The average full-time office worker spends approx. 1,920 hours sitting in an office chair each year. That equates to 80 days sitting in a chair for 24 hours non-stop. Thats why its so important to make sure you have an ergonomic office chair that properly supports your back, neck, lumbar and legs. If youre currently sitting in a chair that doesnt support your needs, you could be doing yourself more harm than you think.
If you think working in an office means that you are safer from workplace injuries, youd be mistaken. According to Unison, back pain is the most common reason for absences at work in the UK, and the major cause of back pain is sitting at a desk for long periods of time.
We have created a definitive guide to buying an ergonomic office chair, from its definition to the best chairs to buy and how to set them up.
What is an ergonomic office chair?
An ergonomic office chair is an office chair that is designed to avoid injury/illness whilst sitting for long periods. They often feature many adjustable and customisable parts that can be re-positioned based on individual musculo-skeletal needs. These adjustable features aim to give correct support of your posture, weight and lumbar when sitting for long periods of time.
What makes an office chair ergonomic?
Ergonomics is defined as the study of how people work in their environment. Therefore, an ergonomic office chair means that this office chair is designed to help you work comfortably and safely. Their designs have lot of curves in order to shape and support your body as you sit for long periods, especially in the back rest and seat.
What to look for in an ergonomic office chair?
- The back rest should be shaped to your spine, not straight
- The back rest should also be long enough to support your upper body
- There should be adjustable lumbar support that you can move to fit your body
- You should be able to adjust the height of the seat so your feet can rest on the floor properly
- You should also be able to tilt the seat to stop yourself leaning too far forward or backwards
- The seat should be made from memory foam in order to properly support your coccyx
- The seat should also be long enough so that when you sit in it, there are 2-3 finger lengths between the backs of your knees and the seat edge
- The arm height should be adjustable too
- Look out for an adjustable headrest too if you suffer from neck pain
What is the best ergonomic office chair?
The best ergonomic chair is simply the chair that best fits your needs. Consider your existing aches, pains and conditions, and the amount of time you spend in your office chair, and look for a chair that supports you best. If you sit in your chair for very long periods of time, consider a high-backed executive chair with lots of lumbar support, a head rest, and be prepared to pay slightly more. If you spend under 4 hours in an office chair, or you move around a lot in your seat, a lightweight, lower-backed task chair thats easily moved from one place to another will suit you best.
What is the best ergonomic office chair for lumbar support?
Lower back pain is often caused by compression of the spinal column while sitting. Leaning forwards in your seat often causes this. The best chairs for lumbar support are typically higher-backed and have adjustable lumbar supports to the lower back. The angle of the backrest is extremely important. The below diagram from a study by Nachemson and Elfstrom in 1970 conducted a study to measure how much discs in the human spine is compressed while sitting. The further forward you sit, the pressure on your spine can increase by almost double. Therefore, choose a chair that is able to recline by at least 110 degrees.
How to set up and adjust ergonomic office chair
- Push back your hips as far as they will go in the chair
- Adjust the seat so your feet are flat on the floor, and your thighs are parallel to the floor too.
- Push the back of the chair to a 100-110 degree angle.
- Use a lumbar support cushion and/or adapted padded seat too if you still need extra support
- Adjust the arm rests so that theyre at the same level as the desk. This will help stop repetitive strain injury (RSI).
- When typing and using your mouse, make sure your elbows are as close to your sides as possible, so bring your laptop and mouse as close to you as possible. Using your keyboard too far away from you can cause thoracic outlet syndrome, which is pretty painful.
- The top of your screen should be at eye-level
- Make sure you take a break from your screen every 20-30 minutes.