Modern Office Furniture

What to keep in mind when choosing a ergonomic office chair

Autonomous Autonomous | May 18, 2017

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You might be surprised how often the things that we use are built for a purpose but not for the people who will use it. That’s the basic concept of ergonomics: built for the people who will use it, not just a purpose. This concept can apply to pretty much anything that we physically interact with. So with a chair, for example, if you can sit on it, then it serves its purpose. But in order to be considered ergonomic, the chair has to be designed with the entire human form taken into account, from head to toe, which means that here is a lot to consider when looking for an ergonomic office chair

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As explained by Ergonomic Chair Central, having the right chair is about much more than comfort:

“The correct ergonomic chair can not only reduce potential damage, but when coupled with specific training, it can also increase worker output.  Studies indicate that an adjustable chair combined with ergonomic training let to a reduction in orthopedic damage.  Further research found that worker productivity could be increased as much as 17.5% by simply providing workers with the right chair and training.

These are things that should be self-evident.  While many employers seek to cut material costs by using cheaply manufactured goods, this is actually damaging in the long run.  Statistics don’t lie.  Time after time research points to quality ergonomic chairs as being one of the key differences between happy, productive workers, and costly workers compensation claims.”

Let’s start, though, with why it’s so important to have an ergonomic chair in the first place. Of everything that you use on a daily basis, your office chair is without a doubt the most important piece of furniture that needs to be ergonomic. If you spend any time sitting on a regular basis, and especially if you spend an excessive amount of time sitting, an ergonomic office chair can help you prevent a whole host of serious health problems. Most of the health issues that result from using the wrong chair have to do with posture, but healthy circulation is also impeded by a chair that doesn’t fit your body properly. Headaches, as well as chronic neck, shoulder, back and sciatica pain are some of the most common reasons for missed work. An ergonomic chair plays a major part in preventing all of them. 

The most important feature of an ergonomic chair is the lumbar support, which ensures that your back naturally keeps a proper curve in the lumbar area of your spine. However, every feature of an ergonomic chair is important, because each needs to be adjustable to fit and support you. The most supportive ergonomic chairs will have a fully adjustable headrest, back, lumbar support, arm rests, and a seat the raises and lowers as well as moving forwards, backwards and tilting. The more adjustable the chair is, the more ergonomic it is, since it can be fine tuned to fit your body. 

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Seat height

Seat height is an important feature because it allows you to ensure that your screen and line of site are properly aligned, helping to prevent slouching and neck pain. It also plays a role in your wrist and shoulder alignment with your desk, keyboard and mouse, which can be a major factor in preventing tight upper back and shoulder muscles which commonly cause pain if not tension headaches. If you’re an especially tall or short person, you’ll need to make sure that the seat height of your ergonomic chair has a wide range. A wide height range is a useful feature for everyone, though, because it allows you to use the chair at desks or other surfaces of different heights. 

Seat slide/tilt

While many office chairs can raise and lower, the usual office chair does not have a sliding seat. This feature is the most critical to ensuring that your office chair is not impeding circulation in your legs. The best way to tell if your seat is properly adjusted for you is if you can easily slide two fingers between the seat and the backs of your knees. If there is too much space, slide the seat forward. If it’s difficult to slide your fingers behind your knees, your chair is putting pressure on the backs of your legs that may cause poor circulation to your feet. Once your seat is properly adjust forwards or backwarrds, tilting the seat forward can further decrease the pressure on the backs of your legs and help encourage proper posture. Not everyone finds a forwarded tilted seat to be comfortable for long periods of time, but it’s a good option to have when you need a reminder to maintain good posture. 

Lumbar support 

As mentioned above, adjustable lumbar support is the most important feature of an ergonomic office chair. Maintaining the curve in your lower back is the key to proper posture throughout the spine. When sitting, especially for long periods, lumbar support is crucial for comfort and spine health. Make sure that the lumbar support of the chair is adjustable, as height and body shape play a role in where the lumbar support needs to make contact with your back in order to actually support your spine. 

Tilt tension

Tilt tension is the resistance of the chair when you lean back in it. Adjustable tilt tension allows you to be comfortable while using the chair for various purposes. For example when reading, you may want to relax the tilt tension and lean back. When typing, you probably want to firm up the tilt tension and sit up straight, if not slightly forward. One feature of the ErgoChair that makes this especially easy is that the tilt tension is not only adjustable but can be turned on and off with a lever, allowing you to quickly switch between leaning back at whatever level of tilt tension you prefer and sitting up straight against a firm back. 

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For some the headrest seems like a bonus, but having a headrest as an option makes an ergonomic chair much more versatile, especially if you do a lot of reading in your office chair. Having support right at the base of your skull can help reduce the strain on your neck and upper back when sitting for long periods. Head rests which not only raise and lower but also tilt are more versatile and more likely to meet the base of your skull where you really need support. 

Adjustable arm rests

In the same way that many standard office chairs don’t have seats that can slide forwards and backwards, adjustable arm rests are a feature that might not be obvious but can make a big difference in an ergonomic chair. No two people’s elbows will rest in the same place when sitting in a chair, depending on height, arm length and shoulder width. Make sure that your arm rests are in a position where your shoulders are relaxed. 

Stable, easy to move base

A five-wheel base is standard for an ergonomic chair to ensure that it evenly supports your weight and is very stable. If you work on multiple surfaces and move your chair between them, having good wheels will make a big difference in terms of convenience. It’s important that the chair feels completely stable to avoid unconsciously holding tension in your body to compensate for a wobbly feeling in the chair. 

Mesh back

While it may initially seem more comfortable to get a leather chair, a mesh back ensures that heat doesn’t build up between your body and the back of the chair. Air circulation through the back of the chair will keep your body temperature stable and comfortable, preventing overheating from interrupting your focus. The mesh of a truly ergonomic chair should be mostly firm but also somewhat flexible to ensure that it supports you when you lean on it and also moulds to your body. 

To sum everything up, an ergonomic chair has to be either custom made to fit you or completely adjustable so that you can fine tune it to support your body in particular. Every feature of the chair plays a part in ensuring that you maintain the best possible posture in a way that is comfortable enough to be sustainable over a long period of time. The more features of a chair which can be adjusted, the more versatile the chair will be for various uses besides just sitting and typing. The only real way to know if an ergonomic chair is properly adjusted for your body is to use it for an entire work day. If you experience any pain or discomfort, be sure and adjust the chair as it’s probably an indicator of poor posture or inadequate support, which can lead to chronic posture and health issues.  

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