Selecting an Ergonomic Office Chair
The relatively new and ever-expanding field of ergonomics has several toeholds in the modern American office, and none more prominent than the ergonomic office chair. Research has found that the current state of worker/chair/office relationships is at a turning point. Now more than ever before workers spend longer hours sitting, often working at a computer. Now more than ever before they spend time in various postures of recline and lean. All this research makes it clearer and clearer, that now, more than ever before, ergonomic chairs are necessary to sustaining a healthy and productive workplace.
So what do ergonomic chairs do for the user? Well, they provide comfort, back support, better circulation, and, ultimately, greater efficiency and productivity. The engineering and design teams behind the best ergonomic chairs on the market work mainly in these areas:
The ergonomic office chair accomplishes one goal first and foremost, and that's making you comfortable at work. The cushioning, the position and make-up of the armrests, the adjustments and variations in recline all combine to keep you functioning in comfort. If a chair isn't first comfortable, the cornerstone of ergonomics, then it can't be called a true ergonomic chair.
- Back Support
Essential to your performance at work is the health and comfort of your spine, your posture, and your protection from unnecessary back pain. A good office chair has the right engineering and design to keep your back adequately supported at all times, and in all positions (whether you're leaning, reclining, or sitting straight up). A chair isn't ergonomic unless the user's back is consistently looked out for, cradled, and generally made healthier.
- Better Circulation
Ergonomic chairs provide better circulation, which is often overlooked by users. The edges of chairs, not often the focus of design or engineering, can actually cause a lot of damage to users when they aren't built the right way. Hard edges cut off your circulation, leading to decreased heart and brain function, the obvious result of which is less comfort, good health, and productivity. Beyond that biological reason, these sorts of edges also lead to users getting up and down frequently during the day, again cutting productivity and increasing wear and tear on the knees. Ergonomic chairs address and fix this problem by creating well-engineered, curved and flexible edges, on both the seat and the backing of the chair.
- Higher Productivity
The result of all of this innovation and engineering, all the added comfort and support, is greater efficiency. It is productivity and efficiency, after all, that are the aim of ergonomic research, and the boon of ergonomics chairs. The very word, ergonomics, comes from the Greek ergon (work) and nomos (natural laws). Every detail of a truly ergonomic chair contributes to your efficiency and productivity at work. Every adjustment should be one that helps you to do your job better, easier, and with more comfort and support.
Selecting an ergonomic chair for your home office doesn’t have to be difficult. Just as people come in all different shapes and sizes, there are many options when it comes to ergonomic chairs. Personal taste and fit play a major role in any decision. However, there are proven guidelines to follow when purchasing ergonomic office chairs.
If mobility is an important feature for the ergonomic office chair you choose, Cornell University's Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group recommends selecting a chair with at least a five-pedestal base. Many ergonomic chair companies give the consumer the option of choosing a base with castors, which will help the chair glide more smoothly across the floor. The Division of Occupational Health and Safety at the National Institute of Health (NIH) explains you should pay attention to the type of castors available. Depending on your home office space, you can choose castors appropriate for carpet or hard surfaces, such as linoleum or hardwood flooring.
- Back Support
According to the Division of Occupational Health and Safety at the NIH, having back support in the lumbar region of your spine is absolutely crucial when selecting an ergonomic chair. Sitting in a chair all day can put unwanted pressure on your back, leading to pain and discomfort. Many ergonomic chairs have adjustable lumbar regions which allow you to adjust the chair to best fit the natural curve of your spine. The UCLA Ergonomics department reminds users to make sure they can adjust the chair so their hips are against the chair back with feet flat on the floor. Excellent ergonomic chairs will move with your body and your spine, maintaining your comfort and support for extended periods of time.
Your ergonomic chair should have adjustable armrests, so you can easily move them closer together, further apart, or up and down to fit your body. Cornell University recommends a chair with broad armrests that are cushioned and comfortable. In addition, it’s important that your armrests can be removed or adjusted to stay out of your way if you so desire.
- Seat Tilt
Ergonomists recommend you continue to change your body’s position throughout the day to keep muscles from getting fatigued and stiff. An ergonomic chair can aid you in this process with a seat tilt feature. The Division of Occupational Health and Safety at the NIH explains that a reclined chair transfers some of your weight to the back of your chair, improving circulation.
When searching for the perfect ergonomic office chair, select a chair that automatically or manually adjusts to fit your body perfectly. Both Cornell University and the UCLA Ergonomics department recommend looking at ergonomic chairs with great adjustability. Whether it’s the seat pan, seat height, armrests, backrest, or seat tilt, an adjustable ergonomic chair will give you the freedom to make the changes you need to keep your body healthy and help prevent musculoskeletal disorders from developing.