Why Choose an ergonomic chair?
A high-quality ergonomic chair is one of the most important investments you can make to improve health and well-being at work. But how do you pick the correct ergonomic chair?
Office ergonomics is all about adjusting a workstation to fit the user, with the aim of increasing efficiency, productivity, and reducing discomfort. Remtek Workplace offers a range of workplace ergonomic solutions, but ergonomic chairs remain our most popular item.
The design of ergonomic chairs may take some getting used to, but the benefits outweigh the initial period of adjustment while getting into the habit of using it effectively. A successful ergonomics program in your workplace can help staff members to reduce the impact of sedentary work by adjusting or adapting their workstations to better suit their individual requirements. Resulting in fewer repetitive strain injuries (RSI’S) and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s) from being in one position all day. It seems strange to say it in an ergonomic chair blog, but getting out of the chair is even more important than sitting in a high-quality ergonomic chair. Sit-stand working habits are on the rise and standing desks, and desk-raising platforms are a huge benefit, especially with the rise of hybrid working.
Ergonomic chairs may not always look like the most appealing piece of office furniture to sit on, but they can combat poor posture and back problems that result from staying in one position all day.
Benefits of ergonomic chairs include
An ergonomic chair is designed to offer maximum comfort whilst offering multiple health and well-being benefits:
Reduces back pain
Sitting in a non-supported posture for a prolonged period places strain on back muscles, causing them to fatigue. In addition, the non-supported posture may lead to deteriorating posture and poor blood circulation, which can damage spine discs and nerve roots. An ergonomically designed chair provides strong back support, which is critical during those tasks that require extended periods of sedentary work, such as using a computer or serving customers.
Supports posture which reduces strain on the neck and spine
Ergonomic chairs promote neutral spinal alignment. Chairs without adequate support will force your body weight down your thighs, causing you to adopt a forward slouching position. This is why people commonly suffer from back pain after investing in an expensive new office chair. An ergonomically designed chair provides low back support. At the same time, you are encouraging a natural recline where your spine stays supported as you sit, allowing users to maintain a neutral sitting posture that reduces strain on lower back muscles, maximizing comfort levels throughout the day.
Reduces pressure on the hips by offering a more natural sitting position
Having an ergonomically designed chair can encourage correct sitting height and depth. A seating surface that is too long or too short, raised too high or too low, causes excessive pressure to be placed on the hips, legs, feet and knees. An ergonomic chair providing a correct sitting height and depth allows your feet to naturally rest on the floor, reducing strain on lower back muscles, thighs, and hips by spreading your weight evenly across your lower body.
Reduces pressure on the musculoskeletal system caused by continuous use
An ergonomic chair should support the musculoskeletal system and provide sufficient lumbar support to ensure spinal health while working at desks or using computers. Suppose you do not have adequate lumbar or low back support. In that case, you reduce the efficiency of all other features in an ergonomic chair by forcing yourself into an incorrect posture, leading to pain and discomfort throughout the day.
Prevents stiffness in the neck and shoulders
Sitting for several hours in the same position can cause significant postural strain on your neck, back, and shoulders. As you begin to experience soreness, the muscles around your spine and shoulder can become tense or guarded, and as you continue to work in the same position, these muscles fatigue and become more painful. This is where an ergonomic chair becomes effective, allowing for a variety of adjustments and additional support.
8 factors to consider when picking an ergonomic chair
When choosing an ergonomic chair, often, people look at the price tag or assume that all ergonomic chairs are expensive because they are better for your back or health. On average, ergonomic chairs do indeed cost more money, but the benefits far outweigh the investment.
Here is how to choose an ergonomic chair:
1. Backrest height adjustment
The backrest is the biggest factor in an ergonomic chair as this allows for maximum support of your spine while you’re sitting. This is especially important when sitting in an office chair all day because sitting affects your spine’s natural curve. The backrest should accommodate your specific back length from posterior up to your shoulders, and provide a firm (but malleable) surface that can be adjusted up or down.
Many chairs today come equipped with adjustable armrests to be placed appropriately depending on user preference or arm length. The armrests should allow hand placement at 90 degrees from the body with shoulders relaxed while pressing keyboard keys or using the mouse.
2. Seat depth adjustment
The seat depth adjustment is an often-overlooked feature that provides as many benefits as an adjustable backrest. If you sit on a chair with a seat depth adjuster, more of your body weight will be supported by the seat, and less of it will rest on your legs and feet. This makes it easier to maintain good posture.
