplace environment.

When people are talking about what is an ideal, people-centric workplace like, and what are those 21st century requirements and challenges that are need to be met, and need to be taken into account when designing the workplace environment, we are primarily thinking of office buildings and office workstations. Certainly, it is essential to plan the environment for office staff, because it matters what the chair is like or how the height of the desk or the monitor are set, and what lighting or climate are there. However, the working environment of companies in the manufacturing sector still affects more active workers, and it is often a more complex task. Fortunately, in recent decades, more and more companies have recognized the importance of this.

The key aspects of working environment design are safety, human health, efficiency, ease of use, comfort, minimum chance of failure, or easy correction of errors. But there are other important requirements. There are even more specific human needs. It is now essential to design production and assembly lines and other workstations at different manufacturing sites to meet the above-mentioned criteria. Workers' physical parameters vary. A worker with different abilities must be able to produce equally efficiently and feel comfortable in the same work environment.

Anthropometry assists to design the ideal work environment using basic human data. The dimensions of the human body are determined by race, nationality, gender and age. Also takes into account factors such as body size, shape, space to be used, freedom of movement, or effective access to work equipment. By the change of people’s height over time and the emergence of larger economical units where workforce can move freely, therefore at the same workplace workers with different body size, age and gender have to work together or in rotation. Globalization and the emergence and expansion of multinational companies have exacerbated this phenomenon. As a result, companies that consciously plan, develop the work environment, respond more effectively to changed physical conditions, as well as to changing economic and labor market conditions.

Anthropometric variables and ergonomic modeling

When designing, including virtual simulations, there are two major aspects to be applied. Static anthropometric variables and dynamic variables. While the former looks at the physical parameters of the person, such as height, weight, shoulder width, elbow height, eye height, knee and thigh height, hip width, and hand size, the latter variables give an answer to space requirement, the ideal line or workstation height, where the access ranges are, or where the comfortable visual zone is. Because of the changing physical parameters of the workforce, these dynamic variables must be designed is such a way that a workstation is comfortable and safe for all workers with different physical characteristics, and the efficiency of work therefore does not depend on, for example, the worker’s height.

The purpose of ergonomic design is to model an ideal and effective match of the human-machine-working environment before it is realized. Knowing the exact data and choosing the optimal size, adjustability and placement for the equipment, machines, and tools will smoothen the workflows and provide employees with a safe, comfortable and appropriate environment also from the point of view if health. As a matter of fact, the world is not static. Those enterprises adapt the most efficiently to continuous changes like, it the change of the average human height, that are planning, modeling and applying innovative approaches and technologies ahead.

Broadly speaking, a well-designed workplace environment greatly contributes to retain quality workforce, efficient work, and keeping fluctuation to a minimum level, just like adequate wages and benefits. Expenses spent on ergonomic design and simulation pays off multiply in the long run, even by reducing the environmental impact on workers and by taking the changing of height into account which prevents or minimizes the risk of workers suffering physical and psychological damage.


ViveLab Ergo is a cloud-based ergonomic lab for modeling objects, machines and human beings moving together in a virtual 3D space. Thanks to its massive anthropometric database and 7 built-in ergonomic analyses it precisely simulates, analyzes and validates human interactions with industrial and other environments. With the help of the ViveLab Ergo the ergonomic analysis of constructions is possible in the planning phase without prototype production by simulation in the virtual space.

Our mission is to provide fast and accurate three-dimensional virtual ergonomic tests, analysis and planning for wide range of companies to create optimal working environments and workflows for health, efficiency and competitiveness.

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