When people think of ergonomics, one of the first things that they think of is chairs. Chairs and ergonomics truly go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, just about every office chair labels itself as “ergonomic,” and few of them actually are.
The first thing to note about these claims is that there is no standard for what can be labeled “ergonomic;” not yet anyway. Of course chair manufacturers use clever and often expensive marketing tactics to convince consumers that their chairs are “ergonomic.” Using a term like “synchronized tilt function with a 2:1 ratio” simply means that for every 2 inches the back rest tilts back, the seat pan will only tilt 1 inch. Although it sounds impressive, what is the ergonomic benefit of that? Not much! When it comes to choosing a chair, here are some simple yet important guidelines.
1. Find a chair that will adjust to your body type. Most office chairs have general adjustments that are designed to fit 75% to 85% of people. However, if you are larger, taller, shorter or more petite than the “average” person, you are not one of those people and may need a chair designed especially for your body type.
2. Find a chair that allows for these two major functions: Forward tilt or forward rocking and foot-controlled movement. Forward tilt or rocking allows your hips to roll forward and your back to go into its natural “S curve” position, which creates natural lumbar support. Chairs with large lumbars can actually, over time, hurt you and your back because the chair is doing all the work, meaning that you potentially could develop some level of muscle weakness or atrophy. The chair also should provide you with foot-controlled movement. Natural balanced movement always includes the feet. When we move without first being in balance with the feet, we increase the risk of injury.
Also, it is important to note that the chair should not be too heavy. A heavy chair will not move with you easily and will force you to be out of balance.
3. Forget about finding the “perfect” position and staying in it all day. This idea is old school and actually the opposite is true. Instead, find a chair that will offer you a varitiy of sitting positions. Ergonomic Evolutions always tells its clients that “the best position is the next position.”
4. Take sufficient time when testing out a new chair. It’s funny how the first thing most people do when they sit in a chair is lean back like they are in a recliner. They play with the adjustments and after about 2 minutes, make a decision. That’s not long enough! You should work with vendor that allows you to demo the chair for a day or more. Your chair is an investment, something you will be using an average of 8 hours a day!
Along these same lines: Don’t lean back! Unless you sit with your feet up on the desk talking on the phone all day long, the leaning function is rarely needed or used. Chair manufactures know buying behaviors and specifically design chairs to be purchased in this manner.
Remember, a chair that is instantly comfortable is rarely a good ergonomic investment.
After you have chosen a chair, it is important that you are taught how to use the chair properly. A reputable vendor like Ergonomic Evolution will take the time to provide individual chair training (a free service from us!) so you are familiar with your new chair’s functions and adjustments, and also so that you have the opportunity to have any questions answered.
There are many, many good ergonomic chairs in the marketplace and we would be happy to help you find the one that’s right for you; contact us today. You also can check out the selection of chairs that we offer online at Ergonomic Evolution.