If your chair doesn’t have a seat depth adjustment, make sure that it fits correctly by seating yourself as far back as possible, and placing a hand behind your knee. There should be around two to three fingers’ width distance between your legs and the edge of the seat.
If you need assistance in choosing an effective ergonomic chair we offer DSE assessments with one of our professional ergonomics specialists.
3. Lumbar support
Picking the right ergonomic chair means choosing one with lumbar support. Lumbar support will keep your lower back supported while sitting upright, preventing poor posture that leads to muscle pain. A chair usually comes with an inflatable cushion or small pillow attached to the back for this very purpose. You can buy separate ones for your specific needs if it doesn’t.
Lumbar pillows are often a more cost-effective method of achieving high levels of support than simply changing your chair. These special cushions are used for supporting the lower back when sitting down due to their firmness and flexibility. They come in different shapes and sizes, so finding one that suits you is important.
4. Armrest functionality
The armrests on an ergonomic chair reduce shoulder strain and the pressure placed on the neck and upper limbs. When choosing a chair, make sure that your chair has adjustable height armrests with soft padding on top. There are various types of arms to suit budgets and requirements, 4-dimensional arms have height, width, depth and angle adjustments. A good example is the customisable Ortho Omega chair.
Armrests should be at mid-height on your desk, at a comfortable elbow height when you are working away from the keyboard. Often, height adjustable armrests can be removed easily on certain chairs when they are not in use, and some are able to be folded back out of the way, to assist with transferring from a wheelchair for example.
5. Independent backrest angle adjustment
A minimum requirement of any office chair as per HSE guidelines, an independent backrest angle adjustment is a standard feature to every ergonomic chair. This allows the backrest to move forwards and backward so that you can sit upright in your chair or lean back, placing less stress on the spine. This is especially useful when sitting at a desk working on computers for long periods of time.
On your chair, choose a backrest that has an angle adjustment so you have the option to sit upright comfortably while typing, and reclined while carrying out tasks that don’t require constant keyboard use.
6. Free float rocking action facility
Many ergonomic chairs come with the ability to lock or unlock the rocking function. It provides flexibility in movement while working on your desk, especially if you work for long hours sitting on a chair. Being able to rock back and forth while keeping the backrest in contact with your most important body part, your spine is essential to your musculoskeletal health and wellbeing.
Locking/Unlocking the free float action facility is part of most ergonomic chairs. It can be located within the mechanism of your chair (under the seat), easily accessible from a seated position for most chairs. Unlocking this feature is as simple as flicking a switch or twisting a lever under your chair arms to release the locking mechanism. To check if it is locked or unlocked, try to shift your weight around while seated on your chair. If it doesn’t move easily, or is not giving you enough flexibility in movement, then it’s locked.
Also, it’s worth considering investing in one with adjustable tension control so you can change how easy or difficult it is to lean back against the backrest. If you are pushed too far forward at the computer desk, use the tension control to control the strength of movement in line with your body weight.
This might not seem like a big deal, but having a chair that can roll around, and swivel allows you to reach things on your workstation without placing undue strain on your body, especially If you have a large workstation, or are using multiple monitors.
It is important to consider the range of castor options available, the floor surface, for example, there are castors designed for carpets, or hard floors, with different materials to make sure your range of movement is suitable. Also, castors that either only move when you are seated in them, or the opposite, can be locked in place when you are sat down. Some more advanced models have swivel and movement locks to enable wheelchair users a stable transition.
8. Fabric (Domestic/commercial fire reg’s approved)
The fabric of the chair you choose should not only look nice but it should be fire-rated to comply with local building codes. There are different regulations for commercial chairs (in office) than there are for domestic chairs (homeworkers).
The fabric will also impact how good the chair is for your skin. Choosing the right fabric is good ergonomic practice. The fabric needs to be thick enough to support your body and soft and breathable.
For advice on how to sit at your desk correctly check out our top tips in an earlier blog article here!
Is an ergonomic chair worth it?
This is a question that we often get asked and the answer is absolutely yes. Owning an ergonomic chair is a great investment, but only if you select one that is designed to work for you. An impartial assessment with a trained DSE assessor will help you in your decision-making.
A typical office worker spends almost as much time in their work chair as they do in their beds, but most people are not aware of the possible damage they are doing to themselves by sitting for long hours in a chair which either isn’t the correct fit, or the correct style for them.
