Sitting Down on the Job – the importance of ergonomic office chairsI
t wasn’t all that long ago that the office chair was viewed simply as an expensive, high-backed leather perk reserved strictly for upper management. And while the importance of aesthetics or prestige hasn’t faded, our definition of what an office chair ought to do has changed dramatically. In other words, form no longer takes total precedence over function.
There are a few easily understood explanations for this shift. The broad age demographic of today’s workforce means that there is also a broad set of user needs. Additionally, as the line between local and global resources blurs, organizations are under increasing pressure to get the most “bang for their buck” from their employees and from the furniture that they purchase. It’s no longer enough for our furniture to simply look good. Instead, we expect our furniture to keep pace-working just as hard as we do.
The ergonomically designed POP chair by Angelshack (made with love in South Africa)
Believe it or not, there are differences in how people use chairs. In fact, seating products designed for shorter periods of work, one to two hours; aren’t the same as chairs that are designed for long-term periods of seated work. For example, some chairs have thicker foam that may feel softer initially, but will lead to user discomfort after an hour or two of sustained sitting since this type of thicker foam typically provides little ergonomic support.
Very soft or low-density foam also tends to break down over time. This is not good for the life of the chair or for your own long-term comfort.
If you’re planning on purchasing ergonomic office chairs that will be used for shorter stretches of time, consider the product’s anticipated application. For conference rooms, chairs with some level of adjustability make sense since the individuals working within that space are likely to have fairly diverse needs. In the context of team spaces where furniture may be rearranged in order to deal with the task at hand, consider stackable seating products. Keep in mind that this level of mobility doesn’t necessarily mean that ergonomic considerations get shoved to the back burner. Look for short-term seating solutions with deliberate, thoughtful design intent. Flip-up arms, flexible seat and backs all provide a certain level of comfort that will be much appreciated when it’s time to burn the midnight oil.
When looking at long-term ergonomic seating products, remember that each area of the chair; the arms, seat, lumbar support region and upper back, all need to adapt to specific parts of the body. The contours of both the seat and back ought to make you feel supported while properly orienting you to the workspace around you. When testing products, pay attention to pressure points on your body. Consider it a red flag if you happen to notice an undue amount of pressure on any one location. It’s also helpful to realize that no matter how great the office chair actually is, its ergonomic design can really only go so far. At the end of the day, it’s up to you, the user, to make the most of the adjustments that are available. Most manufacturers provide basic operating instructions for their ergonomic seating products. Read those instructions (they’re there for a reason!) and spend some time getting acquainted with the features of your chair. Understanding how the adjustments work and where they’re located will help tailor the chair to your specific needs.
A chair can be iconic, a reflection of history, a decorative statement, or a hardworking utilitarian necessity. And while the plethora of seating choices may seem difficult to navigate, our advice is quite simple: Inform thyself. By being an educated consumer, you’ll be able to make the most of the many options and features available within any given price range. Moreover, knowing all you need to know gives you the ability to choose the chair that fulfills your individual ergonomic needs in addition to satisfying your stylistic tastes. So the chair you buy ends up being the chair you love to use, which is much better than suffering a case of dreaded buyer’s remorse or, for that matter, a sore back.