Ergonomics. If you haven’t heard the word, you’ve probably been locked away in the dungeons of the Red Keep.
Ergonomics is the art of creating a comfortable work space to increase productivity.
It’s no mistake that there is an entire field of applied science dedicated to the subject. How we interact with our desk and office chair is not simply about comfort. It’s about our health.
Work space comfort is not a joke. Research confirms that, globally, the most common work-related disability is lower back pain.
Other research and studies are full of warnings. Sitting for too long, and with incorrect posture puts us at high risk for all kinds of health issues.
So where should you start?
We recommend beginning with the piece of furniture that you spend the majority of your time using: the office chair.
Why Is a Good Office Chair Important?
The right chair can relieve:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Legs discomfort from sciatica pain
- Tailbone tenderness
For office chairs the range in price is broad. They cost anywhere from a hundred dollars to over a thousand. But the more expensive a chair does not necessarily mean it is more effective.
There are 7 features of an office chair to consider before purchasing a new one. Let’s take a look at what to look for.
Your office chair should adjust to your specific body type. It should allow you to adjust your position into several different, safe postures.
These are the key elements to look for in adjustments for your chair:
Make sure your office chair can be easily moved up and down. You know you are at the correct height when:
- your feet are flat on the floor or a foot rest
- your thighs are parallel to the ground
- your arms are at a comfortable 90-degree angle and parallel to your desk
Choose a chair that adjusts forward and backward.
If your knees cannot bend so that your legs are perpendicular to the floor, this can be a serious issue. You may tend to lean forward which defeats the reason for having a back rest. This puts extra strain on your legs and back.
Seat Backrest Angle
The ability to recline is an absolute necessity when choosing your chair.
Experts recommend alternating the angle of your back throughout the day. Switch from sitting up straight and reclining back to a 135-degree angle.
In a reclined position you should still be able to reach your keyboard. You should not feel any strain on your shoulders, arms or eyes.
Even if your posture is perfect, sitting in the same position for long periods of time is unhealthy. OSHA recommends adopting four different body postures throughout your work day. Check out the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s suggestions.
Lumbar and Pelvic Support
The spine’s lumbar region consists of the five large vertebrae between the rib cage and pelvis. In a sitting position, this area supports the majority of your upper body weight.
The lumbar area curves inward. This is why a simple straight-backed chair does not work in an office setting. The ideal office chair accommodates this curvature.
Lumbar support comes in the form of a padded foam or fabric bulge at the small of the back. You should be able to adjust the position of the support by moving the backrest up or down.
Without good lumbar support, you will tend to hunch over while seated in front of the computer. This poor posture causes muscle stiffness and pain and promotes fatigue.
A chair with good lumbar back support should be flush against the small of the back.
What many people don’t realize is that correct alignment of the spine requires both lumbar and pelvic support. Pelvic support should work in combination with the lumbar support.
When sitting for long periods of time the pelvis tends to rotate back. When adjusted correctly the backrest should support to the lumbar region and prevent the pelvis from rotating backward. This maintains the correct S-curve of the spine.
The armrests should be adjustable to allow your elbows to rest at 90-degree angles. If armrests are too high you sit in a shrugged shoulder position. This causes tightness in the neck muscles.
Armrests positioned too low cause the muscles between neck and shoulders to pull. This is very uncomfortable for any length of time.
It’s also important to make sure the armrests aren’t too long. The padding should support the fleshy part of your forearms only. Resting on the bony parts of the elbows puts pressure on sensitive nerves. this can lead to pain and blood flow issues.
If you’re not sure whether you want arm rests or not, consider a chair with a pivoting feature.
A pivot feature allows you to position the armrests for performing different tasks. When deciding whether to armrest or not, make sure to remember your work surface style. If armrests prevent you from positioning your body correctly, don’t go for them.
Believe it or not, the type of material used to make an office chair can play a role in your comfort much like PC gaming chairs.
The key is breathable fabric.
If you spend a lot of time at your computer the last thing you want is to get up feeling sweaty or clammy. The consensus is to choose a chair covered in a durable, thin mesh material.
Sit Up Straight
Comfort in your home or office boils down to one thing: posture.
Research confirms that sitting in the same position for hours at a time is bad for your health. Slouching and other bad postures have been shown to cause backaches, headaches, fatigue and poor concentration.
Ergonomists continually try to encourage postures which reduce the negative forces affecting the body. Researchers recommend using these ergonomic principles:
- All work activities should permit the worker to adopt several different, but equally healthy and safe postures.
- Work activities should be performed with the joints at about mid-point of their range of movement. This applies particularly to the head, torso, and arms
In today’s techno-driven society it’s hard to get away with not sitting for several hours at a time.
Once you’ve found the right office chair to go with the perfect desk, you’re well on your way to a healthier work environment. But you’ll still probably sit for extended periods of time.
Check out this list of exercises recommended combating the effects of sitting. Isn’t your health worth it?