The 3 Key Benefits To Using an Ergonomic Chair
We've all heard the term 'ergonomics,' both in the context of the workplace and at home. A surprising range of objects - everything from keyboards to electric kettles and can-openers - are marketed as 'ergonomic products.'
The fact that the term is used so frequently sometimes obscures the importance of good ergonomics. Where office seating is concerned you can't give too much thought to ergonomic design. Ergonomic seating is especially important for people who have existing conditions, such as back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome - but it's in everyone's interest to understand the ergonomics of good posture and how the right seating can help.
What is an Ergonomic Chair?
The principle definition of ergonomics can be expressed as 'The science of designing furniture, devices and working spaces that conform to what is easiest and healthiest for the human body.' Greater physical comfort is one of the goals but ergonomics is about much more than simply 'feeling comfy.' Good ergonomics improves efficiency and productivity, promotes well-being and helps prevent injury
An ergonomic chair demonstrates design and functionality intended to support the best possible working posture. Such chairs aren't necessarily very high-tech or impressive. Ordinary office chairs may have a wealth of ergonomic features. These should include:
- A five-star base with castors for easy movement and a swivel mechanism to facilitate sitting at the proper angle
- Adjustable seat height. An ergonomic chair may also have a tilting seat pan to improve the angle of the pelvis and seat depth adjustment for individual setting of seat length
- Adjustable armrests - as s minimum height and depth adjustment of the arm pads is recommended (Be aware fixed armrests or height-only adjustment often results in the arms impeding a close sitting position at the desk).
- A backrest that offers support for the lower back in particular, can be raised and lowered and preferably tilted backwards or forwards. The addition of an adjustable lumbar support pad is also advised for individual preference and comfort.
In some cases, a headrest may benefit although this is not required for most users. For users of a shorter height a footrest may be required to enable the feet are support when the chair is set at the correct sitting height.
Preventing Back Pain and Other Injury
If, like most people you spend the bulk of your day sitting, the right chair is crucial. Sitting may seem like a low-impact activity but it places considerable strain on some parts of your body, especially the lumbar region. Supporting the back effectively and tilting the pelvis to encourage sitting straight instead of slouching can help protect the lower back.
A well-adjusted ergonomic desk chair also helps avoid unnecessary stretching and straining to reach the keyboard. The chair (and the rest of the workstation) should be positioned such that the monitor is at eye-level. This stops users from having to either crane or bend their neck, protecting against problems with the upper back, shoulders and neck. Supporting the user's head with a headrest can assist with this. Such a chair also helps ensure that the user's arms are bent at the elbow in a comfortable 90 degree angle rather than held awkwardly high or low. This helps reduce the risk of RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Improving Physical Comfort
Since an ergonomic chair helps to eliminate unnatural stress and strain on the user's body, there's a greater degree of physical comfort. The user is less likely to be left with aching arms, a spasming neck, sore thighs or a gnawing pain in their lower back. Eyestrain caused by sitting the wrong distance from the monitor can also be reduced or eliminated, cutting down on sore eyes and headaches.
Greater Efficiency and Productivity
Removing the distraction of pain and discomfort is not only important for the morale of the person using the chair. It also makes that person more effective by fostering better concentration. Good posture and proper seat adjustment make work in general easier by removing unnecessary difficulties. Because the rate of back-ache and other posture related problems are reduced, fewer staff need to take sick days.
Because seating is so much a part of the background of our working lives, we forget how important it is. Seating can affect the number of days lost to ill-health, the number of staff members entering retirement with a long term injury and the overall well-being of the workplace. Failure to provide adequate seating can even expose some companies to litigation.
Remember, one chair won't suit everyone. People with specific physical problems, pregnant women and individuals who are considerably taller or shorter than average will need different seating options.
An ergonomic desk chair is meaningless unless the rest of the user's work-space is arranged properly. Conducting a desk assessment for each staff member will ensure than everything is correctly positioned and that any other necessary ergonomic products have been provided.
Things to Remember
- Ergonomic chairs are well-designed, adjustable and easy to move
- A good ergonomic chair promotes good posture and reduces injury
- Ergonomic seating is comfortable and improves productivity
- Ergonomic seating doesn't have to be complicated or expensive
- Different people will need different seating
- A desk assessment can promote good posture and working habits, as well as identifying risks