Do you feel discomfort in your back? Your neck? Do you have an aching pain between your shoulders? Do you suffer from wrist pain when typing or doing office work? If so, you could be suffering from one of the many MSD’s and RSI’s associated with poor posture and sedentary working habits. But how can we make our offices more comfortable and adapt them to suit our needs better at little cost? The answer is simple: an ergonomic chair!
If your office is filled with old chairs designed for people to sit up straight rather than work in a range of positions, then ergonomic chairs are a must! An ergonomic chair makes it possible to change the position of where you sit and adjust various parts such as the lumbar support, armrests, neck support, and seat height.
In addition to postural problems caused by poor sitting while working on a display screen, people may also suffer from muscular pain and repetitive strain injuries. Even more serious problems can arise when a person cannot work comfortably in their chair, which means that they may have to take time off work to recover.
Absenteeism costs money. Presenteeism costs money. Almost 80% of people experience back pain at some point during their careers, leading to absenteeism, presenteeism, and lost workdays, all affecting your productivity, and your bottom line.
Why invest in an ergonomic chair?
An ergonomic office chair can help people who are constantly sitting down during their day jobs, students working from home or for long periods in classrooms, and people who work at home. An ergonomic chair will provide them with a comfortable and relaxing posture during work periods, even when they are required to stay in one place for long hours.
Here are some of the advantages of an ergonomic chair
1. Increased productivity levels
When you are comfortable at your desk, you can focus more on the task at hand rather than getting disturbed now and then because your body is not happy with its position. This also means that there is no need to take any breaks just because you want to rest, causing less disruption to the workflow. Studies have shown up to 25% increase in productivity from the implementation of an effective workplace ergonomics program.
2. Better health
Improved posture helps to proactively decrease the health risks for people who spend long hours sitting in front of their computers or working in uncomfortable positions. This results in fewer trips to see doctors and fewer sick days off work!
3. Prevention of future injuries
Having an ergonomic chair at home allows a person to have better habits when sitting down while watching TV, reading a book, or even working on a computer.
4. A good investment
It may seem a hefty investment at first glance, but on average, ergonomic chairs come with a considerably longer warranty and service periods than a more typical office chair. Usually, the warranty period will be 5 years for parts and labor, and 2 years for fabric, although some come with 10 or even 15-year warranties. This give’s you and your staff the peace of mind that if there are ever any problems, they can be resolved without issue or additional cost.
The price of the chair is worth it in terms of the benefits to your health. Having to buy a new office chair every twelve-eighteen months due to overuse, faults or damage is not a worthwhile investment. If your work requires you to sit for long periods at a desk and there are no alternatives available, think about buying an ergonomic chair that will last much longer.
Do I need an Ergonomic chair?
It’s true that not everyone needs to invest in an ergonomic chair. It may not be part of their job requirement or they do not spend enough time at their desk during working hours. It may be that their current chair is good enough. But, what about the rest of the workstation? Hopefully, after reading this, you can see the potential for applying the same logic to the rest of the working environment.
The initial investment of a good ergonomics program such as investing in ergonomic chairs is cost effective, considering health risks and time wasted due to pain and stress caused by working without a proper workstation arrangement.
If you have been experiencing discomfort for some time now, as a worker, the first step is to get a workplace assessment. This may show that you need a more suitable chair, height adjustable desk, monitor arm, or a variety of ergonomic assistance.
If there are no symptoms yet, but your present work situation seems the ideal environment for an MSD or RSI, get a workplace assessment without delay. It may already be too late, since injuries of this nature may become permanent even after taking the necessary steps of getting treatment or surgery done. You can never go wrong by being proactive towards your health and wellbeing!
All things considered, one should invest in an ergonomic chair whenever possible since they allow employees to work comfortably and productively while minimising stress and pain over time. Rather than wait until injuries or health risks become irreversible, take care of yourself by giving your body the support it needs through ergonomic chairs.
While many people believe they will be more productive simply by spending more time at their office desk, this is not true. Optimum performance can only be achieved with a healthy work environment, including, but most definitely not limited to, ergonomic chairs.
Get started with an initial discussion to see how we can support individuals and employers with a range of ergonomic or inclusivity requirements. Email our Head of Ergonomics Chris Barlow at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone on 0161 745 8353 to speak with our team of specialists.