The assumption that any old chair will do when referring to an office chair is quite erroneous. The trendy types of chairs like kneeling chairs and ball chairs also have their limitations. Ergonomic office chairs are really the most cost-effective and dependable chairs in the long run.
Table of Contents
- What Features Should an Office Chair Possess?
- FAQs About Choosing an Office Chair
- What Does Ergonomic Mean?
- Can an Ergonomic Office Chair Help with Back and Neck Pain?
- How do Ergonomic Office Chairs Reduce Stress and Fatigue?
- Are Kneeling Chairs Better Than Regular Office Chairs?
- What About Exercise Ball Chairs?
- How to Choose the Right Office Chair – Checklist
What Features Should an Office Chair Possess?
Though there are a lot of personal preferences and more subjective factors to take into account, Spine Health has provided a list of features to look for in their article Office Chair: Choosing the Right Ergonomic Office Chair and we have adapted their list into a brief guide for your consideration. Here are the features that should be included when choosing an office chair:
An important factor in the seat height of an office chair is that it should be easy to adjust. This is best accomplished with a pneumatic adjustment lever. The seat height should have a range of between 16 and 20 inches off of the floor for the majority of users. By properly adjusting the height of the seat, you can place your feet firmly on the floor and the thighs parallel to the floor while your arms are even with the height of the desk.
Width and Depth of Seat
Width and depth are also important when it comes to providing proper support and comfort. 17 to 20 inches of width are the standard. Depth is a bit more of a challenge, but a good office chair will allow you to adjust depth so that you can sit with your back resting firmly against the backrest while leaving between 2 and 4 inches of clearance between the back of the knees and the front edge of the seat.
The backrest of an ergonomic office chair should measure between 12 and 19 inches in width. It should be adjustable in both overall height as well as its angle. An ergonomic backrest should be designed to support the natural curve of the spine, especially providing support to the lumbar region. The angle adjustment of the seatback should have a locking mechanism which will secure it firmly in place once the appropriate angle is determined.
Supporting your lower back is important and should be a major design feature in an ergonomic chair. Lack of support for the lower spine leads to slouching, which flattens out the natural curve and strains the entire structure of the spine. There should be adjustable in both height and depth to properly fit the natural curve of individual spines.
An ergonomic chair should have adjustable armrests as well. Your arms should be able to rest comfortably on the armrests without raising the shoulders or allowing them to sag. The armrests should be adjusted so that the elbows and lower arms should rest lightly on it, but the forearms should not be resting on the armrest while typing.
Seat material also comes into play when discussing ergonomic office chairs because it is a component in comfort. To begin with, the padding of the chair should be comfortable enough to sit for extended periods of time, but firm enough to provide structural support. In addition, the fabric which makes up the cover of the seat should breathe and maintain a cooler atmosphere for sitting.
Though it might seem like an added extra, the swivel in an office chair performs a very important function. It allows the user to rotate and reach for various items on or around the desk, credenza, or other areas of the user’s workstation without having to strain. It should pivot freely without any catches or binding.
FAQs About Choosing an Office Chair
What Does Ergonomic Mean?
The technical definition of ergonomics, according to WhatIs.com, “is the science of refining the design of products to optimize them for human use.” Various human characteristics like weight, height and proportions are considered as are sight, hearing, temperature preference and various other aspects of comfort and functionality. You will sometime hear ergonomics referred to using the term human engineering.
Ergonomics as it relates to office chairs
When specifically applied to office chairs, ergonomics involves designing products that reduce stress on the structures of the spine. Ergonomic chairs support the lower back and evoke good posture. In addition, ergonomic chairs help to reduce strain in the neck and shoulders and can even help to eliminate eye-strain due to poor positioning in front of a computer screen.
Can an Ergonomic Office Chair Help with Back and Neck Pain?
The short answer is yes. An ergonomically designed chair that is well adjusted to the user can help reduce or even eliminate neck and back pain. Setting up a chair at an individual workstation properly can help significantly as well.
Related Guides from HMON:
According to their guide in Spine Health, establishing the desired height of the individual’s workstation is the first step in properly setting up the chair. Once the workstation has been properly setup then the chair can be adjusted to provide the most comfort possible while causing the least amount of stress on the spine. Spine Health also includes a set of guidelines for properly making those adjustments that will come in handy.
How do Ergonomic Office Chairs Reduce Stress and Fatigue?
Stress and fatigue are common in tasks which involve a great deal of repetitive work in a fixed position. Ergonomic Office Chairs which promote better posture do a lot to help reduce the stress and fatigue resulting from this type of work. Properly positioning your desk and monitor will help, but your office chair is the one factor in balancing the equation which provides the most flexibility when it comes to various forms of adjustment.
Are Kneeling Chairs Better Than Regular Office Chairs?
Not necessarily. Health by Design points out that, “Some people can use a kneeling chair comfortably for computer work; others cannot. In fact, most cannot.” Kneeling chairs work well for short-term tasks which require forward reach, but they are not well suited for prolonged sitting, especially if you are tall and finding a kneeling chair that fits you properly is difficult.
Health by Design goes on to lay out a set of pros and cons related to kneeling chairs which you will find particularly helpful for understanding whether a kneeling chair is a good fit for the type of work you do as well as your particular physique.
What About Exercise Ball Chairs?
Just as with kneeling chairs, there are pros and cons connected to the use of exercise ball chairs as well. Whether you refer to it as a Swiss ball, yoga ball or exercise ball, these large inflated balls made of soft PVC material are making a stir among fitness nuts. Why would you want to sit on a ball while you work?
“Spineuniverse explains that sitting on a stability ball can improve stability and balance because you must constantly engage the core abdominal muscles to stay upright. Stronger ab muscles protect the lower back and promote better posture, and can be the result of using the stability ball,” reports Livestrong writer, Alexis Jenkins.
Where this and other benefits might be true, there are plenty of drawbacks to them as well. The lack of support for your arms and back as well as upper body support is lacking. The Livestrong article goes on to point out that issues with slouching, concentration on staying balanced rather than on work, height adjustment issues, stability and ergonomic-related strain on wrists, shoulders, and elbows are all common drawbacks to using these balls as chairs.