To prevent expensive injuries in the office, business owners and managers use the science of ergonomics. The ergonomic design of office furniture reduces injury risk by adapting the work environment to fit the individual employee instead of forcing the person to adapt to the work. Businesses that apply ergonomics to their employees’ environments benefit from increased productivity and work quality. Office work generally requires spending a lot of time sitting at a desk and using a computer. This position creates stress on the spine. To avoid developing a back problem, having the support of an ergonomic office chair may help promote good posture and prevent future problems or pain. No one style of chair has been named ‘best’, but there are a few features that are important components of any ergonomic office chair that you should look for. These features will help you set up your chair for your own specific needs.
Back height, seat depth and width, seat angle and arm support should all be adjustable. Adjustable seats, backs and arms will allow you to customize the size and support of your chair to fit your body. A very simple way to approach ergonomics is to look for the most adjustable chair. The goal of ergonomics is to adapt ‘objects to be better suited to the shape of the body’, and good chair adjustments are the way to make that happen.
The height of an ergonomic office chair’s seat should be easily adjusted. Pneumatic lever adjustment is typically the easiest and most common way to achieve this. Seat height should range between 16-21 inches from the floor for most people. The chair’s height should allow the user to put his or her feet flat on the floor with their thighs in horizontal position and arms level with the desk.
Lumbar refers to the gentle curves in the back of a chair. The purpose of these curves is to match with the natural curves in the human back. This curve is important to maintain because the vertical line through the center of gravity of the upper part of our body falls on the peak of the curve, allowing us to stand upright with minimum back muscle activity. Lumbar depth adjustability is an important tool for obtaining a chair that is suited for your body type. Lumbar depth affects the size, and sometimes firmness, of the lumbar support curve in a chair’s back.
The width of an office chair seat should be enough to support the user comfortably; this generally means about 17-20 inches of width for an average-sized adult. There are Big & Tall chairs available that can accommodate larger trunk/thigh areas.
The depth of the chair should provide sufficient space for the user to sit with their back against the backrest and still leave 2-4 inches of space between the back of the knees and the seat of the chair. This can be achieved in most chairs with a sliding seat pan which changes the front-to-back depth of the seat. For a shorter user, a shorter seat pan should be used. A deeper seat pan is more comfortable for taller users.
Seat Pan Angle
Seat pan angle adjustability refers to the chair’s tilting ability from front to back. This is a fixed angle that can be set and changed by the user. This feature usually offers a forward tilt which opens the angle between the trunk and thighs, reducing disc pressure. This is different from the chair recline or tilt which is a generally a free-floating recline.
Chair recline or tilt changes the angle of the entire seat in relation to the floor. A reclined chair relocates some upper body weight to the backrest of the chair. There are two main types of chair tilt. The first is called “column tilt,” where the chair pivots at the top of the base post and the user lifts their knees slightly while the back descends. The second is known as knee tilt, in which the pivot point is in front of the post, nearer the knees. In a knee tilt chair, the knee lift is small, but the back (and head) descend more than in a column tilt chair.
Adjustable armrests are best since they allow user’s arms to rest and relax at the right height. Height adjustability helps to avoid the problem of too-high armrests and too-low armrests. Arm rests that are too high result in elevated shoulders forcing pressure on the undersides of the elbows and forearms. Armrests that are too low cause the worker to slump or lean to one side to use them. Elbows and lower arms should rest lightly on rests, and the forearm should not be on the armrest while typing. Height-adjustable armrests also can keep armrests out of the way during typing or other activities requiring free motion. Width-adjustable armrests are also helpful. This kind of adjustability changes the distance between armrests. Having armrests too far from the body can cause splayed elbows, which in turn cause the wrists to bend to the side during activities such as typing.
The back of your chair should support your back without pushing you forward or causing you to lean back. In addition, lumbar support should be adjustable so that the support’s position can be changed for multiple recline positions. Arm rest height should range from below thigh level to above your seated elbow height. One of the most important features of an ergonomic office chair is lumbar support. The lower spine has an inward curve. Sitting for long periods of time without supporting this curve often causes slouching, or a flattening or eversing of that curve and thus strains the structure of the lumbar spine. An ergonomic chair should offer a lumbar adjustment of both height and depth, so that the user can properly position the support in the inward curve of their lower back.
Ergonomic chairs should have backrests approximately 12-19 inches wide. Chairs with separate seat backs should be able to adjust the height and angle of the backrest. Backrests should be able to support the curve of the spine, with particular attention paid to properly supporting the lumbar region. If the seat and back of the chair are joined, the backrest should adjust forward and back angles, and have a mechanism to lock and secure the back in place.
Ease of Use
Chair height, armrest height and the ease of any reclining features should be taken into account when selecting your chair. Each of these adjustments should be easy to make from a seated position. Some users prefer pneumatic adjustability over mechanical adjustability because they find it easier to work.
Finally, any desk chair, conventional or ergonomic, should rotate or swivel easily to allow the user to reach different areas of their desk without straining. In addition, the computer, keyboard, mouse, phone and any other frequently-used office equipment should be within comfortable reach, without strain.
The chair you choose should be easy to use, look good, and feel comfortable. Chair material is something that should be considered for both comfort and aesthetic purposes. The material of the seat and back of the chair should be well-padded for comfort during long periods of sitting time. We carry the web’s best selection of office chairs, including fabric, leather, vinyl and new mesh models. Mesh chairs have the added benefit of being breathable, keeping your back cool with flexible mesh rather than insulating your body with cushioning. Seats that offer breathable fabric or mesh are better for extended periods of time.
Other Ergonomic Tips
Check with your insurance company and employer to see if you qualify for any kind of reimbursements or compensation for purchasing an ergonomic chair. Your employer may actually qualify for compensation from their insurance provider for supplying their employees with ergonomic seating. Both organizations have a vested interest in your health, and that includes your back and spine! Check with your Human Resources department to see if they can offer suggestions or solutions.
How can I tell if a chair is comfortable from looking at a picture? Look for chairs with ‘advanced ergonomic adjust-ability’. Choosing the most comfortable ergonomic chair is almost as simple as choosing the chair that is most adjustable. With more adjustments you can customize the seat to fit and support your body perfectly!
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