6 Ergonomic Features in an Office Chair for Short People

6 Ergonomic Features in an Office Chair for Short People

|Oct 1, 2020

If you’re a short person under 5-foot-3-inches for women and 5-foot-8-inches for men, you realize that a lot of the world isn’t designed for you. Cabinets might be too high to reach in the office, and desks and chairs swallow you, making it impossible to be comfortable and get your work done.

Most standard office chairs are built for the 5th to 95th percentile of the population; that’s mostly people who are taller than 5’3” for women and 5’8” for men. This leaves over 4 million workers unlucky, with their feet dangling off their chairs.

Most short people suffer in silence. As it’s awkward to ask for a special chair because that would cost hundreds of dollars. Thus, many short people are used to “being uncomfortable,” in offices, airplanes, and standard-sized cars. Since most of us, spending most of our days sitting; uncomfortable can lead to chronic pain.

In this guide, I’ll discuss all the important ergonomic features that short people should consider when picking an ergonomic office chair.

6 Factors to Consider in an Office Chair for Petite People

If you’re a small-framed or short person, your choice of office chair is limited. However, the one universal factor to keep in mind when looking for an office chair if you’re petite is adjustability.

1.   Seat Depth

A seat pan that’s too deep can result in circulation problems for petite people. Because the legs will dangle off the floor, applying undue pressure to your thighs.

Most standard office chairs have seats that are about 17 to 18 inches deep, which is too large for short people. If you’re 5’6’’ or shorter, you should look for chairs with a minimum seat depth of 16 inches or less. Also, chairs with adjustable seat depth that can go as low as 15 inches are the best option.

sit comfortably

You can calculate the ideal seat depth yourself by measuring the horizontal distance between your buttock and the back of your knees. Seat depth is essential in providing full support to your thighs, as well as making sure you seat properly in the chair to get appropriate back support. Also, there should be a space of at least 10mm behind your knees to avoid compression of the unprotected vessels behind the knee.

2.   Seat Height

Proper seat height is another crucial parameter to consider when picking an office chair. The ideal seat height is given by the vertical distance between the floor and back of the knee height, plus the thickness of the footwear. Appropriate seat height is essential in reducing the pressure on the soft tissues of the back of your thigh and in reducing pressure on your hip bones.

So, sitting in a chair with proper height will promote blood circulation and reduce discomfort on your lower limbs.

Seat height

When seated, your knees should be at 90 degrees, with your feet flat on the floor. Most standard office chairs have a seat height of 17 to 22 inches, which is too tall for people who are 5-foot-6-inches or under.

As a short person, you need a chair with a minimum seat height of 16 inches if you’re 5’6’’ and 15 inches if you’re 5’2’’. And if you’re shorter than 5’2’’, then you should find a chair that gets as low as 14 inches to avoid your feet dangling off the floor. Autonomous AvoChair has a seat height of 16 inches to 19 inches, which is ideal even for short people.

However, the good news is that seat height isn’t nearly as crucial as seat depth for petite people because you can always use a chair with footrest if it doesn’t go low enough for you. 

3.   Armrests

Armrests are another crucial factor to consider. You want to have your arms naturally at your sides and your elbows at a 90-degree angle. You don’t want to angle your arms outward to reach the armrests because this will strain your neck and shoulders.

Standard office chair armrests are typically 17 to 18 inches apart. However, if you’re 5-foot-6-inches, you should look for armrests with a minimum width of 16 inches or less. And if you’re 5-foot or shorter, then you should look for armrests 13 inches apart.

Ergonomic chair with armrests

When looking at armrests, another factor to consider is height. Pick a chair with armrests at a height range that works for you. If you’re below 5-foot-6-inches, then you should get a chair with armrests 9 inches above the seat height to achieve the 90-degree elbow angle. And if you’re 5-foot tall or under, then you should get a chair with armrests height of 7 inches or less.

4.   Headrests 

If you’re a petite or short person, you should be careful when buying office chairs with headrests. Because headrests often result in an awkward posture among shorter people. Most headrests are built to fit into the curve of your neck. So, if you’re petite, the headrest ends up pushing the back of your head forward.

Ergonomic chair with headrests

This can also happen with chairs with more standard headrests. Because if you’re too short, you’re unable to reach the intended headrest, making your chair uncomfortable.

Thus, if you want a headrest, look for chairs that are designed specifically for petite people that have a headrest option. This’ll make sure you’re comfortable on your chair, and you’ll get a lot of your work done.

5.   Backrest 

Your office chair’s backrest should be adjustable to meet your height needs. Ideally, the backrest should tilt forward, which prevents you from perching dangerously on the edge of your seat, exerting pressure on your lower back.

Ergonomic chair with comfortable backrest

Your backrest should also adjust to support your lower back. However, depending on the seat depth, you may need lumbar support that’s depth adjustable to make sure that it meets your back fully to support it.

6.   Desk Height

Another crucial factor to consider is your desk height. When typing, you want a height of 8 inches above your seat height. If, for example, you’re using an office chair with a seat height of 16 inches, then your desk needs to be as low as 24 inches to promote an ergonomic position. The standard desk height is 30 inches, so there’s a big difference there.

Comfortable ergonomic chair with desk height

However, there are several ways you can achieve the 24 inches. one way is to use a footrest as mentioned above. The second is to get a height-adjustable desk, which you can lower to a position that you’re comfortable in. Finally, get a keyboard drawer or keyboard tray to lower your keyboard.

Final Thoughts

The selection of office chairs for short people is limited. However, there are many things you can do to expand your selection. From getting a footrest, keyboard tray to buying a height-adjustable desk, all these options are a fundamental improvement for many people. These will make seat height less of a challenge.

If you’re still searching for the ideal office chair, the six factors mentioned above will guide you on what to look for and what to avoid. So, you should be able to find the best office chair that fits your requirements.

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