A chair’s a chair right? Not quite. Some chairs are ergonomically superior to others. We examine what makes a chair ergonomic and why they’re a good buy.
Australia is a nation of sedentary workers who sit for the bulk of their working week. It’s important that office employees use ergonomic chairs and the correct seated posture to avoid musculoskeletal injuries.
Components of an Ergonomic Chair
No one should adjust their body to suit their work surroundings. An awkward position or poor posture is one of the fastest ways to develop an injury. And a chair is the crucial piece of furniture for a seated office worker.
An ergonomic chair can be fully adjusted with easy to use handles that can change the chair’s settings while the user is in the seated position.
Lumbar support is one of the most important aspects of an office chair. The chair must be able to adjust to provide good support to your lower back. Most people prefer the chair back to be at a 90-110 degree angle to the seat for a comfortable position. The height of the chair back is also important so that the shoulders have adequate support.
The choice of materials means you can choose a chair back to suit you. Some people like a solid chair back while mesh backs are popular amongst those who feel the heat while working.
Being able to change the height of the chair is the most basic chair change and a good place to start. The correct posture while sitting at a desk and using a computer is to have your feet flat on the floor or a footstool with the arms in line with the desk height.
Some people don’t like chairs with arms while for others they’re a must have. A chair with arms can reduce the strain on your neck and shoulders and stop you from sitting forward in the chair.
If you prefer chairs with no arms, look for an office task chair. Executive office chairs and most mesh office chairs have arms.
Make sure the arms can be adjusted so the chair can fit under the desk and you can sit close enough to work comfortably. Your forearms should be at a 90-degree angle to the upper arms.
Chairs for Small or Oversized Workers
Ergonomic chairs are designed to be adjusted so they fit 90% of the population. For the 10% whose body shape is outside this range, they should buy a chair that’s specifically designed to cater for them.
A short worker may benefit from a small office chair with a reduced seat size so their knees can bend at a comfortable angle and can rise high enough that their arms are horizontal to the desk and they can place their feet comfortably on a foot stool.
A worker who is very tall or overweight may need a chair with a steel substructure that can cope with the worker’s extra size and weight. Heavy Duty office chairs start a seated weight of 150kg and go up. Bariatric chairs start at a seated weight of 200kg and hold up to 300kg.
The Australasian Furniture Research and Development Institute (AFRDI) produces the AFRDI Product Certification for more information about ergonomic furniture testing and performance.
The Value of Ergonomic Chairs
A good quality ergonomic office chair is an investment in the comfort and safety of employees. But don’t just consider the outlay, there is a considerable return on investment to make with the right chair.
Research has shown comfortable workers are more productive than uncomfortable ones. A work environment model ranks comfort as being physical, functional and psychological with physical comfort being the most important. The ergonomics, light, air quality, sound and temperature have the greatest impact on productivity.
When a worker feels uncomfortable, they’re likely to think about their discomfort, get up to walk around and not focus on the task they should be working on. All these distractions can add up to an incredible 86 minutes of lost productivity every work day. When multiple employees in a workplace feel uncomfortable and lose productivity, the lost opportunity and cost of being unproductive adds up quickly.
The cost of an ergonomic chair that will increase worker comfort and productivity levels can be a fraction of the cost compared to years of distractions.
It’s not just discomfort that reduces productivity, work-related injuries are a significant cost to business and the wider community. Sitting for long periods in an unsuitable chair can cause musculoskeletal injuries of the neck, back, elbows and hips. No one chair setting suits all body shapes.
We all carry weight differently, we’re different heights, have different postures and previous injuries to consider for finding a chair we can be comfortable in for around 40 hours per week. The most important aspect of the chair is that it can be fully adjusted. All components of the chair need to move to support different parts of your body.
If you need more information about ergonomic chairs, see our Ergonomic Office Chairs Buyers Guide – Part 1, Ergonomic Chairs Buyers Guide Part 2 – Task Chairs and Ergonomic Chairs Buyers Guide Part 3 – Mesh Chairs.
To enquire about an ergonomic chair, visit the Ergolink showroom, call us on (08) 9240 7066 or contact us online.